Stairs puts career-long slump behind him

Stairs breaks out of career-long skid

PHILADELPHIA -- Matt Stairs had not forgotten the feeling of putting the barrel of the bat on the ball.

But it sure had been a while. Stairs snapped a career-worst 0-for-30 slump Thursday, when he hit a pinch-hit grand slam in the ninth inning of the Phillies' 8-7 loss to the Nationals at Nationals Park. Stairs had not gotten a hit since July 11, when he hit a pinch-hit homer against Pittsburgh.

"It means I won't get shut out the rest of the year," Stairs joked before Friday's game against the Mets at Citizens Bank Park. "I still had confidence. I knew I could still hit. But it definitely takes the monkey off the back a bit."

Stairs tried not to put pressure on himself during the slump, but he couldn't help but think about it.

"You try to say, 'This is the day,'" Stairs said. "But when it's not, you start thinking, 'Maybe I can get hit by a pitch.' A lot of things go through your mind. You start hoping that they start hanging pitches. The only thing is that you start losing your aggressiveness a little bit. You don't want to make an easy out or a bad out, because you've done that so many times in a row.

"You wait for that one good pitch, and when you're waiting, you end up missing and letting one go by. I think that's the biggest thing -- the aggressiveness. And the fact a little bit of your confidence is shot."

Stairs has been through lengthy slumps before. It's just that when those happened, he played every day. An 0-for-20 slump for an everyday player could last five or six games. An 0-for-30 slump for a bench player lasted almost three months.

"When you go 0-for-30 when you have 550 at-bats, you notice about 15 points off your average," Stairs said. "You've got 80 at-bats and you go 0-for-30, it drops 100."

Stairs started the streak hitting .283. He entered Friday hitting .198 (18-for-91) with five homers and 17 RBIs. Despite his struggles, he still leads the Majors in pinch-hit homers (five) and RBIs (15).

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.