McCann credits hitting tips from older brother

PHOENIX — Before his two dramatic homers Tuesday afternoon — one to tie the Astros in the ninth inning, one to beat them in the 11th — Brian McCann went 25 games and more than 90 at-bats without hitting a ball over the fence.

The Elias Sports Bureau said the Braves catcher became the second player in major league history to hit a pinch-hit, game-tying homer in the ninth and an extra-inning walk-off homer in the same game.

A day later, McCann credited older brother, Brad, for helping him reclaim his power stroke.

“Made a couple of adjustments in my swing to free myself up,” McCann said before Wednesday night’s late game against the Arizona Diamondbacks. “I talked to my brother for an hour. He called me [Monday]. He’s watched me play for my whole life. He told me what I needed to do.

“It was the day before I hit the two homers, so ...”

Brad McCann, 28, is 14 months older than Brian and works as a hitting instructor at Windward Baseball Academy in Alpharetta. The place is run by their father, Howie McCann, long the hitting coach Brian turned to during slumps.

But this time the call to the star pupil came from Brad, a former Marlins minor leaguer who hit .295 with 28 homers and 106 RBIs at Class A in 2005.

“He stays in the background,” McCann said of his brother. “But I’m so lucky to have a family that understands the game of baseball and understands my swing, people I can come to when I’m struggling. He was an All-American at Clemson two years in a row. Sixth-round draft pick. Minor league player of the year with the Marlins.

“He’s a very, very smart hitting guy. He told me what I was doing wrong. I was getting my hits, but I wasn’t hitting for power. So this is a key adjustment, and I hope I can just keep going. I’ve been seeing the ball great all year, but I had been cutting myself off in my swing. So I got back to freeing myself up.”

McCann, a five-time All-Star and four-time Silver Slugger Award winner, is batting a solid .293 with 23 RBIs and a .359 on-base percentage. But he had only two homers before Tuesday, and none since April 14. He doubled his season total in two at-bats against Houston, on a day when he was supposed to be off.

Coincidentally, the only previous player to hit a tying pinch homer in the ninth and walk-off homer in the same game also was a Brave — Jeff Heath of the 1949 Boston Braves.