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Cron showing no signs of slowing down

ANAHEIM -- C.J. Cron just keeps hitting. His seventh-inning home run off Carlos Rodon on Monday, the difference-maker in the Angels' 2-1 over the White Sox at Angel Stadium, was his eighth since being called back up from Triple-A on June 29. His 2-for-3 night made him 38-for-109 in these past 36 games, a .349 batting average.

That's what the Angels were looking for at the beginning of the season, when Cron was expected to get regular playing time at designated hitter, and it's what they didn't get. In his 108 at-bats before he was sent down to the Minors in mid-June, Cron hit only one home run and his batting average was .204.

Video: [email protected]A: Cron belts a solo homer to give Angels lead

"C.J., since he came back from his little Minor League stint, he's on a mission," manager Mike Scioscia said on Monday. "He's had some tough games mixed in, but for the most part you can see what he can do."

Two months ago, Cron had lost most of his playing time. He was barely even finding his name in the lineup against left-handed pitchers. Now, the righty-swinging slugger is making a strong case for everyday at-bats, even against righties, and even though the Angels' plan was to platoon him at DH.

"There's nothing to say that C.J. is not going to get playing time against right-handed pitching," Scioscia said. "He's certainly a guy that we're gonna get in the lineup as much as we can. He'll be in there against lefties, and he'll play against righties as we match up, too."

Interestingly, though, despite the stark contrast in the batting average and power totals, many of Cron's peripheral statistics are similar to what they were during his early-season struggles. Cron is chasing similar amounts of pitches, and he's actually striking out slightly more often since being called back up. He's hitting balls to similar areas of the field, and per Baseball Savant, Cron's exit velocity has been basically the same.

There are some key differences, though. Cron is hitting more balls hard, according to FanGraphs, and he's hitting more fly balls -- and when a 6-foot-4, 235-pound athlete is hitting more balls hard and in the air, some of those are probably going out of the ballpark. Cron was hitting home runs on just three percent of his fly balls before being sent down; since being recalled, that's jumped to more than 19 percent.

Cron has also swung at fewer pitches (which has led to some more walks) and of the ones he has swung at, he's making contact less often, on pitches inside and outside the strike zone. But the contact he has made has turned into hits at a much higher rate: Cron's batting average on balls in play is an extremely high .400 since his callup, compared to a low .247 before he was sent down.

That .400 mark is clearly unsustainable, and indicates Cron has probably been getting a certain amount of luck, but he's also clearly been putting together better at-bats. Cron chalked that up to hitting the ball where it's been pitched -- the home run off Rodon, for example, was on a changeup away, and Cron hit it out to right field -- and just getting regular at-bats again.

"I feel more comfortable now," Cron said on Monday. "I've been playing a lot more than I did before I got sent down. That's kind of where I'm at, and the timing's right, so it's been good."

David Adler is an associate reporter for Follow him on Twitter @_dadler.
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