PITTSBURGH -- The good news for the Phillies on Saturday was that it finally seems All-Star Odubel Herrera's bat is returning to its typical, productive form.
The centerfielder had his second straight three-hit game Saturday as he continued to pull out of his slump, though it wasn’t enough to keep the Phillies from losing 7-4 to the Pittsburgh Pirates in the middle game of a three-game series at PNC Park (see Instant Replay).
Yet Herrera’s suddenly hot bat gave the Phillies some reason to feel good on a day when another player who the organization believes can be a foundation player backslid. Right-hander Aaron Nola (5-9) took the loss as he allowed six runs and six hits in four-plus innings.
Complete coverage of the Fightin' Phils and their MLB rivals from NBC Sports Philadelphia.
The bad Nola returned after pitching six scoreless innings in his previous outing Monday against the Miami Marlins. Prior to shutting down the Marlins, Nola allowed a combined 30 runs in five starts while failing to get past the fourth inning four times.
“When he’s at his best, he has control of all his pitches,” Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. “He’s lost his control and he needs to a find a way to get it back.”
However, Herrera improved to 6 for 9 in the series by going 3 for 4 with a triple, two runs scored and two stolen bases. He had been 4 for 41 in his previous 11 games before coming to Pittsburgh, a skid that dropped his batting average to .281 from .300.
“It was getting pretty ugly for about a week there, so it feels good to get some hits,” Herrera said. “That’s my job, to get hits, be successful and help the team win. I really don’t go into too many slumps, so it’s hard to try to fight your way through it and stay positive. When I get a hit, I am happy.”
Herrera is now hitting .290 with 10 home runs and 33 RBIs in 98 games.
There had been a school of thought that making his first All-Star Game appearance July 12 at Petco Park in San Diego might have had an effect on the 24-year-old. The schedule for the players during the festivities is basically non-stop for two days and then Herrera had to fly across the country to rejoin the Phillies in Philadelphia for the second half of the season.
“I was concerned it might have an effect on him,” Mackanin said. “It was the first time he had participated in an even of that magnitude and it can be hard to refocus after that.”
Herrera, though, said he is not sure how much being an All-Star played into his cold spell.
“Maybe it did,” Herrera said. “It was a busy couple of days there. I don’t know what to compare it to because I hadn’t been before. Obviously, I didn’t have the same chance to rest as a lot of other players, so it could have had an effect. However, playing in the All-Star Game was a great experience and I am glad I had a chance to be there.”
If Herrera plays like he has the last two games, Herrera figures to appear in more Midsummer Classics before his career is through.
“He has the ability to win a batting title,” Mackanin said. “He’s that good of a hitter. He’s a smart hitter. When pitchers start adjusting to him, he adjusts back. I only see him getting better.
“Then you throw in that he played a heckuva center field and it’s just an impressive total package."