Alex Dickerson doesn't think there's anything in particular about early June that makes him have big days at the plate. The numbers say otherwise.
Consider the following: Dickerson entered June 4, 2012 with a .272 average and .707 OPS -- modest stats that had been steadily climbing after a rough start with Class A Advanced Bradenton. He gave those figures a jolt though with a two-homer, six-RBI day in the Marauders' 14-7 romp over Brevard County. He put together a .316/.369/.537 slash line in June en route to being named Florida State Player of the Year.
Flash forward 363 days and you'll find a similar story, even if the ending has yet to be written.
Dickerson started Sunday with a .213 average and .633 OPS, then went 3-for-4 with a pair of homers and a career high seven RBIs to power Double-A Altoona to a 13-6 victory at Portland. As a result, his numbers jumped to .226 and .696.
"A bunch of people told me about the big game last year, but I didn't realize the dates were that close," the Pirates' No. 11 prospect said. "It's kinda funny, but I don't have any real explanation. It's about when I started to get hot last year and it feels like the same thing is happening here."
Besides the date, there were other factors that made Dickerson's big day slightly more predictable.
Start with the weather. Winds at Hadlock Field were blowing straight out to center field at about 10 mph at game time, a welcome sign for those with bats in their hands.
"We've been taking batting practice the past two days and you definitely notice it," Dickerson said. "But it died down before we got to play at night, so we didn't get to take advantage until ... today. You knew right off the bat it would be an offensive explosion for at least one of the teams. You just have to be aggressive, get some balls in the air and the wind will help it."
That's precisely what happened in the second as Andrew Lambo and Jarek Cunningham opened the inning with back-to-back solo homers off Matt Barnes. After Adalberto Santos, Justin Howard and Mel Rojas reached to load the bases, it was up to Dickerson, who tapped his knowledge of the No. 3 Red Sox prospect.
"I've faced him a few times before in college," the Indiana native said of the University of Connecticut product, "and we had played together on Team USA and on the Cape, so I knew what I was up against. He has a great fastball and he got a few by me at first. But when I got my pitch up in the zone, I just tried to hit it hard."
The result was the second grand slam of Dickerson's career as the Curve scored seven times. Already well beyond his season high for RBIs in a game, the 23-year-old right fielder added one with a sacrifice fly in the third and two more with another homer off reliever Keith Couch in the fifth.
"It's big to get a hit early, especially a home run like that. It gets you off on the right foot and gives you confidence the rest of the game," Dickerson said. "Especially today, with the wind blowing out, you can see how the balls are actually getting out and you start to try getting more and more up there if you can."
Beyond his first multi-homer game of the season, Sunday represented Dickerson's second three-hit effort in 46 games for the Curve. His first came on May 18 but, he suffered a concussion following a collision at first base the next day. He missed eight days, only to return to the same struggles.
If anything, Dickerson hopes Sunday is the start of a new season. After all, it was almost a year ago to the day.
"It's been about the same as what I did last year," he said. "I struggled about the same, made the same mistakes, but was able to hit in the mid-.200s. This year, I was in the high .100s because I was struggling and the pitching was much better. I thought I found my swing before the concussion, but I had to find it again after sitting out for that week. But when you have a day like this, I'm hopeful it's a sign of better things to come."
Cunningham finished 4-for-5 with two homers, a double and three RBIs. No Altoona player had hit multiple homers in a game this season before Dickerson and Cunningham achieved the feat Sunday.
Barnes (3-2) was charged with a season-high seven runs on six hits over 1 2/3 innings as his ERA jumped from 4.50 to 5.62. Top Red Sox prospect Xander Bogaerts was 2-for-4 with a run scored.