Alex Dickerson believes that to increase his walk total, he has to improve how pitchers view him. After Friday night, he might start receiving a few more free passes.
The Pirates' No. 14 prospect homered, doubled twice and drove in a career-high eight runs to lead Double-A Altoona to a 13-6 rout of New Hampshire at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium.
Dickerson helped turn a close game into a blowout, smacking a three-run double in the fifth inning to give the Curve a 5-1 lead. With the margin down to 7-4 in the seventh, he ripped a three-run homer, his 14th. He capped his big night with a two-run double in the eighth.
"Today was set up by Gregory Polanco," Dickerson said, referring to Pittsburgh's second-ranked prospect. "He had an outstanding game yesterday and he had four walks today, which put them in situations where they had to throw me a first-pitch strike. And that's what I like doing. I was able to jump on them."
The 23-year-old outfielder's final hit came after reliever Dustin Antolin threw a wild third strike and walked Adalberto Santos and Polanco to load the bases.
"Especially with the bases loaded, the pitcher was kind of the one on the ropes and he was a little bit erratic," Dickerson said. "So he's going to try to get a first-pitch strike. He doesn't want to walk a run in and I was just able to set up and swing away."
Dickerson tied the team record for RBIs in a game, set by Alex Presley on May 24, 2010 while surpassing the career high he established on June 2 when he drove in seven runs against Portland.
The record-tying effort came one night after Dickerson was 0-for-5 with a pair of strikeouts in the Curve's no-hitter against the Fisher Cats.
"Definitely excited about the night, especially after having a brutal night last night," the Indiana University product said. "It's the way baseball goes -- sometimes the hits aren't falling, sometimes they are. I got set up by my teammates, I had the bases loaded three separate times."
Dickerson actually had a shot at a 12-RBI game but grounded out with the bases full again in the ninth.
"The last one creeped into my head a little bit, thinking, 'Hey, maybe I can go for 12 right here.' And I think it contributed to me grounding out," he said. "Really, that's what you live for as a cleanup hitter."
Traditionally a slow starter, Dickerson has been on a prolonged tear. Since June 1, he's batting .343 with 11 homers and 42 RBIs -- the highest total in the Eastern League over that period.
"Really, it started with simple things," he said. "Like with my swing, I keep my head still, but I started to notice that there was a lot of movement and I had to calm it down.
"From there, I started developing a better approach. I was hitting really poorly off righties for a while. Then I just focused on getting a pitch in the middle of the plate and putting a good hard swing on it, and that's a been paying off for me."
About the only number that hasn't risen meteorically over the last two months is Dickerson's walk total. He's drawn 17 in 330 at-bats but feels that statistic will go up if he continues to hit the ball as he has recently.
"Of course, it's pretty obvious my walk numbers aren't very high," he said. "You gain those by gaining respect. At the moment, if I keep seeing pitches I like to handle, I'm going to keep swinging. I'm not going to try to be a walk guy, I think those will come in time."
Polanco scored three times, a night after falling a triple shy of the cycle. Santos also scored three runs, while Justin Howard chipped in two RBIs for the Curve.
Making his first start after 29 relief appearances, Altoona's Nate Baker (3-1) gave up two runs -- one earned -- on six hits while striking out five over five innings to get the win.