Beltran drilled a first-pitch changeup from Pittsburgh right-hander A.J. Burnett over the right-field wall for a three-run blast in the first inning of Wednesday's game. The home run, Beltran's sixth of the season, broke a string of 11 consecutive homerless games for the right fielder. Beltran also singled home a run in the second inning.
"Hitting is a feeling," Beltran said before the game. "Only I know when it's right. Right now, I don't feel right. I feel a little bit uncomfortable in the batters' box. The only way it's going to go away is with more at-bats and continuing to go to the cage until it clicks."
Shortly after Beltran talked about not feeling good with his timing, manager Mike Matheny noted that he felt Beltran was "real close to taking off on a tear again." Beltran's first-inning swing, at least temporarily, validated Matheny's prediction. While one home run isn't going to end Beltran's slump, it is the latest encouraging sign that he might be emerging from it.
He has recently hit a number of hard foul balls and has continued to take walks. He walked eight times during that 3-for-32 stretch. That's the same number of walks Beltran drew when he opened the season with a .347 batting average in 13 games.
"It all comes down to seeing the ball," Matheny said. "He just went through a stretch there where you could tell he just wasn't picking it up. He worked on his timing. He worked on softening everything up. You could see he's seeing the ball better. Now it's a matter of getting the confidence up. His timing looks soft and smooth. He's close."
Beltran has told Matheny that he would prefer to play through the skid, wanting the opportunity to hit his way back on track. In fact, in a recent game in Chicago, Beltran talked his way into the lineup when Matheny had scheduled a day off for the right fielder.
Beltran's skid began shortly after he shifted from the second-hole to the cleanup spot in the lineup, a move that coincided with Lance Berkman's placement on the disabled list. To assume that there is a connection between that move and this offensive slump, though, would be forcing correlation.
Neither Beltran, nor Matheny, see that as related.
"Right now I feel like I'm chasing pitches out of the strike zone," Beltran said pregame. "Every time you chase pitches out of the strike zone, it means that you're not seeing the ball well. That's how I'm feeling right now."