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Frank Schwindel falls just short of a pinch-hit grand slam in the Chicago Cubs’ 5-4 loss: ‘That’s one you dream of as a kid’

The moment could not have been scripted much better.

Check that: the Chicago Cubs would like a rewrite on the ending.

Frank Schwindel’s roller coaster 48-hour stretch took yet another twist Tuesday night against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park. Optioned to Triple A on Sunday and recalled mere hours later — with a nail in his car tire mixed in — Schwindel’s opportunity for redemption came.

An ugly beginning to the season, including a three-strikeout game in the series opener, left the struggling Schwindel tinkering. Few big-league hitters have faced a greater higher-leverage situation this season than when Schwindel pinch hit in the ninth inning Tuesday with two outs and the bases loaded as the Cubs trailed the Padres by one run.

Perhaps that sounds dramatic. But statistically, the showdown between Schwindel and Padres lefty closer Taylor Rogers featured an incredibly high Leverage Index, which measures a team’s potential change in win expectancy.

Schwindel’s 9.21 LI for the plate appearance was the fifth highest in the majors this season, according to Stathead. He also notably ranks No. 2 on that list (10.84 LI) in a similar circumstance when he struck out on three pitches against Pittsburgh Pirates closer David Bednar with the bases loaded to end a 4-3 loss April 24 at Wrigley Field.

One swing could have made Schwindel the hero Tuesday.

“It was the perfect situation to be in,” Schwindel reflected afterward. “That’s one you dream of as a kid.”

Behind in the count 1-2, Schwindel connected on the type of pitch he has failed to do damage against this season. Taylor threw a 94.1 mph sinker that caught middle-in over the plate, and Schwindel barreled the ball to left field. Off the bat, Schwindel appeared to hit a two-out, go-ahead grand slam.

“I mean, I didn’t celebrate it or anything,” Schwindel said, “but I thought I hit it good enough to go for sure.”

“I think everybody did,” manager David Ross noted.

Instead, Padres left fielder Jurickson Profar caught the ball against the wall to seal the Cubs’ 5-4 loss, leaving the visitors dugout stunned.

The fly out, with a 102.5 mph exit velocity, had a .710 expected batting average. Based on the Statcast data, it would have been a home run in five big-league ballparks. Unfortunately for Schwindel and the Cubs, Petco Park wasn’t one of them.

“I put a good swing on it and that’s all you can really ask for it in that situation,” Schwindel said.

The Cubs’ rally in the ninth started with a two-out, pinch-hit single by Seiya Suzuki, who had been scratched from the lineup because of lingering right ankle soreness. An Ian Happ RBI single between Patrick Wisdom and Willson Contreras getting hit by Taylor set up Schwindel’s chance.

“That was a heartbreaker,” Ross said. “Our guys fought offensively. It’s a tough one to swallow tonight. But overall these guys fought really hard.”

This is the big leagues, though, and potential feel-good moments only go so far, particularly as the Cubs dropped to 10-19 while losing 11 of their last 13 games. Perhaps Tuesday’s ninth-inning sequence sparks a strong finish to their series in San Diego before a three-game set in Arizona. But the Cubs are headed for a long summer if they can’t turn more close games into victories.

Tuesday marked the Cubs debut of left-hander Wade Miley. He lacked crispness during his three-inning start, unsurprising considering it was only his fourth time facing hitters since he reported to spring training in mid March. After two live batting practices, a rehab appearance with Triple-A Iowa and his season debut, his outing against the Padres essentially represented another rehab start.

Miley allowed three runs, five hits and walked five batters in the loss. He thought he had good command early, retiring the first two Padres he faced on seven pitches. A four-pitch walk to Manny Machado followed, and the first inning unraveled from there as San Diego plated two runs, including one on a bases-loaded walk.

“I was honestly just trying to take it like any other start, try to go out and give the team a chance,” Miley said. “I knew I was going to be a little limited on how deep I can get pitch count wise.”

Miley thought he got too amped up and became too quick with his delivery after recording two quick outs to open the game.

“I was under control, calm and then when the pressure went up, I went with it rather than staying calm and just making pitches,” Miley said. “I can’t let myself get frustrated, get angry.”

The Cubs will continue to build up Miley, whose left elbow inflammation prevented a normal spring. They desperately need some guys to step up with 12 players on the injured list and an offense that has turned into one of the most inconsistent in the majors. A turnaround must start with the rotation behind veteran arms in Kyle Hendricks, Drew Smyly and Miley.


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