ALTOONA, PA – Austin Meadows doubled down the left field line in the seventh inning of the Curve game on Tuesday night, extending his hitting streak to 22-games and giving him the longest such streak in Altoona franchise history.
— Sean McCool (@NotSoMcCool) June 15, 2016
He then doubled in the ninth inning to the right field wall on Wednesday night in Altoona to take the streak to 23 games. That was the third game in a row that he extended his streak in his last at-bat. The 23-game streak is part of a longer 28-game on-base streak for Meadows, which began on May 15th.
Meadows is now tied with Harold Ramirez (2014, West Virginia) for the second longest hitting streak for a Pirates minor league player since 2005, only behind Raul Fortunato with 36 (2011, DSL).
We’ve obviously written a lot about Meadows over the past couple of weeks, as he raised his batting average from .148 on May 12th, after beginning the season late and on a slump, to .305 currently. He is currently only five points from the Eastern League lead in batting average, and he is first in triples with eight ,and second in slugging percentage at .585.
A lot of hitting streaks will see long stretches of batters getting advantageous bounces with seeing-eye singles and lucky breaks, and Meadows is not excluded from that; however, he has 12 doubles, eight triples, and five homers since May 15th. He isn’t just hitting the ball for singles, he is hitting the ball hard and for extra base hits. Out of his 23 games in a row where he has collected a hit, Meadows has at least one extra base hit in 18 of those.
Curve manager Joey Cora says that Meadows has been extremely efficient with his pitch selection and taking advantage of pitches in the zone that he can drive.
“I think he’s been very patient waiting on his pitch, and he’s swinging at strikes,” Cora said after Meadows extended his hitting streak. “He’s staying within himself. He’s not trying to do too much — not trying to hit homers — he’s just taking what the pitcher is giving him. He’s hitting the ball all over the place — in the middle or the other way like he did tonight — so he is taking what the pitcher is giving him. He’s not getting greedy.”
More specifically about all of his extra base hits, Cora said that his good pitch selection has allowed him to be aggressive within the strike zone.
“There is a different between being aggressive and swinging at bad pitches,” Cora said. “He’s looking for pitches he can handle, especially early in the count.”
Meadows agreed that he has worked extremely hard at pitch selection, but it is his approach that has allowed him to continue to improve at the plate. He has worked on staying back in his swing and not jumping or lunging at pitches in the zone.
“Early in the season, my main concern was staying back and not trying to go get the pitch and letting the pitch come to me,” Meadows said on Tuesday night. “The approach has given me more time to see the ball and what it is doing.”
The ability to hit within his owns means and batting stance has allowed him to spray the ball all around the field, as he showed on Tuesday night by fighting off a nasty two-seam fastball and shooting it down the left field line for the double.
As you can see in the chart above, which documents his hits and sacrifice flies since May 15th, he hits for good power to right field, but he does show a great ability to drive the ball to center and left field.
Meadows did say that he wants to continue to “stay aggressive early in the count, even if they are throwing off speed or if they are elevating pitches”.
Obviously, with all of these little tidbits all put together, he is definitely doing something right.
Meadows Starts in Left Field for First Time
Meadows not only extended his hitting streak on Tuesday night for a Curve franchise record, he got the start in left field for the first time as a professional in the Pirates system. He did get one start in left field in the AFL last fall (and a few others in right field), but he has yet to play another position for a Pirates’ minor league team.
Cora was very open after the game, talking about the opportunities that Meadows may get moving forward. I’ll include his full quote on Meadows playing left field, as I thought it was very interesting.
“We can play him in center field all we want, but at the end of the day, we will do whatever is best for him. If he can play all three positions, that’s best. We’re going to move him around a little bit. He’ll play left field a little more than before originally because he hasn’t played there. He’s going to play in left for the next few days until he gets more comfortable there, then eventually he will move to right field, too. You never know what can happen. For a guy that talented — when an opportunity opens at the next two levels — he might be in right, he might be in left, and we know he can play center. A bat like that and a player like that — it’s my job to get him ready in other positions.”
Cora was adamant in that it is his job to prepare Meadows for his future, and he knows that Meadows needs to be ready to play all three outfield positions. He went on to say that they wanted to wait until he was back and completely comfortable with the bat until they started moving him around the outfield some. Cora talked about Meadows playing positions other than center field back in April, but it took until now for that plan to be executed.
“We didn’t want him to move around and think too much [at the beginning of the season],” Cora said. “He’s obviously comfortable, now.”
The first batter of the game on Tuesday hit a fly ball that Meadows tracked down in left field. He ended up making two put outs in the first inning with the sun shining directly into his face, making the plays not as easy as normal.
He joked after the game about that first inning saying that “the ball will find you for sure” when you make a change like he did tonight.
“In left field, you have to be a little more careful because the ball is going to spin. You can take a wrong step, and it will go behind you. You just have to be confident out there.”
Meadows made his second consecutive start at left on Wednesday, and you can expect him to be at left field more this week. He will eventually make the move to right field for the Curve before it is all said and done, too.