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More firsts for Suzuki as Cubs heat up against Pirates originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
Another day, another first for Seiya Suzuki.
Sure, he had his first stolen base of his 15-game major-league career.
You might even be able to make the case that it was an unsung catalyst during the Cubs’ big second inning that followed as the Cubs started pouring it on in a history-making rout of the Pirates on Saturday.
But mostly it was the sun and warm temperatures that team president Jed Hoyer promised with his infamous weather chart during the Cubs’ free agent courting process — and that Wrigley Field finally delivered during a suddenly summer-like afternoon that featured a 21-0 Cubs victory that was the most lopsided shutout win in franchise history (They once won 20-0 in 1886).
Maybe Suzuki feels a little bit better about Hoyer than he did during that 30-something-degree night Monday or the frigid, rainy games that followed most of the week?
The Cubs’ big-ticket free agent from Japan laughed after listening to the question translated then said through his interpreter: “The weather was great. The fans were awesome as well, a lot of passionate fans out there. It was really fun.”
Whatever his fondness level might be for Hoyer after the sun finally shone Saturday (he's apparently too nice to say much about it), he and teammates clearly felt a lot better about their week, if not their season, after a 23-hit day manager David Ross called “good for the psyche.”
For Suzuki, that meant a first-inning single and run, second-inning RBI single, steal and run, and a fifth-inning leadoff double off the wall in right-center and run, before getting the rest of the day off with the rout — adding up to his first three-hit game.
Until then, the Cubs’ four-game losing streak entering the day coincided with a 1-for-11 stretch for him in those games — 1-for-10 with a walk and six strikeouts the last three games, following a three-walk game Tuesday.
He had reached base with at least one hit in every start until that four-game skid — reached on a hit or walk in every game until the last two.
“I don’t want to make excuses,” Ross said of Suzuki’s return to a stratospheric performance level for the day. “But we had some crappy weather to play in the last few days.”
And Suzuki wasn’t the only Cubs suffering through some suppressed numbers during the low-scoring week against the Rays and Pirates.
“This was a beautiful day, a beautiful crowd,” Ross said, “with Kyle [Hendricks] the way he was pitching — so efficient from early on; not really any hard contact with the two hits. Just an all-around nice, group win.
“And a beautiful day at Wrigley, and the fans were nice and loud.”
Just the way Hoyer wrote it up a couple days before Suzuki decided to sign.
“We’ve been waiting for weeks for one day like that,” said All-Star catcher Willson Contreras, one of five Cubs with at least three hits in the game.
Along the way Hendricks (1-1) needed just 76 pitches for seven innings of his best work of the season, delivering the Cubs’ first quality start of 2022.
But if you’re looking for a Cubs bellwether, look no further than Suzuki for the surest, small-sample-size indicator in baseball so far.
Not only is he hitting .750 on 73-degree day games on the weekend, but check out his Cubs-win/Cubs-loss splits:
In the Cubs’ seven wins, he’s 11-for-23 (.478) with three homers, a .957 slugging percentage and 1.523 OPS.
In the eight losses: 5-for-20 (.25) with one homer, .450 slugging and .914 OPS.
And this: When he steals a base, the Cubs average eight runs in the inning (and 21 per game).
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