It's hard to know what exactly it was about that hot Sunday afternoon game in Kansas City, the one where Reggie Abercrombie just caught fire swinging.
Yeah, the Goldeyes outfielder nodded on Thursday, he remembers that day in Missouri. It was July 20, and the Fish were about to put the final nail in the coffin of the three-game series, 2-1. Nick Hernandez was on the mound for the Fish, and the hitters were hot to support him. As a team, they went 18-for-41 that day and scored nine runs.
Three of those scores came in off Abercrombie's bat, as he rattled off three hits in five at-bats. "I just went up there with a game plan," he said. "They were pounding me inside a lot, so I just told myself... I'm going to take everything that's in. And it was working for me."
It kept working, too. That game in Kansas City marked the beginning of a 12-game road hitting streak for Abercrombie, one he'll carry into Sioux Falls tonight. In that time, he's batted .420 away from Shaw Park, cracking 21 hits (including four doubles and three home runs) in 50 tries. That window coincides with a resurgent performance at home, too: from July 22 to Thursday afternoon, Abercrombie was .343 at home.
It's interesting, how batters ebb and flow. Goldeyes first baseman Casey Haerther still leads the league in batting average (.373) and is third overall in runs created, but he's cooled to .205 in the 10 games before Thursday night, the lowest on the team. Meanwhile, Abercrombie and third baseman Jake Blackwood, who'd already been through slower stretches in the season, were red-hot in that span.
So what's changed? Not much, Abercrombie said, just a little more confidence -- and perhaps, a little more finesse at the plate. The outfielder packs a wallop in his swing, no doubt, and this season he's blasted 16 home runs out. Lately, he's been focusing on control, and swinging smart. "I just gotta realize sometimes, it don't take a lot to get the ball out," he said. "Sometimes I get to the point that I try to swing real hard. Sometimes, I just gotta swing easy."
As for the road success, that's nothing new for Abercrombie. Going into Thursday night's game against the St. Paul Saints, he was .259 at Shaw Park, and .309 away. The same trend holds true for his other batting stats, from slugging power to OPS. "I can't even tell you why," Abercrombie said. "You've got a good feel here, you've got a good atmosphere here. But there's just something about the road, man. My whole career is just... I always play better on the road."
Other road warriors right now include outfielders Josh Mazzola and Donnie Webb, who have got on base at least once in their last 23 road games, going back to late June.
ON THE ROAD AGAIN: Speaking of the road, the Fish are taking the show back to Abercrombie's old stomping grounds tonight, when they open a three-game series in Sioux Falls.
If the Fish are looking to get more distance over the St. Paul Saints in the North Division standings, this could be as good a chance as any. The Canaries (28-55) have the worst record in the league and are already eliminated from playoff contention. Meanwhile, the Fish are 6-2 against the Canaries this year -- though some of those wins have been awfully close -- and they play them seven more times this season.
Before coming to the Fish this year, Abercrombie played four seasons in Sioux Falls, and helped lead them to the American Association championship final in 2010. And it's still fun to go back there and grab a drink or two with the old Sioux Falls crew, he said -- but he's just fine with where he's at, thanks. "I'm a little happier that we're in first place," he laughed. "We'll try to make this push to a playoff run, and hopefully we'll get it done."
After this series, the Goldeyes will race right back to Shaw Park, and open a seven-game homestand on Aug. 18 against the New Jersey Jackals from the Can-Am League.
SELFIE-REFLECTION: Whatever happens to round out this season, this bunch of Goldeyes players will have plenty of photographic memories to last them. "The team's in a selfie phase," pitching ace Chris Salamida joked on Tuesday. "It was started by one of the pitchers, and the guys are taking selfies everywhere. Doesn't matter. Guy was doing an interview the other day, and guy came in and took a selfie. We're all tagging the same person, and it's all going out to his (Facebook) wall."