Austin Hays on his recent struggles at the plate

In the big picture and in one sense, outfielder Austin Hays’ offense is not far off where it was last year. In 2021, he posted an OPS+ of 106, six percent over American League average. Right now, he is at 103 in OPS+.

But Hays has struggled since the All-Star break. He went 1-for-8 in the series against Toronto and is 3-for-25 (.120) with a .314 OPS his last seven games. He is batting .197 in 37 games since the break.

Over the year in 122 games, Hays is batting .249 with 15 homers, 54 RBIs and an OPS of .721. He has been dropped to eighth in the batting order for tonight’s series opener with Boston at Camden Yards.

“I would say lately I’ve been doing a better job of staying inside the ball,” Hays said of his recent offense this afternoon. “I just haven’t been making as much consistent hard contact as I would like to. Hit a lot of stuff off the end or just down off the barrel a little bit.

"But I’m hitting the ball to all fields. Staying through the middle and not striking out a whole lot. It’s just a matter of really trying to barrel up the middle through the middle part of the field. Not getting around stuff as much as I was for a couple of weeks when it was just smothering a lot of ground balls pull side.

“I had a good little stretch for about two weeks where I was hitting the ball all over the field. Getting my homers, my doubles. Not so much the last week, week and a half. It’s been a lot of soft contact. I like where I’m at as far as my at-bats are going and staying in the zone, not striking out. Just need to make some more consistent, hard contact.”

Hays is tied for the club lead on the Orioles with 30 doubles with Cedric Mullins. That ranks tied for 14th in the American League. But after posting a first-half OPS of .779 with 46 RBIs, that number is .578 in the second half with just eight RBIs.

Is this a timing issue where sometimes he is late or early in getting to a fastball?

“It’s just hitting," he said. "Sometimes you are going good and every ball you hit soft is a hit. Last game I had a slider I stayed through that just hung up a little bit long for (George) Springer to run to and catch it. Hit a fastball to the outfield and (Lourdes) Gurriel dove and made a nice play. If I could get those balls to fall, I have two hits and everything feels good.

“That is the other side of it too, it’s baseball and it’s hard. All we can try to do is have good, consistent at-bats and try to hit the ball hard as consistently as possible. I’d say the last week I just don’t feel like I’ve been making hard contact consistently. Lot of stuff off the end of the bat and some stuff down on the barrel.”

He appreciates getting more chances in the lineup each night.

“Just need to get hot again and ride it out," said Hays. "Trying to stay positive through the ups and downs. We still have a chance, about four games out, so I want to be in there as much as I can. I’ll be ready for whatever opportunity is there for me."

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