Schwarber’s 12th homer in 10 games helps Nats over .500

AP Sports
Kyle Schwarber

Washington Nationals’ Kyle Schwarber hits a solo home run during the first inning of a baseball game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Nationals Park, Tuesday, June 29, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Kyle Schwarber’s power display is making history. His relationship with the Home Run Derby appears consigned to it.

After Schwarber led off the first inning with his 12th home run in 10 games to help the Washington Nationals to a 4-3 victory on Tuesday night, Schwarber said he has not been approached about participating in this year’s derby on July 12 at Denver’s Coors Field.

If Schwarber is asked, he said he probably would pass, two years removed from his duel with then-Nationals slugger Bryce Harper in the event in Washington.

“It was definitely a moment that you’re not going to forget. You kind of check that off your bucket list,” Schwarber said. “But if I was approached I would probably not do it. You get a little sore afterward. It’s four minutes of straight hacking as hard as you can.”

Schwarber tied Albert Belle in 1995 for the most home runs over a 10-game span since at least 1901. He has 16 home runs in 18 games since being moved into the leadoff spot in the Nationals’ batting order on June 8.

Schwarber drove Rich Hill’s first pitch, an 83 mph fastball, 434 feet off the upper-deck facade in right for his major league-leading seventh leadoff home run — all in June. Schwarber’s 16 home runs this month are the second-most in any June behind Sammy Sosa’s 20 in 1998.

“I felt really good at the plate and was happy to put it out in that situation,” Schwarber said. “And yeah, just smiling. Just keep riding the wave.”

The 28-year-old Schwarber is batting .253 with 25 homers and 53 RBIs. He is tied in home runs with San Diego’s Fernando Tatis Jr., three shy of the major league-leading total of the Los Angeles Angels’ Shohei Ohtani and one back of Toronto’s Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

“It’s kind of a joke at this point,” Nationals starter Joe Ross said. “It’s like every time he goes up there, he hits a ball 350, 370 to right field.”

Schwarber became a free agent Dec. 2 when the Chicago Cubs failed to offer a 2021 contract. He agreed in January to a $10 million, one-year contract with the Nationals calling for a $7 million salary, a deal that includes an $11.5 million mutual option for 2022 with a $3 million buyout.

Juan Soto followed two batters later with a two-run drive, and Victor Robles added a solo homer in the second for a 4-0 lead off Hill (6-3), who said catcher Mike Zunino spotted him tipping his pitches during the first two innings.

“I’m glad we caught it,” said Hill, who allowed eight hits over six innings. “I was able to go out there and execute for the next few innings and give us a chance. But it sucked putting us in that position early on.”

Washington has won three straight and 13 of 16 and at 39-38 has a winning record for the first time since beating Atlanta on opening day.

Ross (5-7) gave up two runs and six hits in 6 1/3 innings for his third win in his four outings.

Brad Hand allowed Zunino’s 17th homer leading off the ninth, then got three straight outs for his 18th save in 20 chances.

Brandon Lowe hit his 16th homer in the fifth, and Kevin Kiermaier doubled in a run in the sixth.

A FIRST, FINALLY

Robles’ homer was his first since Sept. 20 of last year, and just his fourth since he blasted 17 during his 2019 rookie season.

MOVES

Rays: RHP Louis Head was optioned to Triple-A Durham and INF Mike Brosseau was recalled from Durham.

Nationals: RHP Ryne Harper was recalled from Triple-A Rochester and LHP Kyle Lobstein’s contract was selected from Rochester. RHP Justin Miller was designated for assignment

TRAINER’S ROOM

Rays: RHP Chris Archer (forearm tightness) will throw to batters on Friday. “No setback or nothing, just a little bit of a schedule change,” manager Kevin Cash said. Archer started twice in early April, and before that hadn’t appeared since August 2019. … LHP/DH Brendan McKay (shoulder surgery) pitched two innings at the Florida Complex League Rays.

Nationals: RHP Tanner Rainey was put on the 10-day injured list, retroactive to Monday, with a stress reaction in his right Tibia. Rainey is 1-2 with a 6.93 ERA, but he had allowed only one run in his last 9 1/3 innings over 10 appearances. Manager Dave Martinez did not give a timeframe for a return.

UP NEXT

Rays: RHP Michael Wacha (1-2, 4.66 ERA) is scheduled to pitch the majority of Tampa Bay’s innings, but Cash was waiting for the outcome of Tuesday’s game to decide whether to start him or use him after an opener.

Nationals: LHP Jon Lester (1-3, 4.99 ERA) attempts to continue his strong recent showings at Nationals Park after allowing five earned runs over 15 1/3 innings in his last three home starts.

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