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Turns out Kyle Schwarber’s power swing is ideal for more than just Yankee Stadium.
Schwarber’s career resurgence in his first season with the Nationals reached new heights Sunday as he crushed three home runs (combined distance 1,174 feet) during a 5-2 win against the Mets. He tied a MLB record with five home runs over a two-game span covering just eight at-bats.
“To be honest with you, I don’t really know what’s going on,” Schwarber said. “I’m not going up there just trying to hit home runs.”
Long speculated as a possible left-handed fit for the overly right-handed Yankees lineup because of his ability to pull pitches over the short porch, Schwarber hit nine home runs on the Nationals’ 10-game homestand. At the time of his second home run Sunday and his eighth in that span, Schwarber had out-homered 11 teams since his bat caught fire on June 12. Four days earlier, he moved into the leadoff spot.
“He single-handedly beat us today,” Mets outfielder Kevin Pillar said. “When you see a guy being able to use the big part of the field and have success like that, there’s not a lot of places you can go to get him out. Sometimes you just leave here realizing you just witnessed something pretty special.”
A star of the Cubs’ 2016 World Series title, Schwarber hit .188 with 24 RBIs in 191 at-bats last season. Schwarber’s always-suspect defense in left field combined with suddenly dwindling power led the Cubs to non-tender him, and he settled for a one-year, $10 million contract as a free agent with a smaller market than once expected.
“I’m playing more with a chip on my shoulder because I know I’m better than what I was last year,” Schwarber said. “I’m trying to prove something to myself and trying to help the team win every day.”
Schwarber led off the bottom of the first inning with a home run for the second straight game. After a groundout in the third, he led off the fifth with a home run. He added a two-run shot in the seventh. Two of the three went out to the opposite field.
“He’s just locked in right now,” Mets starter Taijuan Walker said after serving up homers on a fastball and a sinker. “He was just hitting every fastball we threw at him.
“That first one was just a lazy fastball, but that third at-bat I almost have to just tip my cap to him. I threw a backdoor slider that I thought would’ve got him and he fouled it off, and he hit a pretty good fastball.”
Schwarber’s third home run was off a slider from Jeurys Familia. The Mets never considered an intentional walk with first base open and Trea Turner on deck.
“The ball ran back over the middle and a guy swinging the bat like that, he didn’t miss it,” manager Luis Rojas said. “Familia is a high-leverage pitcher. He’s gotten a lot of big outs.”
Schwarber’s Father’s Day explosion moved him into a tie for fifth in MLB with 18 home runs. And he did it on a balky knee that led to his removal for a double-switch in the eighth inning. His spot in the lineup didn’t come up again.
“Just trying to do right for what my dad has done for me my whole life,” Schwarber said. “Countless times I hit him with line drives with no net throwing batting practice out on the football field at the elementary school. A lot of credit goes to my family, especially my dad, for where I’m at today.”
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