Schwarber red-hot in June; sound familiar?

Year after hitting 16 in historic month, slugger has 7 in 14 games

June 17th, 2022

WASHINGTON -- Remember when  morphed from power hitter into a home run machine last June?

It’s happening again.

• Box score

No hitter in baseball heats up with the weather like Schwarber. That’s good news for the surging Phillies, who benefited from Schwarber’s two-homer return to Nationals Park in Thursday’s 10-1 thrashing of Washington. Zack Wheeler breezed through seven innings of one-run ball behind the bevy of run support for his sixth win as Philadelphia kept pace with the Mets and gained ground on red-hot but idle Atlanta in the National League East.

“You saw it [from Schwarber] last year, right?” interim manager Rob Thomson said. “All those home runs in a short period of time. When he’s locked in, he’s pretty special.”

What is it about Schwarber in this ballpark, at this time of year? He hit 16 homers in an 18-game stretch last June for the Nationals, all after June 12. He has seven this June already, and he has an MLB-high 20-game on-base streak after taking former teammate Patrick Corbin deep twice to pace Thursday’s rout. The win was the Phillies’ 12th in 14 games, all in June.

“This is what we expected coming in,” Wheeler said. “We’re hitting on basically all cylinders right now. Hopefully, we can continue that.”

Schwarber’s birthday is in March, but this is his favorite month. Over the past two Junes, Schwarber has hit an MLB-best 23 homers in 41 games. He has six more than the next closest player, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. More than half of Schwarber’s 44 hits the past two Junes are homers. He simply doesn’t miss mistakes once summer starts to roll around.

“I’m not foreign to starting slow, you just need to keep working,” Schwarber said. “You need to trust yourself that you’re the same guy … and things will happen.”

The Phillies didn’t let Corbin get away with many mistakes, either. Their big third inning began innocently, with Corbin quickly retiring Alec Bohm and Matt Vierling to begin the frame in a scoreless game.

Then César Hernández’s two-out error provided an opening.

And the Phillies blew the game wide open.

“That’s what good teams do, they jump on mistakes,” Schwarber said. “We did a good job tonight of jumping on that mistake and not letting the gas pedal up.”

Philadelphia sent 12 men to the plate in the inning and nine straight after Hernández’s error. Schwarber crushed his Statcast-projected 424-foot two-run homer, and Nick Castellanos, J.T. Realmuto and Didi Gregorius rapped consecutive RBI hits to score seven unearned runs. Schwarber followed with a projected 415-foot solo shot the following inning, his 18th of 2022.

That’s tied with the Mets’ Pete Alonso and the Braves’ Austin Riley for the NL lead.

“He’s the June guy, right?” Wheeler said. “It’s fun watching him, and I was really excited when we signed him because it was really hard pitching against him.”

The scary part? The Phillies still have 18 games left against the Nationals, eight in this ballpark including four more this weekend. Philadelphia won 13 of 19 games against Washington last season, including the first seven at Nationals Park. These Nats have the worst record in the NL, have lost five straight and have the NL’s highest ERA.

“We knew they were struggling a bit, so we need to take advantage of it,” Wheeler said. “The Braves just came in and did the same thing. At this point, we’re just trying to keep up, win ballgames, win series. That’s the biggest goal right now, and we’ve been able to do that.”

The Phillies are playing their best baseball of the season, with Schwarber starting to sizzle in the leadoff spot. He could easily feast all weekend. He is already the first Phillies hitter with 18 homers in the team’s first 64 games since Domonic Brown in 2013. Brown finished with 27 that year.

The way he’s swinging, Schwarber should blow past that number.

Maybe by July.