CINCINNATI -- Nate McLouth does not consider himself a home run hitter. But long balls have helped him avoid an extended early-season slump.
It was a home run on Wednesday in St. Louis that helped McLouth snap an 0-for-8 skid to begin the regular season.
In Saturday's 10-2 victory over the Reds at Great American Ball Park, he jump-started the Pirates' scoring with a two-run homer off right-hander Johnny Cueto, putting the Bucs ahead, 2-0, in the first inning.
So what gives?
"Nate has a very efficient swing, very compact," said Pirates manager John Russell. "He puts himself in good position with his swing. He's not among the best power hitters in the league, but home runs will come as a result of his swing."
McLouth, who has started six games in center field, batted just .176 (3-for-17) in his first five games. Two of the three hits were home runs. He walked six times in that stretch, with three strikeouts.
Despite McLouth's early struggles, Russell is quick to deflect concern over the 27-year-old outfielder's ability to hit.
"He started out hitting some balls decent, but they just didn't fall," Russell said. "It's inevitable that he's going to hit. He's got a quick swing, good bat speed -- very efficient."
McLouth's slump came as a surprise, especially since he was coming off a solid Spring Training during which he hit .293 with two doubles, four homers and 10 RBIs in 23 games.
Last season, McLouth hit a career-high 26 homers with 94 RBIs in 152 games.
He went 2-for-3 with a homer, three RBIs and two walks on Saturday. His first three hits this season came with runners in scoring position.
McLouth believes Saturday is the type of game that could help him get into a rhythm, offensively.
"I'm a guy who tries to rely on hitting mistakes," McLouth said. "I think [Saturday] is the kind of game that can get me on a roll. I'm starting to feel more comfortable."
Jeff Wallner is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.