Former Hoosier Kyle Schwarber Scores Winning Run, Boston Red Sox Advance to Playoffs
Kyle Schwarber has provided a lot of magical moments in the Major League Baseball playoffs throughout his career, and he's going to get that chance again after he scored the winning run Sunday as the Boston Red Sox beat the Washington Nationals 7-5 to advance to the postseason.
It was a crowded four-team race on Sunday for the final two spots in the American League playoffs, and the Red Sox — who swept the Nationals this weekend after losing five of six games previously — needed a win to advance.
But they fell behind 5-1 early to the Nationals, who lost 97 games this year just two years after winning the World Series and had Schwarber on their team all year until a trade-deadline deal to Boston.
The Red Sox battled back to tie the game at 5-5, and then in the top of the ninth inning, Schwarber, a former Indiana baseball star from 2012 through 2014, reached on an error to lead off the inning. One out later, Rafael Devers hit a massive two-run homer to close out the win.
“As a baseball player, you don’t want anything else besides to be in a playoff race,'' Schwarber said. "That’s what it’s about. I love that. I’m about winning.''
The victory knocked the Toronto Blue Jays and Seattle Mariners out of the race on the final day. It set up a one-game wild-card showdown with Boston's arch rivals, the hated New York Yankees, on Tuesday night at Fenway Park. The Yankees needed their only ninth-inning heroics to advance on Sunday, beating Tampa Bay 1-0 with a ninth-inning walk-off infield single.
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Schwarber started at first base and was 1-for-3 in the game, with two walks and two runs scored, including the game-winner. He's been a big help to the Red Sox since coming over in a trade in July. He was recovering from a hamstring injury, so he didn't play his first game with the Red Sox since Aug. 13, but he hit. 340 in August with three home runs, and then hit four more in September during the hunt for the postseason. he hit .291 for the Red Sox in 134 at-bats.
It's been an interesting year for Schwarber, who was drafted No. 4 overall by the Chicago Cubs in the 2014 MLB Draft and made a lot of postseason memories there from 2015 on, including being a hero in 2016, when the Cubs won the World Series for the first time in 108 yards.
The Cubs didn't re-sign him, though, so he inked a 1-year, $10-million deal with the Nationals in the offseason. He had a record-setting month of June, hitting 16 home runs — including 15 in a crazy 16-game stretch that had been done only twice before in baseball history (Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa).
“It was a special month,” Schwarber said. “It obviously got me locked in and feeling things that you haven’t felt in your career.”
But he tore a hamstring a few days later and missed nearly six weeks. The Nationals, who were contending, traded many of their veterans, including Schwarber.
“I definitely tried to make roots here,” Schwarber said on his return to Washington for the final series of the regular season. “I wanted to get involved in the community. I wanted to try to help bring a championship here. I wanted to be myself, and that’s me playing hard. And I think the fans received that pretty well. I have a lot of respect for the fans here and the players and the organization.”
And now, he's back in the playoffs again. He hit .266 this year with the two teams, including 32 home runs and 71 RBIs. He will also be reunited with former Cubs teammate Anthony Rizzo in the wild-card game. Rizzo was traded to the Yankees this summer during the Cubs' fire sale.
Schwarber has been sensational in the postseason throughout the years. It started during his rookie year in 2015, when he hit a home run in the Cubs' 4-0 wild-card win over Gerrit Cole and the Pittsburgh Pirates to advance to the division series. (Side note: He'll see Cole again Tuesday night when the Red Sox face the Yankees.)
The Cubs then beat their arch rivals, the St. Louis Cardinals 3-1 in the division series, and Schwarber went wild. hitting homers in Game 3 and Game 4 wins to advance to the NLCS against the New York Mets. The Cubs lost that series, but Schwarber hit two more home runs, and his five postseason dingers that year set a Cubs' record.
In 2016, Schwarber tore his ACL in the Cubs' second game of the season in early April and was thought to be lost for the season. But he rehabbed hard, and when the Cubs made the World Series in late October, he wanted to play against the Cleveland Indians. And boy, did he play, as a designated hitter in the games in Cleveland. In the game-clincher, he was 3-for-5 and the Cubs had their long-awaited world title.
He'll get another taste again on Tuesday night in another epic meeting between the Red Sox and Yankees. It's the best rivalry in baseball to begin with, but now they're meeting in the postseason again.
“We’ll be ready. It should be fun,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said. “I think baseball enjoys it. I think our fans will show up on Tuesday and make Fenway feel like home. We wanted to play at home for a lot of reasons. At the same time, having that last at-bat is always important. It should be a fun atmosphere at Fenway Park. Always amazing.”
We all know the history. We remember Bucky Dent's home run for the Yankees at Fenway Park in 1978 after the two teams finish tied in the regular season. And the ALCS meetings in 2003 and 2004 are literally made-for-Hollywood moments.
The Yankees won in seven games in '03 — remember current Yankees manager Aaron Boone's game-winning home run? — and it 2004, the Red Sox became the first baseball team to ever come back from down 3-0 in a series, winning four in a row to win the pennant and then the World Series, ending an 86-year drought.
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- SCHWARBER INJURES HAMSTRING (July 3): Kyle Schwarber was the National League's Palyer of the Month in June, but a serious hamstring injury is going to sideline him for several weeks. CLICK HERE
- MONTH FOR THE AGES FOR SCHWARBER (June 30): Kyle Schwarber finished June with 16 home runs, and had four multi-homer games in one of the greatest power streaks in major-league history. CLICK HERE
- SCHWARBER HOMERS TWICE (June 28): Kyle Schwarber continues to ''live in the present,'' hitting two home runs in an 8-4 win over the New York Mets. It was his fourth multi-homer game in three weeks. CLICK HERE
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- 5 HOMERS IN GAMES FOR SCHWARBER (June 21): Kyle Schwarber tied an MLB record with five home runs in a two-game period. CLICK HERE