ARLINGTON -- “Dancing with the pitcher” is a phrase Rangers hitting coach Luis Ortiz uses often that stuck with rookie outfielder DJ Peters. He’s not much of a dancer -- his wife can attest to that, he jokes -- but he wants to be in sync with the opposing pitcher when he’s in the batter’s box.
“When the pitcher starts to command, I want to start loading and once the ball is released, I want to be ready to hit,” Peters explained. “In the box, I want to feel like I’m dancing with the pitcher.
“Working with [Rangers hitting coaches Ortiz and Callix Crabbe] is huge. I'm a big strong guy with long levers, so if we can kind of compact those and make it less moving parts, we're gonna be successful.”
And he was this weekend. Coming into this series against the A’s, Peters had no homers since joining the club and only one with the Dodgers on May 27.
In Texas’ 7-4 win over Oakland on Sunday afternoon, Peters launched two rockets at 460 feet to the pull side and 400 feet to the opposite side for his first Major League multi-homer game.
“To see your hard work and preparation pay off, it’s definitely a great thing,” Peters said. “I’ve had multi-homer games in the Minor Leagues, but to do it on the big stage is something special.”
With the win, the Rangers took the series, 2-1. It’s just the Rangers’ second series win since the All-Star break.
Rangers manager Chris Woodward said earlier in the week that Peters had been making some adjustments with the hitting coaches, but the results hadn’t translated on the field just yet. He’s now hit three home runs in the last three games, all against Oakland this weekend.
The biggest adjustment involved getting Peters more square in the box as he struggled with putting more weight on his right side. With his power and athleticism, the fixes translated easily into his swing and made it easier for him to adjust at the plate.
“He has the ability to check out pitches, but also has the adjustability to stay on some breaking balls and off speed pitches while still hitting the fastball,” Woodward said. “I don't want to get too technical, but there is a clear difference in his swing path, and now he's going to make better decisions. If he does that, he's going to put wood on more balls, and you see what happens when he hits it."
Woodward added that Peters’ preparation sets him apart and he goes into every matchup with a set game plan. The skipper said Peters may be the Rangers’ most prepared hitter.
Peters said he’s always been like that, going back to his time with the Dodgers through the Minors and his short stint in the big leagues there.
“I just want to be as prepared as possible and do my homework, from the elite bullpen arms to the starters every day -- watching films and taking notes,” Peters said. “Obviously, I'm still new but being as prepared as possible is definitely key. That's what all of the championship teams do.”
It was a brilliant offensive day for the Rangers, especially for a duo of rookies alongside Peters. Outfielder Adolis García also launched a 414-foot home run in the third inning for his 26th of the season. Yonny Hernandez, who made his debut on Aug. 5, went 2-for-3 in his first game batting in the leadoff spot. He notched a leadoff walk to start the game, along with his first MLB double to drive in a run in the second inning.
The two significant changes Woodward made to the lineup -- flip-flopping Isiah Kiner-Falefa and Hernandez in the top-two spots and sliding Peters into the cleanup spot -- worked out for the better almost immediately. All three contributed to the Rangers' three-run first inning to set the tone of the matchup.
Hernandez led off with a seven-pitch walk and scored and on an RBI double from Kiner-Falefa. Peters’ first homer, a two-run shot, scored Kiner-Falefa.
“I'm not taking any credit for that, these guys put in work,” Woodward explained. “I think those guys at the top just complement each other, especially as much as Yonny gets on base and Kiner hits the ball all over the field. It creates a bit of a problem. As far as Peters in the four-hole, it’s just a good matchup.”