WASHINGTON -- Forget about the first at-bat. Sometimes, all Kyle Schwarber needs is the first pitch.
“He’s getting up there and he’s attacking the strike zone, he really is,” manager Dave Martinez said. “He’s not waiting around.”
In the Nats' 4-3 win over the Rays on Tuesday night at Nationals Park that put them over .500 (39-38) for the first time since starting the season 1-0, Schwarber sent Rich Hill’s 83.4 mph fastball a Statcast-projected 434 feet at 112.1 mph out to right field. It was his 25th home run -- tied with the Padres' Fernando Tatis Jr. for the National League lead -- his seventh leadoff homer and his second first-pitch blast of the season.
“It's a good swing -- I don't know what else to say,” Hill said. “He's obviously a very good hitter and he's been swinging a hot bat. You just have to tip your cap.”
Schwarber had not hit a first-pitch homer during this streak. His previous one this season came on May 23. The instant offense was a result of staying locked in and simplifying his at-bat.
“I think that’s kind of the biggest thing is keying in on your pitch and not trying to hit a home run,” Schwarber said of the first-pitch homer. “I’ve caught myself trying to do that where I’ve swung and missed at a first-pitch fastball that could’ve been a hit, and you find yourself trying to do too much with the pitch.”
With 12 home runs in 10 games, Schwarber tied the mark set by the Indians' Albert Belle in 1995. He also tied the Giants' Barry Bonds (2001) and the Cubs' Sammy Sosa (1998) with 16 dingers in an 18-game stretch.
The homer also extended the Nationals' record Schwarber already held for most home runs in any month.
“If you’re a baseball fan and you’re watching the games and every night … you see Schwarber doing what he’s doing, you’ve really got to appreciate that,” Martinez said. “You’ve got to honestly say, ‘Hey, that’s amazing.’ I’ve been in this game a very long time, and I’ve never seen something like this.”
Just like on Monday against the Mets, Schwarber set the stage for his teammates to go yard.
Two at-bats later in the first, Juan Soto rocked his ninth home run of the season -- and first at Nationals Park -- 378 feet to right field. In the second, Victor Robles connected on his first homer of the year. Like Schwarber, it was a first-pitch shot that traveled 399 feet to left-center. Robles had not gone yard since Sept. 20, 2020. With three homers, the Nationals increased their collective total to a league-best 15 over the last seven days.
So with all the balls leaving the yard as of late, would Schwarber be interested in putting on a show at the Home Run Derby during All-Star festivities in Denver? (He finished second to Bryce Harper in the 2018 competition at Nationals Park.) When asked again on Tuesday, Schwarber said he has not been asked, but reiterated his desire to focus on the season at hand.
“It was definitely a moment that you’re not going to forget and you kind of check that off your bucket list,” Schwarber said. “If I was approached, I would probably not do it just in terms of -- you get a little sore afterwards (laughs). It’s four minutes of just straight hacking as hard as you can. … I just think that the best thing to do is probably let it pass and rest up and look forward to the second half.”