Iwamura hopes for breakout with bat

Iwamura hopes for breakout with bat

CINCINNATI -- After breaking out of a slump of nearly historic proportions, second baseman Aki Iwamura is poised to rocket his batting average to a respectable level. At least, that's the hope of manager John Russell.

Before Sunday's win over Atlanta, Iwamura had gone hitless in his last 34 at-bats, the longest single-season streak by a Pirates position player since Hal Finney in 1936. But Iwamura, who has been bothered recently by a sore hamstring, went 2-for-5 with a single and a double on Sunday to raise his batting average nine points (.152 to .161).

"Hopefully, we can start heading in the upward direction instead of hovering so low," Russell said. "His approach was much better. He stayed on the ball much better, and he wasn't spinning out as much. He has the ability to drive balls when he stays within himself. Hopefully, that's a step in the right direction."

With just four hits this past month, how can Russell have confidence that Iwamura will continue working out of his slump?

"A shattered-bat single can jump-start anybody," Russell said. "It's just a matter of getting on base. When you're in those slumps, getting to first is a challenge sometimes. He's talked about feeling better. We're seeing improvement in his batting practice. He's worked really hard and hopefully, it's starting to pay some dividends for him."