Prince of pop: Red-hot Fielder snaps HR drought
PHOENIX -- It had been almost a year since Prince Fielder hit a home run in a game -- and close to 18 months since he had hit one on the road. But the Rangers' first baseman is not keeping track of the time.
He might be the only one.
"I'm just here to drive in runs," Fielder said. "Home runs are great a way to drive in multiple runs at one time, but as long as I'm hitting the ball hard and driving in runs I'm doing my job."
This much is certain: What's good for Fielder is good for the Rangers.
Fielder smoked a ground-rule double to the gap in left-center field in the first inning of Tuesday's 7-1 victory against the D-backs. He hit a two-run home run in the eighth to extend the Rangers' lead to 5-1, and in doing so, he snapped the second-longest season-opening homerless drought of his career at 55 plate appearances.
The home run was Fielder's first since May 8 of last season against the Rockies and his first on the road since Sept. 10, 2013, against the White Sox when he was still with Detroit. The homer was also the 289th of his career.
"It's fine," Fielder said of his first homer of the season. "As a long as I get the runs in, that's all that matters."
Fielder, who had neck surgery last May, had gone 78 at-bats since hitting a home run. In 2010, he went the first 14 games without hitting a home run for Milwaukee.
"He really hasn't got a whole lot of balls back-spun in the air, but tonight he did," Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. "I know that everyone is wanting to see the power. We've wanted to see the power. It showed up tonight. My guess is that this gives him the confidence. I know he has been looking for his first one, too. He got it under his belt and that will give him the confidence to let the barrel go."
Fielder had two hits Sunday against the Mariners and added two more hits Tuesday with three RBIs. He has reached safely via hit or walk in 12 of the last 13 games, hitting .415 during that stretch.
He also has a .386 batting average for the season.
"I keep saying it, he's gone 9 1/2 months without playing baseball," Banister said. "I'm more impressed with how he's been swinging the bat and driving the ball from gap to gap, beating the shift."
It's fitting that Fielder hit his first home run of the season against the D-backs.
The slugger has 11 home runs against Arizona in his career, including five at Chase Field. Overall, Fielder is a career .305 hitter with 25 RBIs in 44 games against Arizona.
He's not exactly a fan favorite in Arizona, either. It was Fielder's Milwaukee Brewers who eliminated the D-backs from the National League Division Series in 2011 in five games. A few months earlier, he was booed by the crowd at Chase Field during All-Star week for not picking then-D-backs outfielder Justin Upton to participate in the Home Run Derby.
But Fielder is certainly a fan of playing in Arizona.
"It's nice," Fielder said of Chase Field. "The batter's eye is good."