ANAHEIM, CALIF. – Jonathan Schoop’s batting average might not be where he’d like it, but the Orioles second baseman has had a flair for big hits in critical times.
In the Orioles’ 4-2 win over the Los Angeles Angels on Tuesday night, which dealt the Angels their first home series loss since the first week of May, Schoop blasted a two-run homer against reliever Mike Morin to cap a three-run sixth inning.
The game remained scoreless into the sixth before shortstop J.J. Hardy hit a two-out, RBI double into the right-center field gap to score Chris Davis from first base. Schoop then hit a high, 89-mph fastball on an 0-1 count over the center-field fence into the rock fixture at Angel Stadium of Anaheim for his eighth homer of the season.
“Jonathan, he’s hit a hard .220,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “He’s a strong man.”
Four of Schoop’s eight homers heading into Wednesday have put the Orioles ahead. While Tuesday’s home run came right after the Orioles took the lead, it gave right-hander Miguel Gonzalez some cushion on his way to a strong 7 2/3-inning start against the Angels.
“He was really impressive,” Schoop said of Gonzalez. “He was throwing strikes. He was working real quick. It’s one of those days where you really want to help out your pitcher.”
In Friday’s game, the opener of the Orioles’ 10-game West Coast road trip, Schoop hit a two-run homer off Oakland Athletics starter Jeff Samardzija to give the club a 2-1 lead in the fifth inning.
Earlier this season, he hit a pair of go-ahead homers against New York Yankees rookie right-hander Masahiro Tanaka, including a towering three-run blast in the second inning April 9 on ESPN Sunday Night Baseball to break open a scoreless game. The Orioles won the game, 5-4.
Schoop also hit a two-out, two-run homer in the seventh inning off Tampa Bay Rays reliever Brandon Gomes on May 7 at Tropicana Field to give the Orioles a two-run lead in an eventual 4-3 win.
Morin has held right-handed hitters to a .169 batting average this season through Tuesday, but all of Schoop’s homers have come against right-handers. All eight also have come on the road.
“It builds your confidence,” Schoop said. “You believe in yourself because you did it in the big time and you came through. No matter what, you want to stay consistent with it. I’m trying to get consistent and trying to get better, not [just] for now, but for the future, too.”
While Schoop has shown a penchant for power in big moments, he has struggled to remain consistent at the plate in his rookie season. He has been streaky and hasn’t raised his batting average above .235 since early May. But Schoop had two hits in Tuesday’s win, so he’s hoping to build on his first multihit game since July 5.
“He’s strong,” Hardy said. “We all know he’s capable of doing that. He keeps talking about getting hot, and hopefully that’s the start of it, and he keeps doing it a lot.”
Schoop, 22, is an aggressive swinger, so his power potential is accompanied by some deep slumps.
In 83 games through Tuesday, he has walked just seven times and is on pace to strike out 110 times this season. Schoop’s biggest challenge is growing into a hitter who can be more consistent and establish himself as an everyday player.
“I think you have to believe in yourself,” Schoop said. “Sometimes you doubt yourself. Sometimes you don’t want to, but you doubt yourself. You’ve got to believe, and that’s what I kept telling J.J.: I want to get hot. You’ve got to believe it. I know I can do it. I keep going to the cage every day and work and try to get better.
“[Got to] get a good pitch to hit,” Schoop said. “Sometimes, I get caught swinging. I’m an aggressive hitter. I get caught. But I just have to stay consistent, find a good pitch and don’t miss it.”