Jhang homers twice, plates six runs

Pirates prospect rediscovers early-season power stroke

Jin-De Jhang has struck out only 17 times in 144 at-bats. (Mark Olson/MiLB.com)

By Ashley Marshall / Special to MiLB.com | August 18, 2013 4:23 PM ET

If you looked only at the first four games of the season, Jin-De Jhang was one of the hottest hitters in the New York-Penn League. However, if you considered his body of work since the opening week, his power numbers could hardly be worse.

Now it appears as though the Taiwan native is finishing the year the way he started it.

Jhang went 3-for-4 with two homers and career-high six RBIs on Sunday, powering short-season Jamestown to a 7-1 victory over Auburn at Russell E. Diethrick Jr. Park.

"There were no mechanical changes, it was just more of a mental mind-set," Jammers hitting coach Kory DeHaan said. "His main focus is not to be a home run hitter. It's to stay in the opposite-field gap and that has been where his successes have been, when he's hitting the ball in that direction.

"His approach on being fastball-ready stuck out the most today because he was aggressive on the fastball and he was able to square up a couple pitches and he ended up hitting them out of the park. It was a fun day for him."

It was Jhang's first multi-homer game since signing with the Pirates as a non-drafted free agent in June 2011. The six RBIs doubled his previous high of three, achieved three times and most recently in an 8-3 win over Williamsport on June 21.

The 20-year-old catcher cracked a three-run shot to center field in the first inning and singled home Adam Frazier from second base with two outs in the third. In the fifth, Jhang hit a two-run homer to right.

"He was ready for the fastball," DeHaan said of both blasts, which came on first-pitch fastballs. "They were two early fastballs and he attacked them. He crushed the first one to straightaway center field and it had some nice carry. The second one, they came inside and he turned on it and got his hands inside and drove it over the right-field wall.

"Pitchers usually want to get ahead with a first-pitch fastball, whether that's inside or away. It depends on the organizational philosophy. Some will go in early and some will go away to get ahead with a strike. Then they will work whatever secondary pitches they have."

The 5-foot-11, 220-pound backstop homered in his second, third and fourth games of the season as he totaled eight RBIs during a five-game hitting streak. Since then, he had gone 36 games and 129 at-bats without clearing the fences.

Jhang hit safely in 24 of those 36 games but recorded only six extra-base knocks and 16 RBIs. Not taking advantage of those first-pitch fastballs is what got him in trouble at times, DeHaan said.

"The challenge is with pitchers that know how to throw two or three pitches because it can sometimes confuse young hitters. That's what they do to keep them off their main pitch," he added. "He has not been as previously hard-headed to the fastball as he should have been.

"Early in the count at times, pitchers have thrown him off-speed stuff that looks like a fastball and he has chased it and that has put questions in his mind. He just has to be stubborn to the fastball and lay off the off-speed until he gets to two strikes. To left-handed hitters, the changeup is the great equalizer. It has the same rotation and spin out of the hand that a fastball does. Then you swing and it's not there, it's still coming in."

In his debut season last summer, Jhang batted .305 with a homer and 23 RBIs in 43 games in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League. He led GCL catchers with a 1.000 fielding percentage and was named a postseason All-Star.

Hitting one spot ahead of Jhang, Adam Frazier went 3-for-4 with three runs scored to help the Jammers snap a three-game losing streak. Jamestown starter Dovydas Neverauskas (4-3) got the win after allowing a run on three hits over 5 1/3 innings.

Ashley Marshall is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AshMarshallMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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