Schwindel still hitting, but Cubs fall 3-2 to Pirates

A flat start to the season was the last thing Frank Schwindel needed.

After battling for more than seven years in the minors, Schwindel finally enjoyed success at the major-league level in 2021 by hitting .342 and belting 13 home runs in 56 games for the Cubs.

But Schwindel couldn't carry that momentum into 2022 and he was set to be demoted to Triple-A Iowa on May 7.

The news hit the 29-year-old hard.

"Just a terrible feeling after the career I've had - finally having a bunch of success last year - to a terrible start and having to go back down," Schwindel said.

Schwindel returned to his apartment that Sunday morning and got more deflating news: The tire on his car was busted. So instead of hitting the road, Schwindel settled in and played some online video games with friends.

Then his phone rang. He paused the game, looked down and saw it was manager David Ross.

"Oh no," he thought. "I'm getting released."

But to Schwindel's relief, that's not what happened.

"Picked it up and (Ross is) like, 'Nah. You're coming on the trip. You're playing tomorrow,'" said Schwindel, who was hitting .209 with a .250 OBP through May 7. "It was just a crazy eight hours - maybe less. Then go to San Diego, put a pretty good week together and here we are."

Schwindel went 0-for-4 in the first two games against the Padres, but he is 9-for-28 with 2 doubles and 5 RBI in the last seven games. One of those hits was a run-scoring single in the fourth inning of the Cubs' 3-2 loss to Pittsburgh at Wrigley Field on Wednesday. It tied the game at 2-2.

Schwindel made a baserunning gaffe moments later, however, by attempting to advance an extra base on a single to shallow left field by Jonathan Villar. Schwindel thought nobody was covering third, but the hustling Pirates covered the bag and Schwindel was unable to get back to second.

Drew Smyly started for the Cubs (15-21) and gave up 3 runs on 6 hits in 4⅓ innings. The Pirates (16-21) scored twice in the third - their first runs since Sunday - and took a 3-2 lead on Jack Suwinski's home run in the fifth. Suwinski was hitting .183 (11-for-60) coming in.

Ian Happ hit his third homer of the season in the first inning.

The Cubs had a chance in the ninth after Christopher Morel hit a seeing-eye single with two outs, but pinch-hitter Yan Gomes flew out deep to center field on a 1-2 pitch from David Bednar. Bednar, who retired 21 straight before Morel's hit, now has a 0.90 ERA and 8 saves.

"I hit it pretty good; it just went too high," Gomes said. "(Bednar's) got a different kind of arm action going and he's a closer that just comes right at you. So a lot of respect on that."

As for Schwindel, who is signed only through this year, it's difficult to know what his long-term future holds. In the short term, Ross is just happy his first baseman is swinging the bat a bit better.

"Sometimes (a near demotion) can almost free him up to (think), 'You know what? What's the worst thing that can happen? I'm here now,' " Ross said. "So mentally I think he is definitely in a better place.

"He was working on some things prior to that (where) we started to see some (good) signs. ... He's done a great job. ...

"He's in a really good place and starting to trend back to the guy he was last year. I think he's gonna have a lot of big hits for us this year."

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