Beltran homers, close to getting back on track

Beltran homers, close to getting back on track

CHICAGO -- Despite hitting safely in nine of the 14 games he has appeared in since the All-Star break, outfielder Carlos Beltran has not looked -- and admits that he has not felt -- like the player he was for the first half of the season. And no, one home run on Sunday hasn't entirely changed that.

Describing this recent stretch of diluted production as one of the normal valleys a player goes through during the course of the season, Beltran admitted that his timing has been hit or miss for much of the month. Sunday was a microcosm of that.

After not looking comfortable in his first three at-bats, Beltran belted a game-tying homer in the eighth. He flied out in his final plate appearance, though the contact he made on that swing was also perceived as encouraging.

"He's getting close," manager Mike Matheny said. "The home run, obviously, looks good, but the ball he hit on his last at-bat right-handed was also on the screws, and he just missed it. He's getting closer."

Beltran's 23rd home run snapped an 0-for-13 skid.

"This thing is not going to change in one day," he said afterward. "You just need to get going and it'll come back. It's as simple as that."

After entering the All-Star break with a National League-leading 65 RBIs and 20 homers, Beltran has hit .204 with eight RBIs, 14 strikeouts and only one walk in 14 games since. He struck out three times on Saturday.

Matheny sat Beltran on Thursday and Friday with the hope of jump-starting the veteran outfielder.

"I'm just having a tough time at the plate right now," Beltran said. "Right now, I feel behind [in the count] right away. It'll change. Every player goes [stretches] where things don't go the way you want them to. You just have to deal with it. You have to fight it."