Kyle Schwarber’s record-setting month

Nationals’ slugger Kyle Schwarber was well known for his prodigious power before coming to Washington from the Cubs. After a slow start, Schwarber had a June 2021 that shattered or matched a number of home-run records. He was a clear choice for N.L. Player of the Month.

His 12 home runs in 10 games tied the record set in 1995 by Cleveland’s Albert Belle. Schwarber already had matched Frank Howard’s 11 homers in nine games, part of Hondo’s great run in 1968. With 16 home runs over 18 games, Schwarber joined juicers Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa in the record book.

Schwarber ended June with those 16 home runs, a new Nationals’ record, three more than Bryce Harper hit in May 2015. Kyle didn’t hit his first June homer until the second game of a June 12 double-header. Then he took off.

From that point, in addition to his 16 home runs, he hit .369 with a .459 on-base percentage. His 16 round-trippers were more than four teams (the Cardinals, Diamondbacks, Pirates and White Sox) hit over the same 18-game span and as many as six other teams.

Schwarber hit his 16 homers in fewer plate appearances – 69 – than any player in  history, one less than it took Bonds, Sosa and Mark McGwire in the steroid era to get there.

All of this coincided with Kyle being moved to the lead-off spot in the batting order. Since then, he has hit seven lead-off home runs, another major-league record for one month. His 16 dingers are the most ever in a month by a batter hitting first in anybody’s line-up.

Schwarber tied the Expos’ Henry Rodriguez (1996) as the fastest player in franchise history to get to 25 homers in a season.

The Nationals have Schwarber all because he was not tendered a contract by the Cubs after the 2020 season, even though he hit 94 homers for Chicago from 2017-19 and was key member of the Cubs’ World Series winning team.

Barring an extended slump or an injury, Schwarber is a safe bet to reach 30 home runs for the third time and is likely to top his career high of 38 in 2019.

He signed with Washington for a reported $10 million with a mutual option for next season. His red-hot stretch led the Nationals back over. 500 at month’s end and back into the N.L. East race. Not since Hondo’s record-setting 10 homers in six games in 1968 have Washington baseball fans experienced such a power surge.

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