“To be honest with you, I don’t know what’s going on,” Kyle Schwarber told reporters after his three-home run game on Sunday, which capped off a nine-home run homestand, over which he went 13 for 38 (.342/.395/1.053).
“It was amazing,” manager Davey Martinez said of Schwarber’s recent run, which took him from a .220 AVG on the year up to .241, “but as I’ve said before, I’ve seen Kyle get hot, and start swinging the bat and hit the ball like that.
“When he squares balls up, he hits them far, and not only that — his hits in-between, him driving in runs, I’ve seen him do it, but it’s been amazing to watch, fun to watch, and he’s lifted up this team tremendously.”
Schwarber led off in 9 of the 11 games in Nationals Park, after Martinez moved him into the leadoff role earlier this month, trying to spark both the 28-year-old slugger and the club, and he hit home runs in his first at bat in four of those games.
In 10 games as the leadoff hitter this season, Schwarber is now 6 for 10 with the four home runs in his and the Nationals’ first at bat of the game, so yeah, that seems like it was a good decision, but Martinez demurred when asked if he was already patting himself on the back for making the move.
Leadoff Hitter Kyle Schwarber...— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) June 21, 2021
• Hit 6 HRs in 7 games
• Hit 5 HRs in 24 hours
• Hit 2 HRs in a game
• Hit 3 HRs in a game
• Hit 2 leadoff HRs
• IS NL PLAYER OF THE WEEK#NATITUDE // https://t.co/Q3S2lefCHS pic.twitter.com/2phZvEpTOW
“I’m just glad it’s working out,” Martinez said. “I really am. Especially for him. But like I said, he gets up there early and often, and the way he’s swinging right now, guys are on the bench saying they know that anything can happen right now when he’s up there. So it’s fun to watch and he’s getting us going, which is great. I talk about scoring first, we’ve done that a lot since he’s been there.”
Schwarber, who has led off before, in previousl seasons, though without the level of success he’s enjoyed over the last few weeks, is just happy he’s helping the team, which wrapped up an 8-3 run on the homestand with wins in seven of the last eight games.
The move to the leadoff spot came amidst an 0 for 14 stretch at the plate for Schwarber earlier this month.
“I knew I was like 0-for-whatever rolling into Tampa,” he said on Sunday, “and I know he put me up in the leadoff spot there against [Tyler] Glasnow, and obviously, went 0-for-whatever it is [0 for 3, BB], but got the hit out of the way the next day and was able to keep rolling from there. So, I think — everyone can attribute it to the leadoff spot and things like that, and it’s fun to get instant offense up there, first batter, but I just want to be able to keep putting in quality at bats for the guys behind me. And yeah, cool, home run, whatever, but work the pitcher, not let him feel comfortable, not let him feel like he’s going to be able to settle in right away and feel out his pitches, and hopefully the guys behind me get a mistake and take advantage of it.”
How can you not love these two?? pic.twitter.com/x0DZbl2XRl— Nationals on MASN (@masnNationals) June 20, 2021
“I know him and I know what kind of hitter he is,” Martinez said, referencing the time that he and his left fielder spent together in Chicago before both one-time Cubs reunited in D.C.
“When he gets the ball in the strike zone he can do some damage, and that’s what you’re seeing. And it’s not just about the home runs. I told him, I said, ‘Hey, just get on base.’
“He’s having a heck of a run right now. He’s working good counts, he’s hitting 3-1, 2-1, 2-0, and that’s good to see, and when he starts doing that, he’ll hit the ball hard.”
The move to the leadoff spot, Martinez said, has definitely had the desired effect, and not just because Schwarber has gone on this sort of ridiculous home run spree.
“It’s just something that when you try to get a guy going, and you know a guy is a really good fastball hitter, you know for me, it’s try to get him up there and see what happens,” Martinez explained.
“See if he can make adjustments. See if he can calm down. Schwarber rides his emotions a lot, he really does. And for me it was about, ‘Hey, you’re leading off, just get on base. You can take your walks, swing at strikes, put the ball in play, and when he starts doing that he slows everything down. And you can see the at bats that he’s having. He’s having some unbelievable at bats. Even the ones he fouls back, we’re all sitting there going, ‘Ohh, what a good swing.’ But he’s really letting the ball travel and he’s trying to hit the ball — he’s not trying to hit home runs, he’s just trying to hit the ball hard, and it’s been great.”
After today's three-home run performance, Kyle Schwarber is slashing .361/.415/1.111 in 10 games at the leadoff spot this season. Yes, that is a slugging percentage over 1.000, not his OPS which is 1.526. Seems solid enough, I guess.— Blake Finney (@FinneyBlake) June 20, 2021
Coming off a .188/.308/.393, six double, 11 home run, 0.4 fWAR season in his sixth year in Chicago, Schwarber was non-tendered by the Cubs, and he hit the free agent market. He signed a 1-year/$10M deal with the Nationals.
Schwarber, who has a .241/.325/.518 line, eight doubles, and 18 HRs so far this season, was asked if he’s playing with a chip on his shoulder this year after the demand for his services wasn’t as high as he might have liked this past winter?
“No,” Schwarber said. “I mean, I was — I wasn’t doing that, I’m playing more with a chip on my shoulder because I know that I was better than what I was last year. I wouldn’t say it’s a chip, I would say I’m going out there and I’m trying to, one, prove something to myself, and try to help the team win every day. That’s kind of me. I just want to go out there every day, and you know what if it’s not in the batter’s box, out in the field, and if it’s not in the field or the batter’s box, it’s in the dugout, in the clubhouse whatever it is.”
“He just wants to help the team win, honestly,” Martinez said, “... and when you talk to him, he’s all about winning. He doesn’t care who has the spotlight or who does what, or if he’s 0 for 4, with 4 strikeouts and we win the game, he’s about as happy as you can be. And that’s him. He just wants to win. “