That first time a hitter who's become accustomed to success finds himself in a slump can be a bit jarring, and it's always revealing to see how he responds.
Monday told the baseball world a lot about Alex Dickerson.
The outfielder went 5-for-6 for Class A Advanced Bradenton, hitting two home runs and doubling while picking up six RBIs as the Marauders handled the Brevard County Manatees, 14-7.
"That was probably statistically the best game I've ever had in my life," he said. "It felt pretty good. The past two or three weeks the hits weren't really coming, I guess they all came today."
From Poway (Calif.) High School, to Indiana University, to his first professional stop at Class A Short-Season State College last year, Pittsburgh's No. 14 prospect had never struggled to hit. The 22-year-old batted .455 his senior year in high school, then .386 over three years at Indiana, and .313 in 41 games with the Spikes last season.
He began this season, though, by hitting .256 in 22 games in April.
"It was real tough, definitely," he said. "You always tell yourself you'll be ready for when you struggle, but you don't know how it will be until you hit it. You just keep working and hope to come out of it."
That turned into a .281 May, setting him up for a possible breakout in June, which so far he's made good on, going 8-for-15 in his four June appearances. After getting his overall average up to .289, he said his performance Monday, in particular the two home runs, was indicative of the kind of hitter he expects himself to be.
"I definitely got the feel back. I've been hitting balls hard the last few weeks, balls I think could have gone out, but I wound up hitting a couple into the wind or something like that," he said. "So it was good to finally put a couple out there."
Dickerson said he had been trying to find the right balance between being too passive and too aggressive at the plate, and he felt recently he had settled into that nice middle ground.
"I was slowly coming around, and then today as a team, we decided to be more aggressive and we performed a lot better, really benefited from it," he said. "I'd been bouncing back and forth, wasn't feeling it. I made a couple changes in my swing and stuck with it. Today, it all sort of came together."
His day at the plate brought his slugging percentage a full 50 points higher to .411. His on-base percentage also rose to .359, for a .770 OPS that is 63 points higher than where it stood at the end of the previous game.
With 14 runs on 21 hits, the entire Bradenton lineup's new-found aggressiveness had at least some effect Monday. Stefan Welch went 4-for-6, tripling and driving in two runs. Benji Gonzalez and Justin Howard also both went 3-for-5 in the effort. Catcher Carlos Paulino added three RBIs.
"It was great, right from start to finish. We never let up," said Dickerson. "Nobody was throwing away at-bats. They were hitting balls hard. There was a mentality shift, like, 'Hey, we're better than this.' We came out and got them today, hopefully we can continue to do it throughout the year."