Prodigious blasts from Belli, Suzuki lead Cubs' rout

April 3rd, 2024

CHICAGO -- The Wrigley Field crowd had braved the cold and wet conditions on Tuesday night and wanted even more reward for their trek to the Friendly Confines. The rout was already on against the Rockies, but as stepped to the plate in the seventh inning, the audience joined together in a chant.

“Cody! Cody!”

Bellinger responded with a towering drive over right field, where the ball sailed beyond the bleacher seats and bounced off the video board. It was an emphatic blast in an evening filled with them for the Cubs, who enjoyed a 12-2 romp en route to securing their first series win of the young season.

“That was a well-timed chant,” Cubs manager Craig Counsell said.

One day ago, Counsell quipped that the frigid, windy conditions at the old ballpark made it seem like there was a rule in place stating home runs were not allowed. It was still one of those classic early-April evenings in Chicago on Tuesday, but the swirling wind made things a little more conducive for some crushed baseballs.

By the time Bellinger stepped to the plate, fans had already treated to a laser of a homer off the bat of , a towering drive from and an opposite-field shot from . Plenty of fans within the announced crowd of 26,555 had already hit the exits with the “W” flag set to fly.

Those remaining in the stands wanted their money’s worth, and urged Bellinger on.

“That was cool. Sometimes you hear it and sometimes you don't but I definitely heard that one,” Bellinger said. “Rain, snow, cold, hot -- they're going to be out supporting. That's what makes it really special.”

Cubs righty Javier Assad was the beneficiary of all the blasts, cruising to the win behind his six shutout innings.

“I'm just really happy that I have them on my side,” Assad said via translator.

The derby got rolling in the first inning, when Suzuki drilled a 2-0 sinker from Rockies lefty Kyle Freeland to straight-away center field. The ball rocketed off his bat with an exit velocity of 115 mph (per Statcast) before landing in the greenery just above the ballpark’s famous brick wall. It marked the hardest-hit home run of the 2024 season to date.

“That was a missile,” Bellinger said.

“That's special kind of power,” Cooper added.

“That's as hard-hit a baseball as I've seen,” Counsell said. “That was really impressive.”

The blast was the hardest-hit ball of Suzuki’s career and the third-hardest home run by a Cubs batter in the regular season in the Statcast Era (since 2015). Only Kyle Schwarber (117.1 mph on April 24, 2018) and Willson Contreras (116 mph on May 31, 2022) boast homers with higher exit velos in a Cubs uniform in that span.

Suzuki’s homer also came with a 16-degree launch angle. As long as Statcast has been recording blasts, there have only been 18 homers that featured an exit velocity of at least 115 mph with a launch angle no higher than 16 degrees. There a dozen names on that list, which is led by Giancarlo Stanton (six times).

“His swing's really, really good and he hits the ball so hard,” Bellinger said. “I think that he's just trusting himself and it's really fun to watch.”

Morel got in on the action in the third inning, launching a Freeland fastball to deep left for his second homer of the year. Through five games, Morel is now 8-for-21 (.381 average) with three extra-base hits and four RBIs. He only has one strikeout through his 22 plate appearances as well.

“Really, since the start of Spring Training,” Counsell said, “it's just been hard-hit balls and a real controlled aggression, is the best way I can describe it. There hasn't been chase. … That's just going to make him really dangerous.”

In the sixth, Cooper sent a four-seamer from reliever Anthony Molina to right-center, connecting for a three-run homer that stretched the Cubs’ lead to 10-0 at the time. Cooper ended his night a single shy of a cycle.

“It's a lethal offense when one through nine is doing it and it's not just a few guys,” Cooper said. “Everybody put together good at-bats. Even the outs were hard outs.”

The chant was pretty loud, too.

“That’s pretty crazy,” Cooper said. “I’ve been to a lot of stadiums and I’ve heard people chant people’s names, but to hit a homer while they're doing it is pretty special.”