J-Hey, say what? Check out who suddenly looks like 184 million bucks for the Cubs
‘‘This is as good as we’ve seen him since he’s had the uniform on,’’ manager Joe Maddon said of outfielder Jason Heyward.
PITTSBURGH — Almost lost in the Cubs’ struggles in recent weeks has been the play of outfielder Jason Heyward.
Whether it’s on the field, at the plate or on the bases, check out the guy who suddenly looks like $184 million.
‘‘He’s just had a hell of a last 10 days or something like that,’’ manager Joe Maddon said last weekend. ‘‘His whole game’s been elite-ish.’’
It has been longer than 10 days. Heyward, who got Wednesday off after being banged up on a diving catch Tuesday, is hitting .325 with seven home runs, 18 RBI, a .570 slugging percentage and a .954 OPS in the last five weeks. In those 33 games, he had doubled his season home-run total, raised his batting average 36 points to .270 and raised his OPS 85 points to .827.
‘‘This is as good as we’ve seen him over this stretch since he’s had the uniform on,’’ Maddon said.
Heyward, who also spent the last several days in Cincinnati and Pittsburgh putting on a fielding clinic in right field, isn’t getting ahead of himself with a half-season left, but he appreciates the best extended run he has had with the Cubs.
‘‘It’s great to help,’’ he said. ‘‘I can bring a lot to this team. And we trust each other. It’s good to be a part of that, be in the middle of this lineup and do what I can to be a part of it and give some other guys a chance to have some room for error.’’
Heyward, who’s in the fourth year of an eight-year contract, already has matched his highest home-run total in six years, and his OPS would be his highest for a season since his rookie year in 2010.
‘‘The barrel of the bat’s on the ball,’’ Maddon said of the difference the last five weeks. ‘‘You’re not seeing the roll-over. You’re seeing it hit everywhere. It’s been really crispy.’’
And Heyward’s play in the field has stood out, too. On Saturday, he charged a shallow fly to right and fired to first to beat the runner back to the bag for a double play. On Sunday, he robbed the Reds’ Nick Senzel of a homer with a leaping catch at the wall. On a rainy Tuesday, he robbed the Pirates’ Kevin Newman of a hit with a diving catch and continued to slide several yards on the wet grass.
‘‘It’s everything, his whole game,’’ Maddon said. ‘‘The catches, his at-bats — against righties or lefties, [it] doesn’t matter. He’s just playing really good baseball right now.’’