Seiya Suzuki of the Chicago Cubs high fives Willie Harris after hitting a home run during the first inning against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park on May 17, 2023 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)
By Conor Liguori
World Baseball Network
Seiya Suzuki, an outfielder for the Chicago Cubs, made history in the top of the third inning in Chicago’s 7-6 loss against the Houston Astros on Wednesday.
After already hitting his fourth home run of the year in the top of the first inning off of Houston starter J.P. France, Suzuki followed it up by delivering a two-run shot in the top of the third, and extended the Cubs lead to 5-1. It was his third home run in three consecutive plate appearances.
One day prior, Suzuki hit a two-run homer into the Minute Maid Park Crawford Boxes in left field in the ninth inning off of Houston relief pitcher Matt Gage. The Astros would win the game 7-3 over the Cubs.
His homer in the ninth inning on Tuesday, and two home runs on Wednesday combined for three straight dingers in his last three plate appearances, becoming the first Japanese-born MLB player to accomplish the feat. He now has five home runs on the season.
Although this kind of offensive production cannot be expected on a regular basis, this is what the Chicago Cubs were excited about when they signed Suzuki to a five-year deal worth $85 million in March of 2022. He has gotten off to a hot start at the plate in 31 games with the Cubs in 2023, batting .286 with five homers and 17 runs batted in. Suzuki’s OPS+ currently sits at 135, which indicates he has been 35 percent better than the average MLB hitter.
Suzuki spent nine seasons in Nippon Professional Baseball with the Hiroshima Toyo Carp before coming to the United States. In 1,055 career games in NPB, Suzuki hit 189 home runs, and had an OPS of .943. It was these kinds of numbers that made the then 27-year-old so attractive to MLB clubs. Hiroshima was unable to win a Japan Series championship while Suzuki was with the team, but did make the playoffs five times.
For Suzuki to become the first Japanese-born MLB player to homer in three straight plate appearances is historic not only for Japanese baseball, but also for Major League Baseball given the tremendous Japanese hitters that have played in the MLB, such as Hideki Matsui, Ichiro Suzuki, and Shohei Ohtani.
Suzuki and the Chicago Cubs currently sit in third place in the National League Central with a 19-24 record. They will start an important three-game set with the Philadelphia Phillies on Friday, May 19 at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.