WASHINGTON — The adjustments were simple. The results have been extraordinary.
Astros center fielder Jose Siri, with an assist from hitting coach Alex Cintron, made a slight tweak to his hand position in recent days in an effort to break out of his funk at the plate. Siri scalded the ball three times in Saturday’s 13-6 loss to the Nats at Nationals Park, going 3-for-5 and finishing a double shy of the cycle.
There is no denying Siri has enough tools in his game to make a hardware store take notice, but he’s yet to put it all together at the Major League level. After going 3-for-36 in a 15-game stretch from April 17-May 10, Siri has gone 6-for-13 in his last three games and says he has growing confidence.
“I think confidence is really important, especially for a ballplayer,” Siri said. “And that’s one of the things I feel I have right now, I have a lot of confidence. I can go to the plate and get a base hit. Obviously, not to waste an at-bat, but I feel pretty good at the plate right now.”
Siri crushed Triple-A pitching last year — .318 with 29 doubles, 16 homers, 72 RBIs and 24 steals in 94 games at Sugar Land — but when he came to the big leagues, he moved his hands up higher in his stance. After watching video with Cintron and analyzing what worked at Triple-A, he moved his hands back to his previous position.
“My hands, that was the thing I was working on the most,” Siri said. “You can see the result there.”
After striking out in his first two-bats Saturday, Siri responded with the three hardest-hit balls by an Astros player in the game:
Fifth inning: 109.3 mph exit velocity on a leadoff homer to left field that traveled 427 feet
Sixth inning: 106.6 mph exit velocity on an RBI single to left field
Eighth inning: 105.4 mph exit velocity on an RBI triple into the left-field corner
Siri flashed an elite sprint speed of 30.4 feet per second on his triple, going first to third in 11.4 seconds. It’s that blend of speed and power that makes Siri an intriguing player for the Astros, even though he strikes out a lot. He was also tied with Milwaukee’s Lorenzo Cain and Kansas City’s Michael A. Taylor for the Major League lead among center fielders with four defensive runs saved, according to FanGraphs.
Siri and Chas McCormick have been splitting time in center field this year, with Siri making 18 starts (Astros are 12-6 in his starts) and McCormick making 16 starts (Astros are 10-6). Entering Saturday, the Astros ranked 12th in the American League in offensive production from the center field position with a .613 OPS, despite McCormick being in a 2-for-27 slump over his last nine games.
“He’s made some adjustments,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said of Siri. “He’s been working hard with our guys. We’re trying to play him and Mac pretty equally to try to match them up with who I think is the best chance for them to hit [opposing pitching].”
And with Pedro Leon — the team’s No. 4-ranked prospect by MLB Pipeline — crushing the ball at Triple-A while playing mostly center field, the onus may be on McCormick and Siri to step up their production. Leon, starting in right field for Sugar Land on Saturday, went 3-for-5 with three runs scored and two mammoth three-run homers in the Space Cowboys’ 12-2 win at Albuquerque.
Baker said both Siri and McCormick will be in the lineup in Sunday’s series finale as the Astros’ search for consistent center-field production continues.