LOS ANGELES — Right fielder Jason Heyward hasn’t had the season he or the Cubs had hoped for to this point at the plate. After being one of the Cubs’ best offensive players in 2020, he has been unable to duplicate that performance.
Heyward’s left-hamstring strain that put him on the injured list for a month didn’t help his attempts to find a consistent rhythm at the plate. But in the midst of his best series of the season, his red-hot play continued on Saturday night as he put together some of the Cubs’ best at-bats in a 3-2 loss to the Dodgers.
“I’m just trying to relax,” Heyward said after the walk-off loss. “Keep it as simple as possible. “Just give 100% of what I have on every single pitch and just let that just gradually allow me to see the ball in the zone and be aggressive there, no matter what happens.”
Ross has had to adjust his lineups as he’s tried to find spots to not only try to get his struggling outfielder going offensively by finding good strong matchups, but also sitting him at times.
“Everybody wants to play every day, I’ll tell you that,” Ross said. “It’s just part of this job, right? You have conversations. Everybody wants to play, everybody wants to be the guy every single day. There’s a balance there and that’s my job. Not everybody wants to hear when they’re not playing.”
Heyward hasn’t faced tough left-handers often and despite coming into the game with a .490 OPS against left-handers, but Ross gave him the nod against Dodgers starter Julio Urias.
“It’s always kind of fluctuating who is going to give us the best at-bats,” Ross said before the game. “Heyward was able to work some walks.
“I feel like he’s gotten some hits lately, some hustle hits and a nice hit last night. He’s had some good nights and he gets back in there today. I think this is a good matchup for him.”
It wasn’t a home run or loud contact that got Heyward off to his fast start in the series. But after a walk in his first at-bat Thursday, things started to fall his way with a few broken bat singles to get himself going.
The right fielder had his strongest game of the series Saturday with a single and double in his first two at-bats against Urias. Heyward was tasked with facing tough southpaw Garrett Cleavinger in the seventh inning and came within feet of hitting a go-ahead home run before being overturned on a controversial call.
But Heyward followed his would-be homer with a solid single up the middle, giving him a three-hit day with all three coming off of lefties.
“That’s one of the more difficult things that you have to do in baseball,” Ross said. “Foul borderline home run, to stay in there left on left and then smoked that ball up the middle, really nice job, really nice game from Jason
“He seems to be in a good place and getting back to the version of him that we have a lot of confidence in.”
Saturday was Heyward’s first three-hit game of the season and he’s now 7-for-10 in the series with a double and three walks. It’s a trend he and the Cubs hopes continues well past the series in LA.
“Obviously, it’s nice to get some results, broken bat or not, to get some hits,” Heyward said. “But just to be looking for pitches to hit and feel like I got time to react. Just want to keep building. Keep pushing. Obviously, today was a good day. Faced some good pitching and faced some good pitching in this series as a group, so it’s nice to help out.”