Joc Pederson has spent half the season trying to hit his way out a slump that has only seemed to grow deeper each time he swings from his heels.
So now he's trying a different approach: He's going to walk his way back to the top of the Dodgers batting order.
For the second consecutive game, Pederson matched a career high by drawing three walks Wednesday in the Dodgers' 4-3 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies. So while the rookie outfielder hasn't had a hit in nearly two weeks — and has put the ball in play just three times this month — he has walked more times in the last two games than he did in all of July.
“I'm trying to get back to the basics of getting a good pitch and putting a good swing on it,” Pederson said. “It's going in the right direction. So I'm just going to stick to that plan.
“It's encouraging. It's positive.”
Pederson didn't figure in any of the Dodgers' scoring — Yasiel Puig accounted for most of that with a three-run homer with two outs in the first inning, and Adrian Gonzalez drove in the final run, scoring Jimmy Rollins with a groundout in the fifth.
Left-hander Brett Anderson made that stand up with six solid innings in which he limited the Phillies to a run on four hits, striking out five. Howie Kendrick backed him with three hits while Andre Ethier, Puig and Alberto Callaspo had two hits apiece and the Dodgers walked nine times as a team.
For Pederson, meanwhile, it has been a rookie season of extremes. He made the All-Star team on the strength of 20 first-half home runs, but he is batting just .172 with one homer and 22 strikeouts since. And nearly half of his 433 plate appearances have ended in a walk, a strikeout or a home run.
“Right now, he is what he is,” Manager Don Mattingly said.
What he isn't anymore is a leadoff hitter, with the Dodgers moving him out of the top spot in the batting order a week ago, hitting him sixth Wednesday and eighth the night before. But that's about as far as he's going to go. Given his Gold Glove-caliber play in center field, Mattingly said the team never considered sending him back to the minors to get his swing straightened out.
“Now's not the time to start messing with our club and getting away from what we've been doing,” he said. “We've been playing great defense up the middle. There's really no pressure on him. We're not asking for a bunch of offense.”
So Pederson, hitless in his last 20 at-bats, is providing help in other ways. On his second walk Wednesday, Pederson — who is third in the majors with 129 strikeouts — fouled off a pair of tough two-strike pitches before taking a full-count offering for ball four.
“I take it as a great sign. No doubt,” Mattingly said.
Whether it's a sign of better things to come remains to be seen. But the Dodgers — and Pederson — are confident they are headed in the right direction, even if he's walking there.
“At some point if you hit .220 and you don't hit homers, then there's other things you try to do. You have to make organizational decisions,” Mattingly said. “But I don't think anybody's trying to make those right now. There's nobody thinking that Joc can't hit. We all believe in Joc still and what he's going to be able to do.
"It's going to be a little bit of a learning process this year.
The Dodgers will send right-hander Zack Greinke (10-2, 1.41) against the Phillies' David Buchanan (2-5, 6.44) on Thursday at 10 a.m. PDT. TV: SportsNet LA. Radio: 570, 1020.