Wednesday night, Jason Heyward showed off the type of opposite-field power the Cubs touted when they signed him to that big free agent deal before the 2016 season.
Heyward's 3-run shot off Scott Alexander in the sixth inning Wednesday helped stake the Cubs to a 7-6 victory. It was also reminiscent of a blast he hit off Jake Arrieta and the Cubs in the 2015 National League Division Series while he was still with the St. Louis Cardinals — taking a pitch off the plate outside and sending it into the left-center bleachers with ease:
There were so many encouraging things for the Cubs on the one Heyward swing Wednesday night: a homer off a lefty, to the opposite field, it gave his team a lead a late-game lead and it was just another example of the veteran's hot start:
Jason Heyward's 5th home run of the season— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) April 25, 2019
2016: July 29
2017: May 25
2018: June 29
2019: April 24
For perspective, Heyward has as many homers in the first month of the season as Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo combined.
Heyward is now on pace to hit 37 homers and drive in 103 runs in 2019 after totaling just 26 homers and 165 RBI in his first three years in a Cubs uniform.
Regardless of whether he's going to keep that power pace up or not, this is a brand new Heyward on an offensive run we've never seen from him before in Chicago.
"It's just been great," said Cole Hamels, who faced Heyward a lot when the two both called the NL East home. "Being able to see it in the offseason and the leadership type of role that he takes and the respect that he has in the clubhouse during spring training, this is what he's been destined to do.
"He's in his comfort zone. I remember playing against him in Atlanta and these were the types of games he could put in. He could do everything from the outfield — he's got a strong arm — and he's got ridiculous power. We were always very aware of that whenever we faced him, so it's nice to be a part of it and for him to be able to show this."
The homer is Heyward's only hit of the series, but it still ran his season batting line to .333/.450/.587 (1.037 OPS). He's also displaying an incredible awareness of the strike zone, walking 14 times against only 9 strikeouts to begin the campaign.
Even with something of a resurgence last year, Heyward still had only a 93 OPS+, which essentially means he was 7 percent below league average as an offensive player.
This year, his OPS+ was 164 before the game-winning home run, and his teammates are loving the show.
"They're definitely fully supporting Jason," Joe Maddon said. "Jason does so much supporting of others, even when he's not going well. Whatever you put out there, comes back to you. It's coming back to him right now.
"He's that kind of guy. He's always there for everybody else, so now everybody's there for him."
Heyward doesn't like talking about himself and he refuses to get complacent or revel in the good times too much, even after this hot start following three years of offensive struggle.
"A lot of work to be done," he said. "Get ready for every day. We got work to do — we got a tough division, we play great competition. Myself personally, just be ready to do whatever I can on a daily basis, whether that's coming through on the field, off the field, whatever it is.
"But it's awesome to be able to contribute for these guys because I know how hard everyone works and what we go through on a daily basis."