By Bruce Levine–
CHICAGO (CBS) — The Kyle Schwarber lead-off experiment has morphed into a new-look Cubs lineup.
Dropping the struggling Schwarber into the two hole in a revamped lineup, the Cubs offense set the tone in a 13-6 rout of the Brewers at Wrigley Field on Sunday afternoon, backing a strong outing from right-hander Jake Arrieta, who allowed just one unearned run in six innings while striking out six.
Arrieta won his team-high fifth game of the season after entering the day with a 5.44 ERA amid early season struggles.
“It was a grind for me in a couple of the innings,” Arrieta said. “I was able to bear down and make a few pitchers. I kept the ball on the ground more today. That is an indicator of a step in the right direction.”
Moving Ben Zobrist to lead-off paid immediate dividends for the Cubs, as he opened the game with his fourth homer of the season for an early 1-0 lead. The Cubs then scored twice more in the first for a 3-0 lead.
“Zo has swung the bat real well,” manager Joe Maddon said. “He had only one hit (Sunday), but he hit the ball well and had great at-bats.”
Schwarber took a walk in his first at-bat in the second spot. Him moving down a spot in the order was made possible by rookie infielder/outfielder Ian Happ’s early breakout, as Maddon believes in Happ enough to protect slugger Anthony Rizzo in the batting order. That previously had been Zobrist’s role often.
“This was all based on Ian Happ,” Maddon said. “We are very aware of protecting Rizzo. That was where Zobrist came in handy. Looking at last month’s numbers, Zo is really ascending while Schwarber’s numbers have come back a bit. Zo is the likeliest to get on base more often. Rizzo is still protected with Ian. Just moving everybody down one slot with Ian there, taking the role of Zobrist, I wanted to give that a try.”
The Cubs had four homers Sunday amid their 15-hit attack, with Kris Bryant hitting two and Rizzo also hitting one in addition to Zobrist’s. The Cubs are now 13-3 when hitting at least two homers in a game.
Bryant had a perfect day at the plate, going 3-for-3 with two homers, two RBIs, four runs while also being hit by two pitches.
“We were kind of due as a team offensively” Bryant said. “We haven’t been doing much lately. I think it was just a matter of time for us.”
Sunday also brought the return of outfielder Jason Heyward to the lineup after he’d been out since May 5 with a finger injury. He was 1-for-3 with two walks.
“It sucked sitting out,” Heyward said. “It was nice being back in there as a part of the fun we have had on the homestand. I just wanted to be able to react at the plate. We seemed to all be able to do that today. I feel we are always capable of taking what they give us. We need to take our walks and move the baseball as well.”
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.