CHICAGO — Jason Heyward is no longer worrying about the hitch in his swing.
After batting .230 in 2016 — the worst average in his seven-year career — the Chicago Cubs outfielder leads the team’s regulars with a .300 average. He has a triple, five RBIs and five runs.
The turnaround has made the 27-year-old outfielder an indispensable bat as the Cubs and Milwaukee Brewers close a three-game series with a Wednesday afternoon game.
Chicago (7-7) broke a four-game losing streak Tuesday, recording a 9-7 victory over the Brewers (8-7).
“I’m just really trying to focus on what the pitcher’s going to do, how they’re going to attack you, that kind of stuff,” Heyward told the Chicago Sun-Times recently. “(I’m) not thinking about the swing or anything like that, which is where you need to be as a hitter.”
Heyward, who has appeared in all but one of the Cubs’ 14 games to date, was 2-for-4 with a run on Tuesday after going 1-for-4 with a run on Monday.
“He’s really rolling right now, he’s feeling it and using the whole field hard,” Chicago manager Joe Maddon said. “Pretty soon it’s going to start going over the wall as this continues. He’s looking really, really good.”
Heyward has hit safely in 12 of 13 games, including in each of the past seven contests.
By comparison, he was hitting just .205 (9-for 44) with two doubles and seven RBIs after 12 games in 2016, his first year with the Cubs. He signed an eight-year, $184 million free agent contract with Chicago in December 2015.
“Jason’s a pro, he’s going to work hard, he’s going to make adjustments he thinks he need to make (and) he’s the guy you want to have behind you,” said Cubs right-hander John Lackey, who also played with Heyward for the St. Louis Cardinals in 2015. “He’s the best right fielder in the game.”
The Cubs are scheduled to send right-hander Kyle Hendricks (1-1, 5.73 ERA) out for his third start of the season in the Wednesday series finale. The Brewers counter with left-hander Tommy Milone (1-0, 7.36 ERA).
It could be the last start for a while for Milone with the projected return of right-hander Matt Garza (right groin strain) from the disabled list later this week.
Milone stepped into the rotation when Opening Day starter Junior Guerra was placed on the disabled list due to a strained right calf. Milone’s only career appearance against the Cubs came this month, when gave up four runs on nine hits in four innings during a no-decision at Milwaukee on April 9.
Milone will hope to improve on the performance of the Brewers’ Tuesday starter, Jimmy Nelson, who was tagged for seven runs on nine hits in 5 1/3 innings.
“That’s usually a pretty aggressive team,” Nelson said of the Cubs. “They know what they want, their zone, their pitch. They do a good job of not missing it.”
Hendricks possesses an impressive history against the Brewers: 6-3 with a 2.47 ERA in 11 starts. His first start of the season was at Milwaukee, and he tossed six innings of four-run ball for an 11-6 win on April 8.
Following the Wednesday game, the Cubs have an off day before heading on a nine-game road trip that takes them to Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and Boston. The Brewers open a four-game home series with the Cardinals on Thursday, part of 10 games at Miller Park over the next 11 days.