A more relaxed Moss seeing results at plate
Right fielder increases batting average 40 points in two games
PITTSBURGH -- It's only eight at-bats, but with the way the first month and a half of the season went for Brandon Moss, he'll definitely take it.
Through May 10, the right fielder was hitting .174. He had three extra-base hits in 86 at-bats and was in the middle of an 0-for-14 stretch. In other words, it wasn't pretty.
Then a light went on with the opener of the Cardinals series on Tuesday. He picked up three hits, hit his first homer of the season and drove in a pair. He followed that up on Wednesday with two more hits, including a double, and collected another RBI. Eight at-bats, five hits, three RBIs, a 40-point jump in average and a big sigh of relief.
"It just feels great to contribute again," Moss said. "It's tough when you keep going out there day after day and don't do anything to help the cause. You start to press. You can't help but press when you're hitting one-something. Getting some hits and driving in some runs helps a lot. I can relax at the plate now."
It hasn't been from lack of effort. If anything, as Moss suggested, he's been putting too much pressure on himself, trying to pull himself out of his season-long slump and prove his worth to the organization. The way hitting works, of course, is that sometimes the harder you try, the worse it gets.
"When you start to struggle, mechanical flaws seem to get exaggerated," manager John Russell said. "Take Andy [LaRoche], for example. When he was struggling, he'd block himself off so badly. Brandon was starting to do the same thing, where he couldn't get to a ball. He was seeing the ball well, but his swing wasn't allowing him to get there.
"There's a lot of different things that go into the mental side that starts affecting the physical side. Once he felt confident physically, the next step was to take that into the game. It took him a little while to do that. Finally, the other night, he relaxed enough to let his swing work."
When Moss was able to relax, all the extra time he had put in began to pay off. It's always seemed that he -- and his raw power from the left side -- was a natural fit in PNC Park. He had been unable to take advantage of that until recently, when his work with hitting coach Donnie Long finally clicked.
"The biggest [thing] has been making some adjustments to get to the inside fastball, which is my pitch of choice," Moss said. "I really hadn't put a good swing on an inside fastball all season [until the last two days]."
Two games does not a full breakout make, but it certainly allows the right fielder to relax. The Pirates seem to be climbing out of the offensive doldrums that plagued them during their eight-game losing streak, and having Moss along for the ride would certainly help sustain the momentum. If the past two games are just a start, Moss could become a major run producer hitting in the bottom third of the lineup.
"It doesn't mean he's going to get three hits a night," Russell cautioned. "He's going to have the ups and downs any hitter has, but I think he finally broke the ice, remembering how he could do it. When you're going bad, you don't get those 15-hoppers like he hit [on Wednesday] night and [Skip] Schumaker couldn't quite get to. They always seem to catch them. You happen to hit a ball hard, it's right at someone.
"You don't want to feel sorry for yourself, and no one else is going to, but that's the way you feel. Once you can get over that and take it one at-bat and one pitch at a time, which he's really trying to do right now, things come easier for you. It's a start for him. Can he continue it on? Let's see."
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.