It’s rare for the National League team in a World Series to be disadvantaged in the games it plays at home.

The theory, after all, is that an American League team, which uses a designated hitter throughout most of the year, is forced to sit one of its regulars. But in the case of Kyle Schwarber’s miraculous return to the Chicago Cubs lineup during the World Serieshe tore his ACL and LCL on April 7 and was ruled out for the seasonhis team found itself in that AL-like conundrum.

Though Schwarber has been cleared to hit, doctors prohibited him from playing in the field. So, the left-handed slugger was relegated to duties as a pinch hitter in Games 3, 4 and 5, forced to watch his team struggle offensively at Wrigley Field.

But thanks to the Cubs’ Game 5 win Sunday night, the series heads back to AL champion Cleveland for the final two games, giving Schwarber the opportunity ignite Chicago’s offense.

Over those three home games, Schwarber played spectator while his team scored only four runs. Manager Joe Maddon tried every which way to spark the offense.

But aside from Anthony Rizzo—center fielder Dexter Fowler and outfielder Ben Zobrist are switch-hitters—Maddon couldn’t find capable left-handed hitting, which is of utmost importance against the right-handed-dominant Cleveland Indians pitching staff. Reliever Andrew Miller is the only southpaw among the Indians’ key pitchers.

It was as though Maddon walked into his kitchen intent on making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich only to find he was out of jelly.

Except there’s no running to the store in the World Series. The roster is set.

Left-handed-hitting outfielder Chris Coghlan is hitless in three at-bats this series. Right fielder Jason Heyward, another lefty, has struggled all year (.230/.306/.325 this season). He has three hits in this series, two of them seeing-eye singles that wouldn’t even make the NL’s worst-hitting pitchers jealous.

Maddon had nowhere to turn, except to try to adeptly pinch hit with Schwarber when it appeared advantageous.

That’s like telling Picasso to paint with only two primary colors.

Schwarber is hitting .375/.500/.500 in the World Series, which makes him a superhero among Cubs fans given that he only had five MLB plate appearances prior to starting as the team’s designated hitter in Game 1.

But the superhuman nature of Schwarber’s comeback will be judged after the series is over. And in a loss, it may not matter anyway.

As it pertains to Tuesday’s Game 6, another series-clinching opportunity for the Indians, he has a chance to give his team a boost.

It should be noted that in 10 plate appearances during the World Series, Schwarber has struck out four times. It’s irrelevant, though.

With his power, Schwarber can change the game with one swing. So if he strikes out four times, it doesn’t matter as long as he gets that timely hit.

But it’s not just the AL format that benefits Schwarber and the Cubs in Game 6.

According to ESPN’s “MLB Park Factors,” a statistical measure that determines which stadiums are friendly to hitters, Cleveland’s Progressive Field ranks third in runs, fourth in hits and fifth in home runs.

Those are the three most relevant categories for a hitter like Schwarber.

Furthermore, it’s 325 feet to right field in that stadium. By comparison, Wrigley Field is 353 feet to right field. Though the distance to Progressive Field’s left field is also 325 feet, there is a 19-foot-high wall. That makes it more difficult for right-handed hitters to homer.

For lefties, though, the right field fence is only nine feet high.

According to FanGraphs, Schwarber pulled the ball 46.8 percent of the time in 2015, which makes him, along with Rizzo, the likeliest on the Cubs roster to homer Tuesday and, if the Cubs should win, in Wednesday’s decisive Game 7.

With Schwarber in the lineup at Progressive Field, we should see the best of Chicago’s lineup.

Sure, the Indians also had to maneuver Wrigley Field’s NL rules. But it seemed through the last three games that Chicago’s offense was hurt more by them, as Cleveland scored 10 runs over that span.

The Cubs and their tortured fanbase are now embracing the most unpredictable of circumstances. Since 1945, fans have waited for a World Series to return to Chicago’s North Side.

Fans needed to write four-figure checks to get into the ballpark for one of the three games. Others gathered en masse outside Wrigley Field and packed the surrounding bars.

But now that the games are over and the World Series is leaving Wrigley for the 2016 season, those rooting for the Cubs to win this year might want to collectively wish the ballpark good riddance.

Because their home field didn’t turn out to be such an advantage.


Seth Gruen is a national baseball columnist for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @SethGruen.

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