Wisdom ends HR drought with longest blast of career

June 22nd, 2022

PITTSBURGH -- Patrick Wisdom’s slash line this season is slightly below the level it was during his breakout 2021 campaign, when he catapulted himself into the national spotlight as a rookie with his power shows. But on Tuesday night at PNC Park, he reminded fans why his homer total is still on track to grow and grow.

Wisdom crushed the longest home run of his career and the Cubs’ furthest of the season in the fourth inning of their 7-1 loss to the Pirates, providing a highlight-reel moment in a stretch of games that has been a tough going for the North Siders.

In a 2-2 count, Wisdom received a 96 mph fastball from Pirates starter Roansy Contreras down the heart of the plate. The third baseman, who has been used at five positions this season to keep his bat in the lineup, turned on it and sent it flying off the padding above the Bucs' bullpen in left-center field.

The blast was projected by Statcast to have traveled 461 feet, tying it for the 15th-longest home run of the year in MLB.

Wisdom said his pregame work fed into how comfortable he felt at the plate on Tuesday. What was the crux of that work?

“Hitting homers to center field,” Wisdom said. “As funny as that sounds, I was just trying to free up my mind, free up some thoughts and get external with it and drive some balls to center field.”

It nearly happened again later in the game -- in the same spot, too. Wisdom swung at a 1-1 curveball from Chris Stratton in the eighth inning that clipped the bottom of the strike zone, and the ball went sailing high and deep toward the Cubs’ bullpen. This time, it caromed off the wall and led to a two-out double.

Wisdom’s game is built on this kind of unique power, but the profile lends itself to an unfortunate aspect: Strikeouts. His 88 K's are the most in the National League, though he didn’t add another in his 2-for-3 game.

The Cubs are likely willing to trade off some strikeouts for power from Wisdom’s seat in the No. 4 spot, for a couple of reasons. First, the big hacks lead to homers like the one he hit on Tuesday, but also, the two guys ahead of him in the order are two of the best at getting on base in the Majors; Willson Contreras (.390) ranked tied for 11th in OBP as of final out, while Ian Happ (.387) was tied for 13th.

Not to mention, Wisdom is walking at a higher rate this year despite the K’s. His 27 walks in 256 plate appearances is only five shy of his total last season in 375 plate appearances. In the first inning Tuesday, Wisdom worked a 10-pitch at-bat, fouling off four pitches in a 3-2 count to reach on a free pass, and he credited that appearance with setting him up for success later in the game.

“I think he’s just trying to make good decisions,” manager David Ross said. “I think he’s a guy who has a lot of power, and with that comes some swing and miss, but the fact that he’s getting on base a little more, I think that’s just the growth of him as a player.”

The farthest-hit homer of Wisdom’s career followed a stretch of 14 games without a homer -- the longest stretch without one in his time as a Cub -- in which he hit .163 with a .530 OPS alongside 18 strikeouts.. All of that frustration was taken out on a poor baseball on Tuesday to provide a bit of boost for the slugger who has cemented himself in the Majors, though the Cubs’ frustrations continue as they moved to 2-13 in their past 15 games.

“It’s frustrating, because I know I haven’t come through for the team,” Wisdom said. “I know other guys have stepped up and done a really good job. Things just aren’t going our way, and I think it’s just a matter of time before the ball is in our court.”