Why Cubs’ Ian Happ might find turning point in season first

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Why season first might be turning point for struggling Happ originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

It took until the middle of May, but Cubs center fielder Ian Happ finally reached a season first Sunday in Detroit that might suggest his miserable start to the season is about to turn around.

“Some of those balls finally getting down and having some success — I think that’s the name of the game,” Happ said. “You have to get hits at some point.”

When Happ got three of them in Sunday’s 5-1 victory — one to each field, including an opposite-field home run, and all from the right side — he finally had more hits than walks for the first time this season.

Name of the game? That’s why they call it hitting.

Happ’s struggles in April were well-documented, including a lot of bad luck on balls in play (.209 BABIP).

And just when he started showing signs of breaking out, including a three-hit game on May 2 in Cincinnati, he collided with Nico Hoerner going after a fly ball and spent most of the next two weeks sidelined with bruised ribs.

He returned to the lineup Saturday and went 0-for-5 — but hit the ball hard and said he felt signs of picking up where he left off even without the results then.

That’s part of why he said he’s not putting a lot of stock in Sunday based just on the results.

“Getting the hits and having success is great,” he said. “But I felt I had great at-bats [Saturday] and felt like I was swinging it really well.

“The hits are great, and they’ll continue to come, but it’s being OK with the process,” he added. “I didn’t feel bad after the game [Saturday], and then I feel great today. So it’s trying to stay as even as possible.”

Happ’s still hitting well below the Mendoza line (.183 to be exact) even with the pair of three-hit performances in his last three games — albeit, spaced two weeks apart. And while the 15 walks help the on-base percentage (.309), it’ll be a while before the numbers catch up to the process.

He batted sixth Saturday and ninth Sunday.

But manager David Ross said he likes the idea of the switch-hitting Happ back in the leadoff spot at some point, and he definitely likes what he’s seen from Happ in just his two games back from the injured list.

“The homer to right, that was impressive,” Ross said. “The ball just never came down. Great swing. Seemed like he was seeing it really well today.

“Getting him back going [again] is big for us, and I think when he’s right that makes our lineup really, really deep.”

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