A YouTube search for the name of Kyle Schwarber tells you a lot about how his June has gone so far. The first result is “Kyle Schwarber LOVES hitting leadoff, adding 2 more HR tonight!” Leadoff? Are we talking about the same Kyle Schwarber? The burly guy from the Cubs who socks big dongs? Yes. The Nationals moved Schwarber to the top of the lineup back on June 12. The offense was sucking major doo-doo—they’d been blanked by the Giants the day before, already their eighth shutout loss of the season—Victor Robles had bombed out of the leadoff job, and with no offense to speak of the Nationals had fallen to 25-34 on the season. Manager Davey Martinez, lacking many better options, decided to get funky: Trea Turner, then one of Washington’s maybe two productive hitters, was moved to the second spot; Schwarber, striking out a ton and struggling in and around the cleanup spot, was moved to leadoff.
In retrospect the move looks like a stroke of genius, but at the time it was just something to try. “I think Trea likes it because if Schwarber gets on, it gives him a guy on base when he’s hitting,” Martinez said after making the move. “I think Schwarber likes it because [now] there’s a guy [behind him] who can get something going right away. So it kind of works both ways for these guys.” Schwarber rewarded the promotion immediately, with a leadoff dinger in the first game of a Saturday double-header, in what would eventually be a 2-0 Nats win. Martinez moved Schwarber back to cleanup for the second leg, and the offense managed one measly run in a one-run loss. It was enough to convince Martinez that the experiment merited further investigation. Schwarber was reinserted at leadoff for the series finale on Sunday, and responded by socking mighty homers in each of the first two innings of the game, which the Nationals won by five runs.
So, yes, Kyle Schwarber, the slimmed-down but spiritually beefy lad who finished second to Bryce Harper in the 2018 Home Run Derby, who had his first hit of the 2016 season in the literal World Series, who is the very quintessence of a lefty designated hitter type, is now a leadoff hitter. And as the title of that first YouTube video suggests, he is absolutely raking. Last night against the Marlins he smoked another pair of huge dongs, including another leadoff homer:
The second video is four days old now, and tells you the run is longer and more impressive than you might think: “Kyle Schwarber has FIVE home runs in his last TWO games!” The victims were the poor New York Mets, who gave up leadoff Schwarb-bombs in the third and fourth games of a series the Nats won 3-1. There were some huge fuckin’ dingers in there, including a 443-foot job to left-center:
I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but we have now discussed 10 Schwarber dingers from just six games, all Nationals wins, and all of them from the last two weeks. That’s not even all the home runs he’s hit since June 12! Even the third YouTube video, which notes that Schwarber has eight dingers in the last five Nationals games, only hints at the carnage: In the last 13 days, not counting today—not games, but days—Schwarber has hit 12 home runs. He was hitting .218 and slugging .404 when Martinez moved him into the leadoff spot; less than two weeks later he is hitting .245 and slugging .544, and has jumped all the way up to third in the majors in home runs. The Nationals have won 10 of 11 games and are now 3.5 games back of the Mets for the lead in the NL East. It’s getting ridiculous.
Schwarber is now third in Nationals/Expos history in all-time leadoff home runs (5) and he has batted leadoff in exactly 13 total Nationals games. It is a crime against Kyle Schwarber that he has not been allowed to bat leadoff before the third month of his seventh season in the majors! The man would have one million career dingers by now!