Cubs coach Rudy Jaramillo explains hitters' mindset
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Rudy Jaramillo can be either the easiest guy to find or the hardest.
Early in the day, no chance. The Cubs' hitting coach is either in the outfield batting cages or in the video room.
But during batting practice, you know where to find him: right behind home plate.
Rudy looked a little pensive before Wednesday night's game against the Atlanta Braves.
After all, Cubs hitters went 2-for-14 with runners in scoring position in Monday's 3-0 loss. They also left 15 runners on base.
In Tuesday's 5-4 loss, the Cubs were 1-for-13 with men in scoring position, and they stranded nine.
The end result was better Wednesday. The Cubs beat the Braves 3-2 despite going 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position and stranding eight runners.
They scored all 3 runs in the second inning, 2 coming home on Alfonso Soriano's 22nd homer. That allowed starting pitcher Randy Wells to improve to 5-4 with a 6⅔-inning performance as he gave up 2 hits and 1 run.
"Basically, what we've been trying since spring training with men in scoring position is trying to hit the ball up the middle and the other way," Jaramillo said.
"It's easier said than done, obviously. What's going on right now is that we're not trusting ourselves enough because we're little concerned about getting beat with the fastball."
When you're talking with a hitting coach, it's a good idea to give him a few feet of space because he likes to demonstrate what he's talking about. So Jaramillo tried to show what he meant by Cubs hitters not trusting themselves.
It's essentially mind over matter.
"When your mindset is that way, the first thing is the body will come out toward first base or third base," he said, lunging in each direction. "You're not going to hit the fastball in that situation.
"What you're going to do with the breaking ball is smother it. It really goes back to trust and having a plan.
"If you don't trust it, your mind will go somewhere else once you get to the plate. What we've got to do is slow our mind down to enable us to hit that ball inside, up the middle, the other way.
"Ideally, that's what we're trying to do, but we've got to trust ourselves to be more consistent in doing that. We've been over it, just reinforcing the things we have to do."
The Cubs also have looked a little anxious at the plate in those situations.
Marlon Byrd, who entered the game a .200 hitter (20-for-100) with runners in scoring position, made outs on first pitches twice Tuesday. Byrd did not start Wednesday as manager Mike Quade started Tony Campana in center field.
"There's a little anxiety," Jaramillo said, not singling out any one hitter. "If your body's coming out, with a little anxiety there, you've got to be more in control of your emotions.
"You see the body do something, what's the mind doing to cause that happen? That's kind of where we're at. Everybody's a little different in how they process that so they trust it.
"We're getting plenty of runners. We just can't get that one hit at that crucial time. If we could, you know how that happens. Then it snowballs. We've seen it a little bit, but not enough."
That gets back to the "hitting is contagious" theory. After Tuesday's game, the red-hot Aramis Ramirez said players can try to be the hero, and it doesn't always work.
"You just continually get after guys to stay consistent in their approach and understand what the opposition is trying to do to them," Quade said. "We preach it, and guys work on it.
"When they talk about hitting being contagious, a lot of times, that's a fact because you don't have to feel like you have to be the guy."
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