Yesterday, the Chicago Cubs beat the Cincinnati Reds for the eleventh time this season, on the strength of a strong start from Jason Hammel … and three more homers from key contributors.
Addison Russell, Jason Heyward, and Willson Contreras were the destroyers of baseballs, and the ones to give the Cubs a late-inning lead they would not surrender.
The three homers were numbers 185, 186, and 187 on the season, which gives the Cubs the 13th most homers in baseball (5th most in the NL) this year. Meanwhile, the three homers also pushed the Reds to an ugly big league record: 242 homers allowed this year, alone. Yikes.
Addison Russell’s was first, so let’s see what it looked like and what it does for his season.
Russell launched his 21st homer of the year to lead off the bottom of the seventh inning. It was the Cubs first run of the night, and cut the Reds lead in half. According to Statcast, Russell sent his homer 401 feet out to left field, having hit it 100 MPH at a 32 degree launch angle.
Russell’s homer came as part of a 2-4 night, also featuring a double. His season slash line now sits at .247/.327/.433 which is good for a 100 wRC+. And while his stellar defense at shortstop has made him a 4+ WAR player at age 22, his offense has clearly turned a corner in the second half: .261/.325/.478 (110 wRC+).
I am not afraid to say: expect very big things from Russell in 2017.
Willson Contreras’ homer came next, and was an obvious monster shot out onto Waveland Avenue, check it out:
You have to love the catcher’s reaction; it’s exactly how he looked when Kris Bryant dropped three homers on the Reds earlier this season.
At 461 feet, Contreras’ homer was one of the Cubs’ longest home runs of the season – currently ranking third behind two of Kris Bryant’s long balls – and it tied the game for the Cubs at 2-2. According to Statcast, Contreras sent the ball flying at 109 MPH, with a 31 degree launch angle.
And if you don’t believe that he got all of it, check out where it ultimately landed:
— BALLHAWK.NET (@Super_Dave) September 20, 2016
Contreras’ homer came as part of a 1-3 night. His season slash line now sits at .263/.341/.457 which is good for a 114 wRC+ in his rookie season. As a converted catcher. FanGraphs also likes his defense behind the plate (and in left field), which has allowed him to be worth 1.6 WAR in just 261 plate appearances. Given him a full season behind the plate, and he’s a 3+ win player already.
The last homer of the evening was from Jason Heyward, and it was a glorious opposite field line shot.
Heyward launched his 7th homer of the year in the bottom of the eighth inning yesterday, scoring Addison Russell from second and giving the Cubs a 5-2 lead in the process. According to Statcast, Heyward sent his homer 409 feet out to left field, at 103 MPH and a low 24 degree launch angle.
Heyward’s homer was his only hit of the night, but he was robbed on a 96 MPH line drive shot to right center field in the seventh, too. You already know his season slash line doesn’t look good, but he has been hitting the ball much better lately:
Jason Heyward has had a really nice four-game stretch at the plate. 7-16 (.467) with a walk (.500 OBP), two 2Bs & a HR (.333 ISO, .800 SLG).
— Michael Cerami (@Michael_Cerami) September 20, 2016
If Heyward can somehow find a way to stay hot on into the playoffs, then the struggles of his season may be magically forgotten. His teammates have picked up the offensive slack throughout the regular season (they do already have 95 wins, after all), but a hot Heyward in October could go a very long way. For now, though, it’s just a handful of games. Let’s see if he can keep it up.