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Hitting lefties key for Pirates’ Moss |

Hitting lefties key for Pirates’ Moss

| Saturday, June 27, 2009 12:00 a.m

Two weeks after benching Brandon Moss for four consecutive starts, Pirates manager John Russell is showing increased confidence in his 25-year-old right fielder.

That was evident Thursday night when Russell started Moss against Cleveland Indians left-hander Cliff Lee, the reigning American League Cy Young winner.

Moss rewarded Russell by going 1-for-3 against Lee and contributing to the tying run in the Pirates’ 3-2 victory. Moss slapped an opposite-field single to left field in the seventh, the only hit during an inning in which the Pirates tied the score against Lee on Andrew McCutchen’s bases-loaded walk.

“Lee is tough on left-handers,” Russell said Friday. “I liked (Moss’) approach. He gave himself a chance.”

The rare start against a lefty — it was Moss’ fifth in 20 such games this season — was borne from an altered hitting approach that occurred last week in Minnesota. Moss started working on the new approach after an 0-for-15 slide that dropped his batting average to .249 and earned him extended time on the bench.

All that’s left
A look at howPirates right fielder Brandon Moss has fared in his starts againstleft-handed pitchers this year:
Date Opponent Pitcher Result
June 25 Cleveland Cliff Lee 1-for-3
June 2 New York Mets Johan Santana 1-for-3
May 31 Houston Mike Hampton 0-for-2
May 24 Chicago White Sox Mark Buehrle 1-for-3
May 8 New York Mets Jonathan Niese 0-for-3

According to Moss, it was during early batting practice that Russell told him to quit hitting the ball to the opposite field so much.

“Usually when a young player struggles, his first instinct is to use the bigger part of the field and go the other way,” Moss said. “I was doing it a little too much, and I got long with my swing. I started jamming myself a lot. J.R. said to go back to the approach that has always worked for me, which is (using) the middle of the field, to right.

“I’m not late on pitches like I was. I was getting blown away by fastballs.”

No more. Moss has gone 9-for-16 with five doubles and five RBI in his past seven games, and his batting average is back to .270.

“Brandon is really coming along,” Russell said. “He’s giving himself a chance to hit the ball the way he did last year and the way he’s hit in his career. If he does that, he can be a big part of our offense.”

Could that mean more starts for Moss against left-handers• The Pirates face one today in Kansas City’s Bruce Chen and another Tuesday in Chicago’s Ted Lilly.

Russell was noncommital yesterday. Delwyn Young has enjoyed success against left-handers this season (.316 average), and Steve Pearce wasn’t called up from Indianapolis exclusively to sit on the bench.

Still, Russell is intrigued by Moss’ potential against lefties.

“Brandon has the ability to change the scoreboard, and that’s the kind of hitter you like in the lineup,” Russell said.

Moss, of course, is in favor of more starts. Coming into the season, he had a .267 batting average against lefties, compared to .239 against right-handers. This year, he is batting .258 against lefties and .273 against right-handers.

“I’ve always hit left-handers better than right-handers,” Moss said. “I really like playing against lefties. When I’m in a slump and go in against a left-hander, it usually helps me get out of that slump. But we’ve got guys who hit right-handers well who also play the outfield. I always relish every opportunity I get against lefties, but at the same time I’m not going to be mad if I don’t (start) because I understand.”

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