Pence breaks loose against Marlins
Right fielder homers twice, drives in a career-high six runs
MIAMI -- The games had been piling up fast and furious for right fielder Hunter Pence, who hadn't had much time to get away from baseball considering he had started all but two games for the Astros prior to Sunday and had represented the National League in the All-Star Game.
Manager Cecil Cooper finally gave him a breather on Sunday at home against Milwaukee, but a breather for Pence just means more time to work in the batting cage.
Pence, who had 10 hits in his first 39 at-bats in August, certainly appears to have ironed out the kinks, stroking a pair of three-run homers and driving in a career-high six runs on Wednesday night in the Astros' 14-6 win over the Marlins.
"I've been waiting on Hunter to break loose, and it was good to see him do that tonight," Cooper said. "We had been talking to him about hitting the ball to right-center, and it was good to see that first one that he drove to right-center. We need Hunter to do that -- maybe not drive in six every night, but be an effective hitter. He's starting to get hot and get going now."
Pence's six RBIs are the most by an Astros player in one game since catcher J.R. Towles had eight on Sept. 20, 2007, in St. Louis. This is the fifth time in Pence's three-year Major League career that he's homered twice in a game and the first since Sept. 17, 2008, also in Florida.
"It's always fun to win," Pence said. "It feels good to have a good day finally and get some extra-base hits. I'll just keep moving on to tomorrow and keep working, and it will keep working out. You're going to have your hot streaks, you're going to have your cold streaks. That's part of the game, and I understand that."
Pence crushed the first pitch he saw from Marlins starter Ricky Nolasco in the first inning -- a curveball -- and sent it into the stands in right-center field to give the Astros a 5-0 lead. In the fourth inning, he turned on a 2-2 slider from reliever Tim Wood and put it over the wall in left field for his second three-run homer and a 12-3 lead.
"You play enough games, and eventually you'll do something good if you keep swinging hard," he said. "I happened to be in the right place at the right time. It worked out and felt good."
Despite a dip in his August batting numbers prior to Wednesday, Pence doesn't believe he had been struggling. He's hitting .291 with 16 homers and 52 RBIs and is working on three consecutive multi-hit games.
"I've just been fouling pitches off," he said. "There's really not much difference. I wouldn't say I'm trying to hit the ball to right [field], I'm just trying to hit the ball and square it up. I've felt pretty good the last couple of days."
But not as good as he did on Wednesday.
Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.