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Heyward continues to impress at the dish

Outfielder crushed 3-run homer vs. Pittsburgh, leading team in RBIs
MLB.com @CarrieMuskat

PITTSBURGH -- If it looks as if Jason Heyward is hitting the ball harder, he is.

The Cubs' outfielder belted his third home run in the last four days, a three-run shot in a 14-3 win over the Pirates on Monday night, and continued to impress in his makeover.

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PITTSBURGH -- If it looks as if Jason Heyward is hitting the ball harder, he is.

The Cubs' outfielder belted his third home run in the last four days, a three-run shot in a 14-3 win over the Pirates on Monday night, and continued to impress in his makeover.

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Last season, Heyward had no home runs and 12 RBIs in April. In three games in Cincinnati this past weekend, he hit two homers and drove in seven runs, and picked up from there in the first inning on Monday.

The Cubs had two on with two outs against the Pirates' Chad Kuhl, and Addison Russell hit an RBI single, the first of a career-high four hits for the shortstop. Heyward then launched the first pitch from Kuhl to right center for his third homer.

According to Statcast™, the exit velocity was 105 mph. His other two homers this season registered at 106.8 mph and 104.6 mph. All three were harder hit than any of the seven home runs Heyward hit in 2016. The maximum last year was 102.9 mph.

"I'd say [the exit velocity] matters in the sense that this year there's more consistent solid contact and that's what you want to go for," Heyward said. "Line drives are great."

Especially when they go over the wall. He's well ahead of last year's pace, when he didn't hit his first home run until May 17.

"[Kuhl] made a pretty good pitch," Heyward said. "I feel like he threw it where he wanted and I was ready to try to get one in the zone and try to be ready and on time to hit the pitches that are strikes and go from there."

"That ball was properly struck," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "It's a nice continuation of what he's been doing since Spring Training to now. ... His confidence is soaring. You should continue to see that trending upward."

The Cubs won 103 games during the regular season with Heyward batting .230 and no Kyle Schwarber. Imagine what the offense could be if everyone is clicking.

"There's no weak spots," Cubs starter Brett Anderson said. "It's got to be demoralizing for the [opposing] starter. I'm glad I'm on this side."

Heyward is batting .294 and leads the Cubs with 16 RBIs. He's not relaxing.

"It's great but it's not over," Heyward said. "It's one game at a time. This game is hard, it's not easy, and you're always going to be humbled. It's great to see hard work pay off but I have to keep going because that's the way the game goes."

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast.

Chicago Cubs, Jason Heyward