Chris Hoiles will tell you he felt no pressure when he stepped up to the plate in the fourth inning Tuesday night against the New York Yankees.
No pressure even though the Orioles catcher was mired in a 1-for-21 slump. No pressure despite his team being down 3-1 at the time.
"There was no pressure there with nobody on [base]," Hoiles said. "You just go up to the plate and try to get to base. That's all you do basically."
Hoiles did a little more than get to base. After walking in the second, he hit a 391-foot home run to center field on a 2-1 Sterling Hitchcock fastball.
"I just tried to put a bat on it," Hoiles said of his first homer since June 9. "I never try to hit homers."
After a fly out in the sixth, Hoiles singled past the shortstop in the seventh, giving him his first multi-hit game since May 27.
Hoiles again made solid contact last night, though he didn't add any hits. He flied to left field and twice to center in addition to drawing a walk.
He also is bouncing back in the eyes of Orioles manager Phil Regan. After pulling the slumping catcher for pinch hitters in the late innings two times in three days last week, Regan let him face Yankees closer John Wetteland in the ninth inning last night with the Orioles down a run. Hoiles flied out to center on a 2-2 pitch.
"He's starting to swing the bat better," said Regan. "He's struggled. There's no doubt about it. He hasn't lost his work habits. He's always saying he's a slow starter. Maybe he's over that slow start."
Said Wetteland: "Hoiles is not a .180 hitter. I don't care what the stats say. He can hurt you. I didn't want to go 3-2 to him. He had a good rip at that ball. He didn't miss by much."
Hoiles said the shortened spring training and his early shoulder problems have set him back.
"I only played four games in spring training," said Hoiles, who is hitting .188. "Once the season started, everybody was behind, but I was behind even further. I only had about eight or 10 at-bats."
Orioles bullpen coach Elrod Hendricks, a former catcher, said injuries often can be the root of a slump.
"He was swinging a little better on the road without any results," Hendricks said. "It's a combination of a short swing and after he hurt his arm. His arm has been doing pretty good over the last couple of weeks. But, it's not like a light switch that you can turn on or off. He probably compensated for the pain he had in his shoulder by doing something different, unnatural for him.
"When you look up at the scoreboard and see you're hitting below the Mendoza line, you want to get four hits at one at-bat. If you get a hit at that first at-bat, it's something to build on. If you go 0-for-1, all the sudden you say what did I do wrong? It's a mind game."
Orioles first baseman Rafael Palmeiro knows how slumps can play tricks on the mind.
"You start thinking about things you never even thought of," Palmeiro said. "The only way to get out of it is to work hard and not think about it."
Hendricks said the cure for a slump is to get that first hit and go from there. Hoiles' home run could be the relief he has needed.
"One home run doesn't get you out of a slump," Hoiles said. "We still got a long way to go. But there is some confidence-booster there."