As the top prospect in the Detroit Tigers organization, Steven Moya came to the Mud Hens this season with plenty of expectations heaped upon his shoulders.
Then after an injury suffered late in spring training caused him to miss most of the first month of this season, he went hitless with six strikeouts in his first 12 at-bats.
But lately the 6-7, 260-pound slugger has shown the power that can make scouts drool.
Moya had two hits in each of the three games the Mud Hens played in Columbus this past weekend, including four home runs — one each Saturday and Sunday, followed by two Monday.
He added an RBI double Tuesday in Toledo’s 4-2 loss to Columbus at Fifth Third Field.
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“There have been some adjustments with evening my timing with the pitcher and hitting the ball out front – but that’s been it,” Moya said.
Moya saw his batting average dip to .169 on May 11, but the 23-year-old native of Puerto Rico started a six-game hitting streak that day and never looked back.
“Early in the season I was trying to get hits and trying to do better because I put a lot of pressure on myself,” he said. “But it wasn’t God’s time.
“I was trying to do a lot of things because I wanted to catch up to everyone else. I didn’t start hitting the ball like I wanted to right away, so I started to worry. “But now I think things are going to be better.”
He has lifted his season’s batting average to .245 after his 1-for-3 night Tuesday, also drawing a walk. He has 12 home runs and 46 RBIs rank among the International League leaders.
“I think he tried, in the last few weeks or so, to shorten his swing up a little bit,” Mud Hens manager Larry Parrish. “It’s not so much about hitting the ball a long way as much as it has been about just hitting the ball out in front [of the plate].
“Because he’s been catching out in front, it has traveled a long way. He’s got the big frame and long levers [to hit home runs].”
Parrish said Moya is the type of slugger who can turn around a team’s offense seemingly single-handedly.
“When they get hot, you can jump on their backs and they can carry you for a long time,” Parrish said. “When they get cold, they’re going to have three or four ugly games.”
On Tuesday Moya came to bat in the fifth with two outs and Wade Gaynor on second base, and he smoked a line-drive into the right-field corner that scored Gaynor with the game-tying run.
But that lead was short-lived as Drew VerHagen came on in the sixth and gave up three straight singles, including a two-run hit by Columbus second baseman Michael Gonzalez that proved to be the game-winner.
Toledo starter Tim Melville gave up just three hits but walked five and lasted just five innings before giving way to VerHagen. Angel Nesbitt gave up a hit and a walk while fanning two in two innings to finish up.
Alexi Casilla finished with three hits to lead the Mud Hens offense, which collected eight hits and four walks. But Moya’s double was the only Toledo hit that came with a runner in scoring position.
“We got guys in scoring position, but I don't think we were aggressive enough looking for a pitch to attack,” Parrish said. “I thought we looked tentative.
“When we came up with a guy in scoring position, too many times we looked as if we wanted someone else up in that situation.”
Toledo’s Steven Moya hits a foul ball Tuesday against Columbus. In a series last weekend he had four home runs against the Clippers. BLADE