Schwarber reaching levels of Sosa, Bonds

June 29th, 2021

WASHINGTON -- There’s a theory that when one player gets hot, the momentum can rub off on his teammates. In the case of , he jump-started his own home run derby on Monday night at Nationals Park.

“Honestly, I’ve never seen anything like it before,” manager Dave Martinez said of Schwarber’s power. 

The cheers were extra loud when the heavy-hitting Schwarber stepped up to the plate for the Nats' first at-bat of the game in their return home from a six-game road trip. Moments later, Schwarber kicked off their seven-game homestand with -- you guessed it -- a leadoff home run in their 8-4 win over the Mets.

His blast against right-hander Jerad Eickhoff flew a Statcast-projected 439 feet at 110.2 mph to right field. It was his 11th career leadoff home run and sixth of the season. And he didn’t stop there. In the fifth, Schwarber sent a second homer 409 feet at 105.8 mph for his 13th career multi-home run game (fifth of the season).

“We tried everything,” said Mets manager Luis Rojas. “We were pitching him in, away, down, up. We were bouncing balls. ... This guy's swinging a hot bat. He hasn't just done it against us. We're watching highlights of him doing it against other teams, too."

Martinez’s decision to bump Schwarber up to the leadoff spot in mid-June has yielded jaw-dropping results. Schwarber’s 15 home runs so far in June are the most in any month in Nationals team history (2005-present), passing Bryce Harper’s mark of 13 in May 2015.

“It’s been pretty good,” Martinez said of the lineup change as he knocked on his head and smiled. “Let’s keep it going.”

With every homer, the historical references pile up. Schwarber’s 11 home runs in his last nine games are tied with former Washington Senator Frank Howard for the most in any nine-game stretch since 1901. Looking at an even bigger picture, he also joined Barry Bonds (2001) and Sammy Sosa (1998) as the only players to hit 15 homers in a 17-game stretch. While Schwarber noted that marker is “definitely something you want to remember,” he doesn’t get wrapped up in the stats when he’s in the box.

“To be honest with you, I want to play stupid,” Schwarber said. “That’s kind of the best way to describe it -- just keep going up there and take your at-bat. Don’t remember the one before, just live in the present. … I think that’s the biggest thing, is just go out there and have a short memory.”

Schwarber’s teammates got in on the long ball action, too. In the next at-bat after Schwarber’s first-inning home run, blasted a 435-foot homer -- his second in as many games. One inning later, belted his first home run since the 2019 season and was greeted by a dugout of teammates doing the “Baby Shark” celebration.

put an exclamation mark on the night with a 437-foot, three-run shot in the eighth inning off Miguel Castro to erase a Mets’ comeback attempt, create an eruption of cheers and give the Nationals the deciding lead. Washington surpassed its previous season high of four home runs in a single game.

“This team is phenomenal,” Schwarber said. “The character and the mindset and the day in and day out work and attitudes that we all have -- it’s been really fun.”

Washington's bats let the pitchers go to work in a bullpen game after (left oblique strain) was scratched from his turn in the rotation. threw five scoreless innings in the spot start. The emphatic victory over the division-rival Mets was important for the Nationals to set the tone for a key stretch before the All-Star break, which sees the playoff-contending Rays and Dodgers come to town before the Nats head west to face the Padres and Giants.

“It’s a great tone-setter,” Schwarber said.

So is hitting leadoff home runs.