Yesterday we got our first glimpse at what may be a new version of the 2015 Cubs.
Rookie phenom Kyle Schwarber started in left field, where he may be finding himself more often. Chris Coghlan played second base — only the second time in his career he has started there.
The result? An impressive 7-2 win over the Giants to increase the Cubs’ wild card lead to 1.5 games.
We knew a lineup like this might be coming with the return of catcher Miguel Montero from the disabled list. Schwarber absolutely cannot be removed from the lineup. He is too good.
So it appears Castro is the odd man out and Coghlan could turn into an unlikely super sub — the kind of player we knew Joe Maddon loves.
Maddon confirmed after the game that Russell would be back at shortstop on Saturday, according to Paul Sullivan. This is where things start to get really interesting, as Maddon will be pulling out all the stops from here on out.
It began with Thursday’s removal of Jason Hammel in the 5th inning, followed by Friday’s revamped lineup. He also made a number of defensive replacements yesterday to help preserve the lead.
Two games into this huge series with the Giants, two big wins. One more out of the next two, and I’ll be happy. I’d be OK with a sweep too.
Montero returns from DL
Even though he didn’t play yesterday due to Jon Lester being on the hill, catcher Miguel Montero was activated from the disabled list yesterday. Heading back to Iowa is outfielder Matt Szczur.
I’d expect Montero to get a lot of starts behind he plate, but it’ll be interesting to see how often Kyle Schwarber will be catching now that Montero is back. I don’t think the Cubs will avoid it completely — maybe one start per week for Schwarber at catcher?
I love Montero’s leadership abilities. I think he’ll help a lot of the young Cubs, all of whom are going through their first MLB playoff race.
* Big surprise: the Cardinals and Pirates both won last night, so the Cubs didn’t gain any ground on them.
* A cool note from Len Kasper:
* Some nice hitting performances from the Tennessee Smokies yesterday: 2012 first-round pick Albert Almora had three hits and a walk, catcher Wilson Contreras — who is having an outstanding year — had three hits and two runs scored, and outfielder Billy McKinney had two hits — including a walk-off single. Lots of exciting second-wave talent on this team. Should be fun to monitor over the next year or two.