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Schwarber’s summer surge continues in DC

Former Hoosier is crushing the baseball this month — and putting himself in some select company

MLB: New York Mets at Washington Nationals Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Attention big league hurlers: Stop pitching to Kyle Schwarber.

Or don’t, because what he’s been doing lately has been truly and unbelievably fun to watch.

Sure, we’ve known for darn near a decade now that the erstwhile Big Ten slugger swings a loud, electric bat. But Schwarber, our big, beautiful Hoosier boy, has happened upon a historic power surge that’s put him in a conversation along with such names as Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa. Yep. That’s right. What Schwarber has done over the past few weeks with the Washington Nationals is something to behold.

With two home runs in Monday’s 8-4 Washington win over the New York Mets, Schwarber joined Bonds (2001) and Sosa (1998) as the only big leaguers to hit 15 homers in 17 games. Indeed, Schwarber has been mashing at a violent rate since June 12, raising his OPS from .731 to .906 during that span.

Per Elias Sports, Schwarber’s 15 homers this month are tied for second-most in June in Major League Baseball history. Before Schwarber went off, Jim Thome was the last to hit that many tanks in the season’s third month when he clubbed 15 in June 2004. Sosa holds the record for most homers in a month with 20 in June 1998.

Meanwhile, only two players in MLB history have socked 11 home runs in a nine-game stretch. Frank Howard of the Washington Senators did it in 1968.

It all conjures memories of Schwarber blasts of yore, back when he was a blossoming big league prospect bashing balls in Bloomington. One of Schwarber’s most memorable homers from his IU days was the one he hit over the batter’s eye in dead centerfield in Louisville during the 2014 season. But ask his former Indiana teammates and coaches for their favorite Schwarber pump and they might tell you about the one he hit at Nebraska in 2013. That one left the ballpark and rolled out of sight.

“We couldn’t even see where it landed in some obscure parking lot,” former Hoosier (and current Boston Red Sox farmhand) Kyle Hart told me during Schwarber’s first postseason run with the Chicago Cubs in 2015. “There was this wide-open space, and we couldn’t even find the ball. It’s like those Bryce Harper fairytale myths, like those stories of him hitting 600-foot home runs. Schwarber’s kind of like that. I saw him hit a ball at the University of Cincinnati when we were 17. He had a wood bat and hit it over the scoreboard and off of their basketball arena, which has to be 500-plus feet away.”

Schwarber home runs have long been the stuff of legend at each of his previous stops in the Midwest. Now, folks in the nation’s capital are getting a dose of Schwarberball and it sure is something to savor.

“I’ve never seen anything like it before,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said Monday night. “Hope he keeps on doing it. He’s been awesome. He really has.”

The Nats have two more games against the Tampa Bay Rays before the calendar turns to July. The Rays will throw Rich Hill on Tuesday night before turning to Michael Wacha on Wednesday afternoon. Schwarber has logged only one single in nine career at-bats against Hill, but he does have two home runs in 12 all-time at-bats versus Wacha.