BOSTON -- Michael Chavis's first home run in over three weeks looked like a tribute to a Hall of Fame-bound slugger who spent one season in Boston and eight in Texas, but as Chavis explained, falling to one knee like Adrian Beltre actually showed he's rediscovering his swing.
Chavis's solo homer to left in the fourth inning of Thursday's come-from-behind 7-6 victory over the Rangers ended a homerless drought at 20 games and 79 plate appearances. His 11th long ball of the season came on a slider from Adrian Sampson that Chavis corkscrewed 352 feet to left at a towering 43 degree launch angle.
He swung so hard, he ended up genuflecting as the ball left his bat.
"That's something that honestly was a good sign," Chavis said. "Whenever I finish on a knee on an off-speed pitch or a pitch that's down, that tells me I'm using my legs better, that I'm using them correctly and staying behind the ball and not trying to go out and get it, so that was honestly a real good sign. I think I even did it on a pitch later in the game as well. Beyond the result, me doing that in that at-bat and getting my swing off, that was a huge sign for me."
The previous three weeks have not been kind. Since hitting a game-winning home run in the 13th inning at Toronto on May 22, Chavis had batted just .197 with five RBIs in 20 games, striking out 35 times and walking only six.
With teams attacking the top of the strike zone at high velocity and then inducing him to chase sliders off the plate, Chavis faced the first extended struggle of his very young career. But manager Alex Cora brought him back with a piece of simple advice.
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"It hasn't been very fun, if I'm being honest," Chavis said. "One of the things that helped me get past it -- it's one game where I'm feeling better, so I'm not saying I'm completely back or anything -- but AC actually just reminded me, 'Have fun.' I took a step back like, 'I haven't had fun in a while, if we're being honest.' It weirdly just put me in a better place mentally, helped me relax."
And so when Chavis connected in the fourth inning, he could breathe a sigh of relief. It made sense that he left the park just as he learned to stop swinging for the fences.
"It definitely did feel good to finally connect for a home run, but what's funny about that is the biggest thing I've been working on is trying not to do that," he said "I've been getting so big and trying to do much and the whole mental aspect of it was out of control, so I've just been trying to stay as simplified and controlled as possible. That was not at all what I was actually trying to do, but obviously the way my swing works, I connected well, and so it went."
Chavis has found other ways to contribute during his slump, particularly defensively, where he has exhibited excellent range at first base and made multiple diving stops.
"That's one of the things I've thought this whole process," he said. "I was like, 'If I ain't going to hit, I might as well try to save a run here or there.' That was something keeping me grounded."
Cora's advice didn't hurt, either. Maybe there will even be some more Adrian Beltre in his future.
"I had fun tonight, and I'm just going to keep it going," Chavis said. "I feel like it has put me in a better place mentally. A lot of the stuff that was going on was all mental, trying to do too much, trying to create results and chasing numbers, instead of just having fun. I think I'm in a better spot now."
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