Power alleys a reason Cooper chose to sign with Cubs

When you hit a home run and no one's there to see it, does it really happen?

The game was on television, so yes, there's visual proof it happened. But the highlight of Garrett Cooper's MLB career so far was a playoff home run at Wrigley Field in 2020, with no fans in the building due to the pandemic.

“It was dead silent when I hit that home run,” Cooper said with a laugh. “Would have been a little bit different with some boos from the crowd.”

The home run off Yu Darvish broke a scoreless tie in the seventh inning, and Miami won the game 2-0 to clinch the best-of-three wild card series.

Cooper, 33, spent most of his major-league career with the Marlins. He got his first start with the Cubs on Tuesday night and delivered a double, triple and 3-run homer.

Tuesday's game was a reminder he's not in Florida anymore, in more ways than one. First of all, the game-time temperature was 42 degrees, but plenty of fans stuck around until the end.

“It's tough to be a part of a team where the fans don't show up all the time,” Cooper said. “For them to stay through that, the 30-degree weather and some snow flurries towards the end just shows the character of the city of Chicago, how much they take pride in their sports. That's something you love as a player.”

Cooper also loves Wrigley Field for its notoriously short power alleys at 368 feet. LoanDepot Park in Miami is 392 feet in right-center field. He admitted that was one reason he chose to sign with the Cubs during the winter.

“A lot of guys choose teams based on the hitting factor,” Cooper said. “As a hitter and a first base-DH type, you want to a place where you're rewarded with some line drives that go out.”

The Cubs tried adding veteran first basemen last year but ended up releasing both Trey Mancini and Eric Hosmer. They're stuck paying Mancini $7 million this season. If he keeps hitting like he did Tuesday, Cooper will be a bargain at $1.5 million.

Suzuki speed record

Seiya Suzuki's first-inning home run Tuesday night nearly defied physics.

At 115.0 miles per hour, it was the highest exit velocity of any home run this season in MLB, while the launch angle measured just 16 degrees, according to StatCast. It was the definition of low line drive.

In comparison, Cody Bellinger's blast off the right-field video board later in the game was 107.4 mph and a 30-degree launch angle.

Suzuki's homer ranks No. 3 in hardest-hit balls this season. San Diego's Fernando Tatis Jr. leads with 116.7 mph, followed by the Dodgers' Shohei Ohtani at 115.8, but those went for a single and double, respectively.

Around the horn

Jameson Taillon, on the injured list with a sore back, did well in his bullpen session Tuesday. Manager Craig Counsell said the plan is for Taillon to pitch Sunday for Double A Tennessee. Taillon will likely have multiple rehab outings before returning to the big leagues.

Cody Bellinger on fans chanting his name before he smashed a home run off the video board in the seventh inning Tuesday: “Obviously, I like heard it and was in the moment and saw a good pitch that I wanted to swing at. It was a cool moment.”

Twitter: @McGrawDHSports

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