CLEVELAND -- Chris Woodward repeatedly said he wasn’t worried about Marcus Semien. He’s a guy with a track record of success -- why wouldn’t his manager trust that he could turn around his slow start at a moment’s notice?
It may have taken longer than most would have hoped, but Semien has repaid that confidence in recent weeks.
With seven hits and three homers, Semien tied a franchise record for hits in a doubleheader, joining Marlon Byrd (Sept. 8, 2009) and the Washington Senators’ Fred Valentine (July 29, 1966), according to the Elias Sports Bureau. He’s also just the second Ranger to hit three homers in a doubleheader, along with Al Oliver in 1980. Semien is the first MLB player since Joe Morgan (July 31, 1973) to have a three-homer, seven-hit day.
Semien is just the second Texas hitter since 2000 to homer in both games of a doubleheader, joining Herbert Perry on May 26, 2002, who also did it against Cleveland. It comes with the caveat that Texas doesn't play many doubleheaders by the nature of the AL West, though, with its multiple domed ballparks and rain-resistant climates.
“I think doubleheaders can be crazy like that,” Semien said. “You just show up and the swing feels good, and you're getting pitches to hit and taking balls. I felt that way in the first game, and I didn't change anything in between games. I just kept the same mindset and felt good.”
After his seven-hit performance, which included his 11th career multihomer game, Semien is now slashing .317/.371/.651 in his past 15 games, including four homers and nine hits in his past three alone.
“We’ve had good conversations about [Semien’s early struggles],” Woodward said. “He's not a big mechanics guy. It's more like his feel, and when he feels good, you can see it. He can turn around a speeding bullet. There’s not a pitch he can’t hit… With Marcus, there's complete trust in those swings that I saw today.
“That had come and gone a little bit over early on. He was feeling a lot of pressure obviously being here, the weight of the world a little bit, with the contract and everything. Today that was that full-go, with no fear of letting that swing go. When he's like that, that's the guy I remember not wanting to see come to bat when he's on the opposing team. That's a good sign moving forward.”
Most of Semien’s Statcast percentile rankings early in the season have all been career lows, including xBA (bottom 4%), xSLG (bottom 5%) and max exit velocity (bottom 8%).
Though he hasn’t made any clear mechanical adjustments, his numbers have been trending upward in recent weeks.
“That's nothing I've changed, but it's just constant work in the cage and constantly trying to get in a position where you're hitting fastballs, taking breaking balls out of the zone and controlling the strike zone all at the same time,” Semien said. “I'm doing those things. I usually do a lot better, so I think I'm on the right track.”
In Tuesday’s doubleheader, almost all of Semien's hits came with an exit velocity at 97 mph or higher.
Game 1 (6-3 loss)
- First inning: 64.4 mph on a leadoff single into shallow right
- Third inning: 105.8 mph into the left-center-field gap for a single
- Fifth inning: 101.6 mph on a fielder's choice to third base
- Eighth inning: 97.6 mph exit velocity for Texas' second homer of the inning
Game 2 (6-3 win)
- First inning: 102.2 mph on a leadoff single deflected by the pitcher
- Third inning: 103.3 mph on a homer to left-center
- Fourth inning: 77.2 mph for a single just out of reach of the shortstop
- Eighth inning: 101.5 mph for a leadoff homer to left-center field
“I think that’s just the feel part of it,” Woodward said. “When you feel right, you feel free to just let it go. Once you see those things kind of click, everything kind of syncs up. That's what you’re seeing. Just like there's zero fear in letting that swing go and it's full conviction throughout the swing. It's fun to watch him, and when you get a guy with that kind of talent to swing the bat the way he did today, it was pretty impressive.”