During the winter and spring training, Tulsa Drillers shortstop Gavin Lux received instruction from another left-handed hitting infielder — Chase Utley, a six-time National League all-star who retired last year after 16 major league seasons and is in the parent Los Angeles Dodgers’ front office.
“I picked his brain as much as I could, “Lux said. “He hit lefties, righties, it didn’t matter. He was one of the best to do it. I was asking, ‘What do you (do) on lefties? What’s your approach? What’s your game plan, what do you do on lefty sinkers, sliders? I asked about everything.”
Lux’s time with Utley is paying off. On Monday afternoon, Lux had the first two-homer game of his pro career and drove in the Drillers’ first three runs en route to a 6-1 victory over the Corpus Christi Hooks.
The power surge came before a lot of schoolkids that comprised much of the season’s largest crowd at ONEOK Field — 8,325 — the sixth sellout in 15 home dates.
A big emphasis for Lux in the offseason was hitting against lefties, and his leadoff homer was a rocket over the right-field wall in the first inning off southpaw Brett Adcock — the only run he allowed in five innings. It was Lux’s first homer off a lefty this season and only the third in his pro career compared to 26 against right-handers.
Lux, 21, is batting .306 overall with 18 RBIs and a team-high seven homers this season. He’s at .333 off lefties — a big improvement over last year with Tulsa when he was at .324 overall, but only .217 off southpaws. He has a .289 overall batting average since being a Dodgers first-round draft choice in 2016, but was at .191 off lefties the past two years.
“Just being out there and facing them (lefties) I look at it as a kind of challenge,’ Lux said. “If I see a lefty in the lineup that day, it’s ‘Let’s lock it in and prove some people wrong’.”
In the seventh, his two-run homer off right-hander Brandon Bailey (0-1) barely cleared the left-field wall just inside the foul pole to snap a 1-1 tie. Lux has rarely homered to the opposite field.
“I thought it had a chance, it kept drifting, and drifting and I thought it would bang off the wall for a double, but it snuck over and the best part was that we took the lead,” said Lux, whose homer followed Cody Thomas’ two-out single.
Lux, regarded as the No. 33 overall prospect in the minors by Baseball America, has four homers in the past three games — his best power stretch as a pro although he did have homers in four consecutive games early last season at Single-A Rancho Cucamonga.
“He’s seeing the ball good, quieted some things down at the plate, and it’s paying off,” Drillers manager Scott Hennessey said. “He’s been good off left-handers and doing damage off them. And he works very diligently going the other way and it paid off today.”
Cristian Santana also went opposite field for a homer that led off a three-run eighth inning for the Drillers (17-12), who have won seven of their past eight and are 5-2 against the Hooks (14-16) this season going into Tuesday night’s series finale.