Kris Bryant back to form, Jason Heyward back in lineup, Cubs’ lead back to 3½

SHARE Kris Bryant back to form, Jason Heyward back in lineup, Cubs’ lead back to 3½
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Daniel Murphy’s two-run homer capped a three-run second for the Cubs in Tuesday’s 9-1 rout of the Diamondbacks. / John Antonoff photo

PHOENIX — Even as Javy Baez continued to draw attention to his growing MVP candidacy the last two nights against the Diamondbacks, the rest of the Cubs’ lineup seemed to be finding strength in key areas, too.

That includes one outfielder who returned to the lineup Tuesday, when the Cubs clobbered the Diamondbacks 9-1, and another who might be back Friday.

And it includes the guy who already has been there and done the MVP thing two years ago.

The two-run home run Monday by 2016 National League MVP Kris Bryant — his first round-tripper in almost two months — might have signaled a return to form for him just in time for October after he missed six weeks with an injury to his left shoulder.

‘‘We all know what KB can do here,’’ Baez said of the impact Bryant can have down the stretch and into the postseason if he’s back to full strength and his 2015-17 form. ‘‘Just having him in the lineup, it changes the way the other team pitches to us.’’

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Baez, meanwhile, boosted his homer total to 33 and his NL-leading RBI total to 107 with two-run homers each of the last two nights.

It didn’t seem to matter who was pitching Tuesday for the Diamondbacks, as Daniel Murphy added a homer, Anthony Rizzo delivered his 94th and 95th RBI and right fielder Jason Heyward made his first start since suffering a hamstring injury Aug. 30 and doubled to the opposite-field gap in his first at-bat.

The Cubs’ biggest scoring output since Aug. 26 made a winner of Mike Montgomery (5-5) and extended their lead in the NL Central to 3½ games over the second-place Brewers with 11 to play.

Meanwhile, left fielder Kyle Schwarber (sore back) is poised for a return to the lineup Friday against the White Sox, which would put the Cubs’ hitting roster at full strength just in time for the playoffs.

And if Bryant, who doubled during the Cubs’ four-run fifth, is playing at his peak level for the first time this season as September cools into October?

‘‘I’m not going to put any extra pressure or any of that on myself,’’ said Bryant, whose sore shoulder seemed to sap his power for much of the season, but who indicated he has felt no pain or discomfort in it since returning from the disabled list Sept. 1. ‘‘We’re a really good team, and I’ve never felt I’ve had to do that since I’ve been here.

<em>Bryant’s home run swing Monday</em>

Bryant’s home run swing Monday

‘‘Like I said when I first came off the DL, I’m just trying to be myself and impact the game any way I can. I feel I’ve done that so far.’’

For all the talk about Bryant making adjustments with his swing — keeping both hands on the bat to reduce his follow-through — his uppercut, top-hand release Monday looked like vintage Bryant.

And that’s how he plans to keep it, he said.

‘‘In practice in the cage and stuff, I try to limit the intensity of the swings,’’ he said. ‘‘But in the game, my natural instincts take over. That’s how I’ve swung and always played the game. I don’t think I’ll change it. . . .

‘‘I’ve seen progress since I’ve come off the DL. Hopefully we just continue to do that and start getting hot at the right time.’’

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