Kyle Schwarber‘s first home run as a National could not have come at a better time. Playing in only his fifth game after beginning the season on the COVID-19 injured list, Schwarber demolished an Alex Young pitch 463 feet to right field to send Washington to a 1-0 walk-off win against the D-backs at Nationals Park on Friday.
“I wasn’t trying in that spot to hit a homer,” Schwarber said. “I was just trying to put in a quality at-bat, get the barrel on the ball, and that was the result.”
The result happened to be the second-longest walk-off homer that’s been tracked by Statcast (since 2015), trailing only Mark Reynolds’ 464-foot shot for the Rockies in 2016. He ranks ahead of Chris Davis (458 ft.), Anthony Rizzo (453 ft.) and Giancarlo Stanton (453 ft.).
“For it to be that [stat], that’s pretty cool,” Schwarber said. “I’m not up there trying to go out there and just hit home runs. I want to go out there and spray stuff around, be a hitter for these guys, get on base and let these guys drive me in, and I want to drive in runs, too. … But cool stat. Cool stat.”
Schwarber’s walk-off blast sent Nationals Park into a frenzy, a proper introduction to his new home crowd. He signed with Washington this winter looking to bounce back from a down 2020 season with the Cubs. Over 59 games last year, the left-handed-hitting left fielder posted career lows in batting average (.188) and slugging percentage (.393).
Manager Dave Martinez had worked with Schwarber during his tenure on Chicago’s coaching staff, and he had a vision of how Schwarber would fit into the Nationals’ lineup — against all pitchers. The walk-off homer happened to be in a matchup with a southpaw.
“We know he’s got power,” Martinez said. “I want him to hit lefties. We didn’t sign him here to platoon, so he’s going to get an opportunity to hit lefties, and you see what happens when he stays on the ball — he hits it really far.”
The long shot out of Nationals Park gave both Martinez and Schwarber flashbacks to the 2018 Home Run Derby. That year, Schwarber finished second by one homer to Bryce Harper, then a member of the Nationals.
“I’ve seen him do that,” Martinez said. “Those two guys put on a show, and they were hitting balls just like that. It was impressive.”
Just like the balls from the Derby, Schwarber is pretty sure a fan scooped up the one from his winning hit. His goal is to make that plate appearance just the beginning of the ways he will help the Nationals this season. But in the meantime, he will still look for a way to commemorate it.
“I’m going to try to take something away from today’s game to make sure I savor this moment,” he said. “Because that was a really cool moment in my career, for sure.”