ATLANTA – Two months ago, it may have seemed far-fetched to envision Phillies centerfielder Odubel Herrera as a potential batting champion. Now it’s not such an incredible idea — especially if he can keep playing the Braves.
Herrera had a pair of triples in his 2-for-4 night on Wednesday to help generate the little bit of offense needed to support the pitching of starter Jerad Eickhoff and the bullpen in the Phillies’ 3-2 win (see Instant Replay). He became the second Philadelphia player to have two triples in a game this season and pushed his hitting streak to 12 games.
“Odubel is playing like his hair is on fire,” Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said.
He continued to feast on Atlanta pitching. In 13 games against the Braves this season, Herrera is hitting .434 (23 for 53). He is hitting .500 (12 for 24) at SunTrust Park and now has a 16-game hitting streak against the Braves.
Herrera hit .354 (11 for 31) with two triples, a homer and three RBIs in the eight-game road trip the Phillies just completed.
“We’ve seen it before,” Mackanin said. “He hits the ball very well here. The last time we were in town, he tore it up. He’s over .280 now. He’s fun to watch.”
In the first inning on Wednesday night, Herrera ripped a liner into the right-field corner and never even thought about stopping at second base. He was stranded at third when Maikel Franco popped up to end the inning.
His second triple came in the third inning. He slapped the ball to the gap to score Freddy Galvis with the first run. Herrera was celebrating at third base before he even realized the relay throw had bounced into the stands. That allowed him to score the second run.
“He’s been awesome,” said starting pitcher Jerad Eickhoff, the beneficiary of the run support. “Every at-bat, whether the count is 3-0 or 0-2, he’s putting a good swing on something and making good contact.”
In the first game of the series, Herrera golfed a shot above his shoes for a home run.
“He’s always doing stuff like that,” Eickhoff said. “We’re always like, ‘How did he do that?”
Herrera suffered through a dreadful May. He hit only .183 that month and saw his batting average dip all the way to .217 on May 28 after an 0-for-4 effort against the Reds.
Since June 1, Herrera ranks among the league leaders in doubles (22), hits (76) and extra-base hits (34). He leads the club with 118 hits and has already set career highs in doubles (34) and extra-base hits (49).
Now Herrera has lifted his average all the way to .284 – and trending the right way.
“These guys are going to hit what they’re supposed to hit,” Mackanin said. “He’s a .290 hitter and if he gains a little more discipline at the plate, he’s a potential batting champion. He’s got tremendous hand-eye coordination and there’s no reason he can’t improve.”