SAN DIEGO – All it took to get Nate McLouth going was dropping him to the bottom of the Braves’ batting order.
Actually, the Braves center fielder thinks the timing of his little surge and being dropped from the No. 2 spot was coincidental. But he sure won’t complain about hitting in the 8-hole.
“It doesn’t matter where I’m hitting, I just feel like I’ve had good at-bats,” said McLouth, who hit .320 with three doubles and three RBIs in the past seven games before Monday night’s series opener against San Diego, including a two-out, tie-breaking, two-run single in the 10th inning of Sunday’s 9-6 win at San Francisco.
McLouth hit .217 before he was dropped from the 2-hole on April 17, when manager Fredi Gonzalez moved Jason Heyward up from sixth to second.
“I didn’t feel like I was having bad at-bats earlier, I just feel like now I’m starting to roll a little bit,” McLouth said. “I think it’s coincidence, though, as far as moving in the order.”
Whatever it is, he and the Braves hope it continues. McLouth had the biggest at-bat of their young season on Sunday, taking two strikes to run the count full against Giants closer Brian Wilson before his bases-loaded single to center. He hit seventh Sunday because rookie shortstop Brandon Hicks was in the 8-hole.
McLouth was back hitting eighth for Monday’s game. He had a .438 average (7-for-16) with three doubles and a .550 on-base percentage in five games in the 8-hole.
“I thought his at-bats in the 2-hole were OK,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said Monday. “I mean, it wasn’t like we were overmatched. It [8-hole] is a good spot for us right now, turning over [the lineup].”
Teammates like having him there to balance the lineup.
“Then the pitcher can get up there and put down a bunt, and then you’ve got Martin [Prado] and me and everybody else, the heavy hitters after us,” Heyward said. “It’s great to have Nate on base.”
Some hitters don’t like the idea of hitting eighth in front of the pitcher and perhaps not getting many pitches to hit. McLouth doesn’t mind.
“I’m not afraid to hit in front of the pitcher,” he said. “It really doesn’t affect you except in certain situations, like maybe with two outs and a guy in scoring position. But I feel comfortable hitting in front of the pitcher.”