Even though Jeremy Rathjen is facing many of the same pitchers he went up against as a rookie last season, the results have been drastically different.
He can't put his finger on any specific change. Neither can his manager, Razor Shines. But after a big performance Sunday afternoon, both hope the outfielder has put his struggles behind him.
Rathjen went 4-for-5 with a career-high six RBIs to lead Class A Great Lakes to an 11-0 romp over South Bend at the Dow Diamond.
"I've been working with the hitting coach, Mike Eylward, and trying to simplify things and hit the ball on the barrel," said Rathjen, who also tied the franchise record for RBIs in a game. "It's a great feeling. No one enjoys struggling at the plate, so hopefully, I can continue this momentum.
"I hit the ball early and got deep into counts. You see a lot of good pitchers and if you give them multiple chances, they will get you out."
The 23-year-old outfielder hit a two-run single down the third base line in the second inning and plated another run with a base hit to left in the third. He pulled a third hit to left in the fifth before clearing the bases with a three-run single in the sixth sa center fielder Breland Almadova broke back on a ball that wound up in shallow left-center.
"I was fortunate that the ball fell," Rathjen said. "I got a 3-2 count and when the wind is blowing in, sometimes it helps you and sometimes it hurts you."
Rathjen, who batted .324 with nine homers and 53 RBIs in 68 games with Rookie-level Ogden last season, entered Sunday with a .195 average and had four hits in his previous 42 at-bats.
"Jeremy Rathjen is a kid that we have really high hopes for," Shines said. "He is a kid that everybody thinks is going to play Major League baseball some day. He got off to a slow start, but today we saw some of the things he is capable of doing. We're fortunate to have him on the team.
"The kid has a top-of-the-line makeup. It's as good as it gets. He has the right education, and that speaks volumes. For someone to go through those struggles ... he has stood the test of time and now you are seeing the rewards."
Selected by the Dodgers in the 11th round of last year's Draft, Rathjen recorded his second career four-hit game. The Rice University product went 4-for-5 with a pair of doubles and two runs scored in a 10-6 win over Quad Cities on April 28.
"It's just baseball," Rathjen said. "I haven't played as well [this year], but it's the same guys I played against last year. I had [a four-hit games] earlier in the year, but it's been a while. Fortunately, we put up a bunch of runs today.
Loons starter Miguel Sulbaran (3-2) gave up three hits and two walks while striking out four over five innings. He lowered his ERA to 4.64.
"When your starting pitcher throws a shutout for the first five innings, that jump-starts everybody," Shines said. "He had struggled with his command the last few outings, but he was aggressive today."
"He really pitched well, he was great," Rathjen added. "He hit his spots and kept the hitters off-balance."
South Bend starter Jesse Darrah (6-4) was charged with seven runs on 12 hits and three walks over 4 1/3 innings. He struck out two.