VanMeter ropes big HR: 'I can hit at this level'

After striking out in previous at-bat, infielder gets revenge in sixth

August 18th, 2021

PHOENIX -- Bad at-bats have been few and far between for since the middle of July, but when the D-backs infielder walked to the plate in the sixth inning Tuesday night, he was working to get past his strikeout from two innings before.

"I was still pretty upset with myself that he'd punched me out the at-bat before," VanMeter said. "Thankfully [Christian Walker] put together a really nice at-bat ahead of me to give me a chance in that situation."

VanMeter followed Walker's two-out walk with a home run over the wall in right field, breaking a tie game and leading the D-backs to a 3-2 win over the Phillies at Chase Field.

That VanMeter delivered is no surprise given the way he's swung the bat over the last month.

From July 20 through Tuesday night's game when he was 2-for-3 with a double and a home run, VanMeter has slashed .310/.375/.552.

"I think it's a lot of things, a lot of mental stuff," VanMeter said. "Obviously there's been a couple of physical adjustments. I think really what it comes down to is my mental game. Just being really at peace in the box and believing that I can get the job done and believing that I'm the guy for the job when I step into the box. Trying not to think too much, just go in there and compete and hopefully my work from earlier in the day translates over. I feel like I've been putting a lot of good work in and it's paying off."

VanMeter was acquired by the D-backs from the Reds just prior to last season's Trade Deadline. He played in 12 games for Arizona, hitting .194 in 41 plate appearances.

VanMeter made the Opening Day roster this spring, but he saw time mainly as a pinch-hitter and got off to a slow start at the plate.

By May 22, his average had dropped to .159 and he was optioned to Triple-A Reno, where he remained for nearly a month before being called back up.

"When I got back from Triple-A, I was just more at peace with baseball," VanMeter said. "I kind of quit treating it like it was life and death and just tried to show up and give it my best. At the end of the day, baseball doesn't define who I am. I just try to go out there and compete. It's been working, so hopefully I can keep it going."

The D-backs were out of the playoff chase by the time VanMeter was recalled and they had turned their attention to next year and figuring out which players they could count on for 2022.

Though manager Torey Lovullo said it's hard for him "to get my hands on" next year yet, it's hard to believe that if VanMeter keeps performing like this that the club won't find a spot for him at either second or third base next year.

VanMeter isn't looking that far into the future, but the fact that he's gotten consistent playing time recently and knows that he will be in the lineup just about every day has helped him.

"A sense of comfort does a lot for guys mentally," he said. "A lot of people want to look at being comfortable as a bad thing. But I do think there is some value in it. Obviously, if you take advantage of it, then it becomes a problem. A couple of 0-for-4's -- there's a lot of guys in this game that have a couple 0-for-4's back-to-back. That's just a part of the game. I think what really has been working for me is not treating those 0-for-4's like it's life and death. One 0-for-4 does not make you a bad hitter. Two 0-for-4's does not make you a bad hitter. I really think just finding comfort in that and knowing that I can hit at this level. I think I've proven it in short bursts that I can hit at this level. It's just a matter of being consistent."