Cubs hoping Dansby Swanson is headed for hot streak, and his recent opposite-field power is promising sign

Swanson homered in the Cubs’ last two games.

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Chicago Cubs shortstop Dansby Swanson is congratulated by manager Craig Counsell and hitting coach Dustin Kelly at Wrigley Field

The Cubs’ Dansby Swanson is congratulated by manager Craig Counsell (right) and hitting coach Dustin Kelly after hitting a solo home run against the San Francisco Giants in Chicago on Wednesday.

Nam Y. Huh/AP

Dansby Swanson isn’t interested in boiling down any bouts of success at the plate to a specific adjustment. Hitting isn’t that simple. As soon as he started talking about the mechanical changes he had been working on, he steered the conversation to the mental side.

“They work hand in hand, right?” he said in a recent conversation with the Sun-Times. “When the mental side’s clear and [has conviction in] doing something, the physical follows that.”

And vice versa.

On deck: Mets at Cubs

  • Friday: Jose Quintana (2-5, 4.98 ERA) vs. Shota Imanaga (7-1, 1.98), 1:20 p.m., Marquee, 670-AM.
  • Saturday: Tylor Megill (2-3, 3.52) vs. TBD, 1:20 p.m., Marquee, 670-AM.
  • Sunday: David Peterson (3-0, 3.97) vs. TBD, 6:10 p.m., ESPN, 670-AM.

“I’m doing something I believe in now,” he said. “And when you believe in something, it’s easier to go do it with the commitment. So they both play off each other and in harmony, essentially.”

On the heels of back-to-back All-Star nods, acknowledgments of first-half success, Swanson is off to a down offensive start. He’s hitting .214 with only 18 extra-base hits. But in the Cubs’ series at Cincinnati two weeks ago and against the Giants this week, he showed signs of heating up. The Cubs are hoping those flickers will become a steady flame.

“He’s been frustrated, obviously, with the year that he’s having,” Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer said Monday. “He’s working through some mechanical stuff that hasn’t let him get hot. And he’s always been a streaky hitter. His whole career, he’s been a guy that would have some crazy-hot months, and he had some ups and downs. But he hasn’t really caught a hot streak yet.”

Swanson’s mechanical focus has been on his lower-half direction, but a sprained right knee earlier this season limited his reps. He first tried to play through the injury and eventually took almost two weeks on the injured list to recover.

“It was probably affecting me more than I realized or wanted to admit,” Swanson said.

For the last month, Swanson and the coaching staff have been “grinding,” as hitting coach Dustin Kelly put it, to hone his lower-half mechanics.

“I think I’m just putting myself in a better position to move,” Swanson said.

When his swing is a little off, it’s often because Swanson is letting his hips fly open, pulling his bat out of the zone. That likely has contributed to his higher-than-usual ground-ball and pull rates as well as some of the swing-and-miss.

When Swanson’s hips, upper half and intention are in better sync, his bat path stays in the zone longer. That leads to balls in the air on the pull side and hard contact the opposite way.

“You recognize it, you feel it, you see it, but it takes awhile sometimes,” Kelly said. “In the cage, it looks great, in BP it looks great, and you just hope that there’s a couple of instances where you get some success — which he had — and then you can continue to build off of it.”

Swanson’s bat warmed up in Cincinnati, and he went on a four-game hitting streak that stretched into the first game against the Rays. The next six games, including a late-inning pinch-hit appearance, he went 0-for-17.

Then in the Cubs’ victories against the Giants on Tuesday and Wednesday, Swanson homered twice and hit a two-run single. All three hits were to the opposite field.

There’s no guarantee that this latest sample of success will open the door to a hot streak, but it was a sign of Swanson’s mechanics and conviction aligning.

Look at his bases-loaded single in the Cubs’ 6-5 win Wednesday against the Giants. Reliever Spencer Howard’s 0-2 pitch was up and out. And if Swanson had let his front hip fly open early, he probably would’ve rolled over into a forceout or whiffed for strike three, ending the inning.

Instead, he stayed behind the ball and drove it over second baseman Thairo Estrada’s head for two runs.

“Definitely much needed for myself personally,” Swanson, surrounded by a media scrum in front of his locker, said of his offensive performance after the game. “But, obviously, it’s been really great for us to be able to win a series and get back on track.”

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