Heyward Continues To Be Difference-Maker For Cubs

Jason Heyward hit the go-ahead two-run homer in the Cubs' win Sunday.

Bruce Levine
July 14, 2019 - 5:18 pm

CHICAGO (670 The Score) -- At long last, outfielder Jason Heyward is emerging as the player the Cubs expected him to be when he signed an eight-year, $184-million contract in December 2015. 

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Continuing his strong season and recent hot streak, Heyward hit a tiebreaking two-run homer in the fifth inning to help lead the Cubs to an 8-3 win against the Pirates at Wrigley Field on Sunday afternoon. It capped a big weekend for Heyward, who drove home the go-ahead run in the eighth inning of a win Friday before going 3-of-5 with two doubles in a victory Saturday.

"I would say its been a while carrying a streak this long," Heyward said. "It is about making adjustments pitch to pitch, staying focused and trust that."

After a rough May, Heyward hit .326 with a .968 OPS in June. He's continued his strong performance halfway through July and is now hitting .275 with 15 homers and an .833 OPS for the season. That marks his highest OPS since his rookie season with the Braves in 2010.

"Right now his confidence level is sky high," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "He is just soaring. That ball he hit today was properly struck. I like the fact he is using the whole field, but once in a while, he will go pull side and hit it far. It is a confidence thing for him now. He is on the barrel more."

After struggling in 2016 and 2017 with the Cubs, Heyward in 2018 adjusted his stance by moving to the back side of the batters' box. That combined with the direction of first-year hitting coach Anthony Iapoce and Maddon has helped Heyward, as they've emphasized to him the key lies in his hands and becoming an arm swinger in his approach.

"It is not easy to hit," Heyward said. "Pitchers are throwing really hard and featuring a lot of nasty stuff. You can't be going up there looking to walk. You have to be looking for a pitch to hit. My last at-bat on Friday, if I didn't get a hit on the first pitch, I probably would not have gotten another pitch to hit."

Heyward's 15 homers are his most since he hit 27 in 2012. He only hit a combined 26 in his first three seasons in Chicago.

Heyward has be an elite defender and quality baserunner for his entire career, so his uptick offensively has elevated him back into an-around player.

"You just have to play the game," Heyward said in analyzing his success. "You just have to take what it gives you and try to stay in tune to that stuff. Sometimes a matchup will dictate whether the other team wants to face me or the guy behind me. You try and pay attention to the game and not try to do too much."

Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine​.