Even if there was a time when things could have hit a low point this year, Greg Cullen was going to avoid looking at his batting average and stay upbeat: eventually, the hits would come. Over the last week, they've come in bunches.
The Braves prospect collected a career-high four hits, falling a home run shy of the cycle, as Class A Rome rolled past Columbia, 11-3, on Friday at State Mutual Stadium. Cullen reached base five times and drove in two runs as he extended his hitting streak to six games.
Video: Cullen's fourth hit for Rome
After a hitless effort on Sunday, the 22-year old has rebounded with 12 hits over his last six contests to bring his average from .220 all the way to .273. The stretch has included three multi-hit games, including seven knocks the last two contests. While working with hitting coach Bobby Moore, Cullen has tried to use the whole field, looking for holes from gap-to-gap.
In a small sample, the slight tweaks have paid off in a big way.
"It's so easy to fall into that trap of looking at the batting average, that's just what everyone looks at," Cullen said. "You've gotta keep telling yourself to do things that'll help your team, whether it be on offense or defense. If you're 0-for-3 and you make a play in the field, hopefully that'll help your team win a ballgame. So I'm just doing what I can, work as hard as I can to get the 'W' for the team."
Gameday box score
Part of his approach has been to focus on hunting for hittable fastballs early in the count, which he would potentially get against Mets No. 6 prospect Simeon Woods Richardson, who boasts a 60-grade heater. Although Cullen went hitless in four at-bats against the right-hander earlier this year, having the experience against Woods Richardson proved valuable Friday.
"We've faced him a couple of times, so we had seen him before," Cullen said. "We're kinda used to the velocity that he has. The kid's a heck of a ballplayer, so if I can get a couple of hits off him, then I know I'm seeing it pretty well."
Cullen took an 0-2 hanging slider from Woods Richardson and laced it into left field for a triple in the first. Three pitches later, he scored on Trey Harris' single to right.
The 2018 15th-round pick led off the third, whacked the first offering into right and legged out a double. In the fifth, Cullen fought off a two-strike offering and legged out an infield single. He came up again in the seven-run outburst and smacked his second single of the frame, bringing in another run.
With a second chance at the cycle in the seventh, the Penfield, New York, native took a six-pitch walk to reach for the fifth time. There was a thought of swinging for the fences in that final plate appearance, but Cullen said he'll gladly take the free pass and the bump in his on-base percentage.
"[The cycle] was definitely on my mind, I would be lying if I said it wasn't," he said with a laugh. "I was just falling back on getting a good approach, getting a base hit and putting another quality at-bat up there. At the end of the day, if you're swinging at good pitches, getting quality at-bats, good things will happen."
Cullen owns a .273/.396/.402 slash line with 13 extra-base hits. This comes on the heels of his first year as a pro, when he batted .280 with a .770 OPS in 55 contests in the Rookie Advanced Appalachian League. Playing his first full Minor League season, Cullen said he's trying to stick with his game plan over the course over five-plus months.
"I just try to maintain a consistent approach at the plate and work the opposite field," he said. "Earlier in the year, I was hitting balls right at guys, so I was trying to stay consistent and not do too much. And I trusted myself that the hits would start falling. ... Definitely in batting practice working to the opposite field. It's just playing to my strengths and being a consistent hitter. I'm not trying to get too big up there, just trying to do my job.
2019 MiLB include
"I've got two great hitters in front of me, two great hitters behind me, so as long as I'm getting on base and hitting the ball hard, then good things will happen."
Griffin Benson collected three hits, including a pair of doubles, and two RBIs, while Braves No. 30 prospect Justin Dean went 2-for-3 with two RBIs, two runs scored and two walks.
Woods Richardson fell to 0-6 after allowing six runs -- five earned -- on seven hits and a walk over four innings. He struck out four. Batterymate Juan Uriarte went 3-for-3 with a two-run homer for Columbia.