“Remember, this is a good team. You guys stay with us now, alright, stay with us,” Nationals’ left fielder Kyle Schwarber implored fans when he spoke to reporters on a Zoom call after a two-home run game in Washington’s 5-0 win over the San Francisco Giants on Sunday.
Those home runs were Schwarber’s second and third of the four-game series with the NL West’s first-place club and his 11th and 12th of the season, and he made it four in the last four games overall with a solo shot to right in the seventh inning on Monday night in the nation’s capital, hitting a hanging curve over the out-of-town scoreboard to put the Nats ahead, 3-2, in what ended up a one-run win over the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Two of the previous four homers were leadoff blasts in the first at bats of the game for the home team in Nationals Park, giving the Nationals, who’ve been scrounging for some runs in recent weeks, important early leads.
Last night’s, his 13th of the season, after he signed a 1-year/$10M deal with Washington this winter, broke up a 2-2 tie, and lifted the Nationals to their fourth win in the last six games as they try to fight their way back into the battle in the NL East.
The recent run for Schwarber on the current homestand follows what was a tough road trip to Atlanta, Philadelphia, and Tampa Bay, on which the 28-year-old slugger was 5 for 29 (.172 AVG), with five singles, four walks, and 11 Ks in eight games and 34 plate appearances.
What has been different the last few games, with skipper Davey Martinez using Schwarber as the leadoff hitter in his lineup?
“He’s getting the ball in the strike zone,” Martinez explained to reporters after Schwarber’s 2 for 3, HR, BB game against the Pirates, in which he also drove in one of the other three runs the Nationals scored in the win.
“When he does that he’s dangerous, he really is. If he continues to swing at the ball in the strike zone, you’re going to see big numbers from him.
“And he’s taking his walks. He’s doing a great job for us up there.”
Schwarber said he hasn’t really noticed pitchers attacking him any differently now that he’s hitting at the top of the order, in front of Trea Turner, Juan Soto, and Josh Bell as he did last night.
“I think we’ll see it maybe more as it goes on, but I think that people are going to pitch you certain ways, but I think that they’re going to want to be more in the zone,” Schwarber said.
“You got those three donkeys behind you that can make them pay. Then you’ve got guys behind them, that, you know what, if those guys are getting hits left and right and they’ve got me in front of them or whoever it is on base, they’re looking to drive them in, and it can turn into a double where even the guys behind them, J-Hay [Josh Harrison], Yan [Gomes], [Starlin Castro], [Victor Robles], these guys are going to be driving them in too. We’ll see as it keeps going on, but I definitely think that there’s going to be more pitches in the zone, because they don’t want guys on base for those guys.”
Martinez said he’s also noticed some changes in Schwarber’s approach in recent days.
“He’s letting the ball get a little deeper,” Martinez said. “The biggest thing for me is he’s not chasing. He’s getting the ball in the strike zone. He hit another curveball today that was up, which we talked about with him, but like I said, when he’s in the zone and swinging at balls in the zone, he’s got a good chance to hit it hard somewhere.”
“I want to be aggressive in the zone,” Schwarber said. “I want to get my swing off, but I also feel like I’ve got good recognition of the zone and I don’t want to go out there and chase guys, and let them come into the zone and if they walk me, they walk me, and if it’s in the zone I’ll put my swing on it and hope for the best.”
Schwarber got his swing off on that hanging curve, and hit a big home run a day after he asked fans to stick with what he thinks is a good team regardless of what the record says right now.
“Yeah, I mean, I got a lot of belief in this team,” Schwarber said. “I mean, there’s been a lot of adversity thrown at this team. There’s been — to start the year, guys on the COVID list, there’s been some injuries here left and right, and just to see the way the team — I always feel like we’re in games. I never feel like we’re out of reach, and that’s if we’re behind, and then the way that we battle and we put ourselves in positions to possibly tie the game, things like that, and then when we’re ahead, you look at our back end guys, and see that these guys are legit.
“I just got a lot of faith in this team. I love this team. This is definitely one of the better times that I’ve had playing baseball in terms of just coming into a clubhouse and enjoying the people around you, and being able to go out there and go to battle with these guys.
“I wish that people on the outside could see what we get to do daily, that this is a really good team, and trust me, you got one heck of a manager here, you got one heck of a staff and one heck of a players group, going out there and trying to bring something home for Washington Nationals fans.”