PHOENIX — Before Wednesday’s game against the St. Louis Cardinals, Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson shared his observation that struggling third baseman Ryan Roberts has seemed much calmer in recent days and is ready to get back to being the key contributor he was last season.
Despite the D-backs’ 7-2 loss Wednesday, which completed a three-game sweep, Roberts showed signs throughout the series he may be on the verge of shaking the struggles that have dogged him since a strong start in the opening weekend of the season.
After the game, Roberts confirmed Gibson’s observation of his recent mentality.
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“Over the past week, couple weeks, I’ve really tried to figure out a good mindset, a good positive mindset, try to be upbeat, try to be in a positive mindset all the time instead of negative,” Roberts said. “That helps deal with adversity sometimes. I would say mental adjustments were made big time.”
Those mental adjustments seem to be paying off for Roberts. After collecting three hits Wednesday, Roberts is now 8 for 17 (.417) with five RBI in his last eight games. In that stretch, he’s raised his batting average from .159 to .217, and Wednesday was his first three-hit game of the season.
Including a two-run double from Monday, Roberts had more hits in this series than he’s had since collecting four against the Rockies from April 13-15.
“It was nice to go out there and get some hits, but it would be better to get a win,” Roberts said. “I’ve just been doing the same thing I’ve been doing — coming in and working hard in the cage, keeping the swing I’ve had going. Fortunately they fell in this time.”
Added Gibson: “He had good at-bats. … That’s the way he can play right there.”
Roberts was in the starting lineup Wednesday after coming off the bench the previous three games. Gibson wanted to get him going, a possible indication Roberts is in line for more starts than he’s had. He seems convinced Roberts is poised for a breakthrough.
“We want to probably give him a pretty good push here, let him get back into the swing of things,” Gibson said. “He’s had some time off. He was on and off, and now we’re going to get him an opportunity.
“He’s ready to go. I know he’s got a lot of energy inside his body, and he wants to let it out there on the diamond during the game.”
Gibson gave Roberts the time off as the third basemen continued to beat himself up over his struggles at the plate. In the meantime, Ransom took advantage of his promotion from Triple-A Reno. In 11 games, Ransom hit .317, set a career high with 12 RBI and tied a career best with four home runs.
Ransom’s success of late, which has come in fewer games than he’s played in any of the last seven seasons, has sparked comparisons to Roberts’ breakout 2011 season. As well as the 36-year-old has been playing, it’s safe to assume Gibson will find spots for him pretty regularly.
But even with how good Ransom has been lately, Gibson remains firmly behind Roberts as his third baseman.
“Ryno kind of was our third baseman all along,” Gibson said. “Cody will get playing time. He’s very versatile. But I want to see if Ryno’s ready to get going the way he can.”
Roberts insists he hasn’t made any significant adjustments mechanically, though he admitted he has been getting his foot down on swings a bit earlier. The significant adjustments, though, seem to be the mental ones he spoke of.
Despite hitting eighth Wednesday night, Roberts had a few opportunities to contribute and did his part to get something going. His single with two outs and a man on in the second inning set up pitcher Wade Miley’s RBI single. Then in the fourth inning he singled hard to center field, giving Lyle Overbay a chance to score from second. Overbay was tagged out at home, however, when Miley failed to properly signal him the need to slide to avoid Tony Cruz’s tag.
The slumping D-backs, now losers of five in a row for the second time this season, could certainly use another productive hitter. The team is now 11 for their last 59 at-bats with runners in scoring position.
“It’s just a thing of baseball to come around,” Roberts said. “I’ve been doing the same thing all year, trying to work on the same thing all year. It just started off that they weren’t going in, and now they are.”