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Phegley goes 4-for-4, plates seven06/03/2011 1:22 AM ET
By Andrew Pentis / Special to MLB.com
In his first plate appearance Thursday night, Birmingham catcher Josh Phegley saw a fifth consecutive breaking ball and smacked it for a run-scoring single.
In two of his ensuing three plate appearances, Phegley simply looked for something that didn't move side to side, and that approach paid off.
The catching cleanup hitter belted first-pitch fastballs for a third-inning three-run homer and a seventh-inning bases-clearing double to complete his career-best 4-for-4, seven-RBI effort in the Barons' 8-6 win over the visiting Chattanooga Lookouts.
"The first at-bat, I saw all sliders," Phegley said. "Their catcher told me [later], 'We probably should have thrown you a straight one."
As it was, the slugger was sitting on a heater -- "dead red" in baseball speak -- but warned that this strategy is nothing new.
"That's the way I have hit all my life," the White Sox's 2009 first-rounder said. "The first available fastball I see, I am going to go after it.
"Pretty lucky that I got the fat part of the bat on them."
Fortunate, he said, because Lookouts starter Nathan Eovaldi, who had allowed two runs or fewer in four consecutive starts, pairs his two breaking pitches with a 90+-mph fastball.
The Dodgers pitching prospect focused on the outside part of the plate in his sixth-inning matchup with Phegley, which resulted in a leadoff single. That was the lone situation in which the fourth-place hitter didn't come to bat with runners on base. Brandon Short, who scored three times, and Chris Marrero, who crossed the plate twice, were most often aboard for Phegley's plate appearances.
Phegley's previous career high in RBIs was four. He had two homers and drove in four on April 21 against Mississippi. He has 27 through 48 games.
Thursday also represented Phegley's second career four-hit game. He accomplished that feat playing for Class A Kannapolis in Sept. 2, 2009 against West Virginia. (He didn't plate a run that day.)
But Phegley stopped short of ranking the performance among his best, specifically because it lacked balance. He also caught nine innings behind home plate, and the first three weren't so fun. Reliever-turned-starter Joe Bisenius walked seven and allowed three runs in his brief outing.
"Our trouble throwing strikes on the mound," Phegley said, "that took away some of the excitement."
The Barons' first reliever, Johnnie Lowe (3-2), picked up the slack, throwing four shutout innings.
Phegley was actually an unlikely solution to his starter's struggles. He entered the game with just three hits in his last 20 at-bats, dropping his batting average to .255. That mark rose to .271 by the end of the night.
The 23-year-old said said he has been swinging and missing on pitches he usually connects with. So with the ball looking so big Thursday, wouldn't Phegley have wanted a fifth at-bat?
"Seven RBIs is a pretty good week," the backstop said. "With the humidity and the heat tonight, I was totally OK with winning it in the top of the ninth."