Carlos Santana stopped Aaron Altherr a few days ago to see how the outfielder was feeling. The two started the season in wicked slumps. And they were waiting to break out.
Altherr told Santana he felt “great.” He was staying positive despite his numbers. And those numbers have since shifted, as the outfielder drove in two more runs Thursday, in an 8-2 loss to Arizona. Now, it might be Santana’s turn to snap his funk.
“I feel much better now,” Santana said after going 1-for-4, with a double in the fourth inning. “I’m feeling comfortable and finding my pitch. I know it’s a long season, and we’ll see what happens later.”
Santana has seven hits in 25 at-bats since Gabe Kapler removed him from the lineup for one game in Atlanta. Santana has five walks and three extra-base hits in those seven games. It is not enough to say his slump is busted, but it is a trend in the right direction. Santana entered that day off with seven hits in 62 at-bats.
“For me, it’s just about staying positive and focused,” Santana said. “It’s a long season. We have to keep fighting, every game and every at-bat. We’ll see what happens.”
The Phillies have pointed to Santana’s high exit velocity as proof that his slump is more a result of bad luck than anything else. His double on Thursday left his bat at 105.8 mph and was the seventh-hardest hit of the day. His average exit velocity (90.5) ranks him in the top third of all hitters this season, and he has the 21st-most hard-hit balls (95 mph or higher) of 306 hitters. But his batting average on balls in play – .182 – is 90 points less than last season. Perhaps his luck will change soon. The last week has given him hope.
“I think, results-wise, they quote-unquote struggled,” Rhys Hoskins said of Santana and Altherr. “Both of them are definitely having good at-bats through and through, Santana especially. I heard something where he was one of the unluckiest hitters in baseball. He was hitting balls all over the place. Stretch [Altherr] was having good at-bats as well, though not ending the way you want them too. I think now you’re seeing some balls fall. They’re hitting the ball on the screws. It’s a testament to them that they’ve been able to stick with that and not hit the panic button.”
Odubel Herrera has reached base in 26 straight games, a stretch that dates to September. He’s batting .347 with a .387 on-base percentage during the streak. … Aaron Nola will start Friday’s series opener against the Braves and righthander Julio Teheran.