‘Incredible skill set’: Cubs react to Christopher Morel’s scorching start to the season

Morel extended his home-run streak to five games Tuesday against the Mets, something no Cubs player had achieved in his lifetime. The streak ended Wednesday.

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Cubs slugger Christopher Morel reacts after his home run in the seventh inning against the New York Mets at Wrigley Field on May 23. It was his ninth in 12 games.

Cubs slugger Christopher Morel reacts after his home run in the seventh inning against the New York Mets at Wrigley Field on May 23. It was his ninth in 12 games.

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There was one problem with Cubs utility player Christopher Morel’s home-run streak.

‘‘Morel is an amazing player,’’ outfielder Seiya Suzuki said through an interpreter. ‘‘There’s a lot of reasons why he’s able to do that, and stat-wise he’s performing really well.

‘‘But when I hit a home run, I don’t want people to know that it’s always going to be there for me. I want some people to praise me a little bit.’’

Suzuki flashed a smile.

Since Morel was promoted to the majors this season, homers have felt inevitable. On Tuesday, he extended his homer streak to five games, the longest by a Cubs player since Sammy Sosa in 1998 — the year before Morel was born. That streak ended in the Cubs’ 4-2 victory Wednesday against the Mets, but he stretched his hitting streak to a career-high 13 games. He had at least a hit and a run scored in each of his first 12 big-league games this season, tying Hank Sauer’s 1954 franchise record to start a season.

The Cubs were in the midst of an offensive rough patch when they recalled Morel a little more than two weeks ago. Entering Wednesday, he was leading the Cubs in batting average (.367), slugging percentage (.980), weighted runs created plus (265) and, of course, homers (nine) since joining the lineup.

‘‘I feel like we’re watching Barry Bonds or something,’’ reliever Julian Merryweather said. ‘‘It’s insane. A week ago, I thought he was doing something historical already. Every night, it’s another record he’s going to be chasing.’’

Said second baseman Nico Hoerner: ‘‘Every time he steps in the box, there’s a real threat, and that’s an incredible skill set.’’

Said shortstop Dansby Swanson: ‘‘It’s crazy. I feel like when he hits a ball, it’s a homer. I wish I knew what that felt like.’’

As Morel’s teammates marvel, however, he’s a tougher critic.

‘‘Everybody only sees the home run [and] is super-happy with this,’’ Morel said Tuesday, adding he wants to put the ball in play more and strike out less. ‘‘In two days in Houston, I got [seven] strikeouts. What happens if I put the ball in play? We can be better. I can help my team. We can get a ‘W.’ ’’

He’s right that strikeouts are the inefficiency in his offense — a trade-off the Cubs are happy to make right now. But Morel has his sights set on consistency.

During his franchise-record 22-game on-base streak to start his career last season, Morel struck out in only 21.4% of his plate appearances. But as the season went on and opposing teams gathered more information about him, his strikeout rate rose to 34.3% and his on-base percentage dropped to .269 in the second half.

Entering play Wednesday, Morel was striking out at a 36.5% clip. But even as he nitpicks his start to the season because of that number, his offense obviously has provided the Cubs with a boost.

Hitting coach Dustin Kelly said he expects Morel’s plate discipline to improve as he develops and learns how pitchers are attacking him.

‘‘He moves faster than anybody that we have, so it’s really hard for him to shut it down,’’ Kelly said of Morel’s swings-and-misses. ‘‘He just has to learn that when that ball is in that zone, it’s, ‘Go.’ And then he’ll start to figure out how to put on the brakes a little bit better.

‘‘You’re gonna see some of those swings, but we’re also going to see some that end up 450 feet away that did change the game.’’

Right now, Morel is seeing the latter in most games. It practically has become commonplace.

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