Seiya is first Japanese-born MLB player to homer in 3 straight PAs

May 18th, 2023

HOUSTON -- There have been signs of late that was rediscovering his power. Sitting in the visitors’ dugout at Minute Maid Park on Wednesday, Cubs hitting coach Dustin Kelly was confident that would continue, too.

“He’s going to hit home runs,” Kelly said. “We know they're going to come.”

Those words proved prescient soon after, as Suzuki launched a pair of home runs in the Cubs’ 7-6 loss to the Astros. Dating back to Tuesday night, Suzuki homered in three consecutive plate appearances for the North Siders.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Suzuki became the first Japanese-born player to hit a homer in three straight plate appearances in the Major Leagues. The last Cubs hitter to do so was Kris Bryant during a three-homer game against the Nationals on May 17, 2019.

“I’m feeling pretty well in terms of how I am at the plate right now,” Suzuki said via his interpreter, Toy Matsushita. “Timing wise, it’s kind of more of, when I feel good. There’s times I don’t feel good, but I feel like I’m seeing the ball pretty well right now.”

One of the reasons the Cubs signed Suzuki to a five-year, $85 million contract prior to last season was due to the blend of power and plate discipline displayed with the Hiroshima Toyo Carp. Across the 2016-21 seasons, he averaged one blast per 18.3 plate appearances. That included belting 38 homers in ’21.

Going into Wednesday’s game, Suzuki had just 17 home runs in 570 plate appearances in the Majors. That equated to one shot every 33.5 PAs since joining the Cubs. Some injury setbacks -- a hand injury in ’22 and then an oblique strain in Spring Training this year -- certainly played a role in sapping some of the power.

Suzuki snapped a drought of 110 plate appearances without a home run when he went deep in the seventh inning on Sunday against the Twins. The right fielder has gone 6-for-13 with four homers since ending that power outage.

Against the Astros, Suzuki pounced on a pair of sliders from right-hander J.P. France. He cleared the Crawford Boxes in left field on a 1-1 slider that was in the heart of the zone in the first. Then in the third, Suzuki turned on a 2-0 slider on the inside edge for another blast to left.

Suzuki finished the evening 3-for-3 with the two homers, a single and a pair of walks, marking the third time in his career he reached base five times in a game for the Cubs.

“A lot of it with Seiya,” Kelly said, “has to do with being really committed and really disciplined with what he's really good at. And I think I talk about that with all of our guys -- and it really is true -- of like, ‘What is your strength? What are you really good at?’

“He hits the ball really hard. His swing path is incredible. And he's going to find hits when he's off the barrel a little bit, because his swing is so good. And just getting back to the point of like, ‘Hey, attack the baseball. Get in a position to hit it, hit it hard and then if you do miss-hit it, the swing is good enough to find some hits.”

Or, as was the case on Wednesday night, the baseball will find the seats.

“He missed those first three weeks of the season,” Kelly reminded. “He didn't get to get into the natural, normal flow like all of our other hitters did. And I think now we're starting to get the guy [we expect].”