Nationals catcher Jose Lobaton began Wednesday’s ninth-inning rally against the Angels with his first home run of the season, a no-doubter down the right field line and into the Nationals bullpen, cutting the Angels lead to 4-2.
The Nationals were able to score three more runs and come back to win 5-4.
Lobaton connected on a 0-2 count after starting the night 0-for-3 at the plate. He said more time with Nationals hitting coach Rick Schu helped him to make an important adjustment in his approach.
“I have been working a lot with Schu about my hitting,” Lobaton said. “Trying to figure out little things. In the beginning, I was hitting the ball good. One thing that I have been working on is stay short. Stay short has been the key.
“One thing I was just talking to him about was he said, ‘What happened the pitch before the homer?’ On the first two pitches of the at-bat, I was same. It was a long swing.”
After a rough patch, Lobaton has started to connect better during the 11-game home stand against very good pitching. Taking on the Cardinals and Angels, Lobaton has gone 5-for-16 (.313) with a homer, RBI, three walks and a run scored.
“This week, I have been feeling better at home plate,” Lobaton said. “I was hitting good before, like comfortable at home plate. But now I have been feeling better in counts. Before it was more like good counts hitting too much, bad counts kind of like some swings. Now I am trying to be short.”
Lobaton was able to employ his new strategy early in the series against the Angels against the hard-throwing Garrett Richards. Lobaton got a base hit and a walk that night against the Angels starter.
“When you trust your hands, you are going to hit the ball hard,” Lobaton said. “And then whatever happened. (Richards) was wild so you wait for your pitch and you hit it hard. That is what you do.”
Lobaton said he also relied on his teammates and watched their plate approaches and the way they finished their swings to make his swing more compact.
“I think sometimes seeing all the guys, I see Jayson (Werth) with the way he swings, he finishes with two hands all the time. I finish with one hand,” Lobaton said. “I was thinking, what do I go to do to be short? If I finish with two hands, it is going to be short. It has been working for me.”
But Lobaton admits old habits die hard. It is very difficult to adjust the way you finish your swing if you have always swung the bat that way. Think about how difficult it is when in a golf swing. Making changes to the way you sing your club or bat after thousands and thousands of swings is not easy.
“I have been trying,” Lobaton said on shorter swings. “It is not easy. It is something I have been doing for many years. I have been trying to be short, you (need to) stay on the top. (Before) my swing was under.”