Kris Bryant has been on fire lately, and the Chicago Cubs can thank a broken bat for his return to form.
With his fourth home run in five games on Thursday, Chicago Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant extended his on-base streak to 19 games. Over that span he has a .281/.447/.688 slash-line with six home runs (13 total extra base hits), 18 RBI and 18 walks.
The Cubs are 15-4 over those 19 games, as they’ve gone to the top of the NL Central with a 22-13 record entering Friday. Bryant’s numbers were down in 2018, as he battled a left shoulder injury, and those struggles lingered into a new season despite him apparently being healthy.
So what, if anything, changed to foster the former Rookie of the Year and MVP’s current surge?
On April 26 against the Arizona Diamondbacks, Bryant broke his bat in the middle of an at-bat. He had to go to an extra bat, and immediately hit a home run. Going into that game against Arizona, Bryant had just one home run (albeit with eight doubles as a sign his power wasn’t totally gone) in 99 plate appearances. Since then, he has six homers over 56 plate appearances.
Bryant told the story to Sahadev Sharma of The Athletic.
“It was just one day, ‘I’m going to bring this (Axe Bat) as my extra. Usually when you break your bat, it’s when you put a ball in play and you’re out or get a hit or whatever. It’s not a foul ball. So the bat boy brings it to me and I’m like, ‘Okay, I’m just going to use this.’ First swing, home run. And I was like, ‘Oh, okay, I’ll stick with it.’ And I have since then and I just feel really good about my swing.”
Axe Bat is a bat brand, named for a unique handle shaped like an axe. Players like Mookie Betts, Carlos Correa and George Springer favor the bats, and even with some possible placebo effect it’s safe to say Bryant is now a full convert.
Somewhere between his slow start and his current blazing hot stretch is where Bryant will settle in this season. But the Cubs are riding the wave of his rising tide, as they’ve taken their place in the NL Central race.