Santana ends XBH hit drought with double

April 27th, 2018

CHICAGO -- It didn't produce the run the Brewers needed against , but for struggling right fielder , perhaps it was a start.
Santana's double in the sixth inning of Friday afternoon's 3-2 loss to the Cubs was his first extra-base hit in four weeks, since his RBI double in the Brewers' second game of the season at San Diego on March 30. It snapped a string of 17 straight singles for Santana, which is one of the most surprising developments of the opening month for Milwaukee considering he was one of the 19 qualifying National League hitters with a slugging percentage north of .500 in 2017, and he tied for 21st with 59 extra-base hits. After hitting 30 home runs a year ago, Santana is still seeking his first.
It's not for a lack of opportunity. Santana entered the day third on the team with 94 plate appearances.
"He hasn't driven the ball yet, no question," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "He hasn't gotten the ball in the air a lot. It's hopefully coming. Obviously, home runs, doubles, extra-base hits come from hitting the ball in the air, generally. We've seen a lot of ground balls from him. Last night, he hit a couple balls hard on the ground. But, yeah, he's searching for it a little bit. Getting through the month of April without too many extra-base hits is not something you're expecting from him."
Santana is actually hitting fly balls at the same rate -- 27.7 percent last season, 27.3 percent through Thursday -- and has essentially the same average launch angle, according to Statcast™. It was 10.5 degrees last season and 10.4 percent through Thursday.
What's missing are the line drives. Santana's line-drive rate has fallen from 30.1 percent in 2017 to 16.4 percent this season entering Friday. His hard-hit percentage has fallen, too, from 37.7 percent last season to 32.2 percent this season.
Still, Santana has hit a higher percentage of hard-hit balls than some really good NL hitters, including Charlie Blackmon (30.5 percent), (30.4 percent), (29.1 percent), (28.8 percent) and (26.3 percent).
"Like anything, it's swinging at the right pitches, putting the right pitches in play," Counsell said. "When you get a pitch to hit, not missing it. He's missed a couple good pitches to hit and he's put a couple of the wrong balls in play, and that's the way you end up in this spot. But we also know he can have a week where he hits five home runs, very easily."
Counsell continued, "Look, we all want some success. It's important. It's important for confidence. He's a mellow, quiet kind of guy and that's how he's always handled his business, and I think that keeps him on an even keel pretty good. He knows that he's just got to keep working through it and it'll come. Power and driving the ball and hitting the ball hard has really been a staple of his game, and it'll come."