CHICAGO -- Kirk Nieuwenhuis' .277 batting average entering the Cubs series finale is second among all qualifying rookies, but it's been slowly dropping since he sat at .301 on June 1.
Nieuwenhuis, who has one hit in his last 14 at-bats, was not in Wednesday's starting lineup. Manager Terry Collins said he wants the 2008 Draft pick to work with hitting coach Dave Hudgens to fix his swing, which he said has been dragging into two parts.
"He's really struggling. I try to make sure that we don't get some of these young players in a deep pit where they all of a sudden start questioning whether they belong here or not."
Nieuwenhuis' struggles have only occurred for the last couple weeks. He began June with four multi-hit performances in his first 14 games and has blasted five of his seven home runs this month.
More than just batting average or power, Collins wants Nieuwenhuis to get on base out of the leadoff spot. Collins said he thinks the main problem with the young outfielder is he's not seeing the ball well and he's pulling his head out.
"We've got to start getting him on base," Collins said. "If you're going to lead off, you've got to get on. That's part of the job. We know he can do some damage. If he gets a pitch to hit he can hit a homer."
Drought over: Murphy goes deep, then does it again
CHICAGO -- Daniel Murphy ripped his first home run of the season in the fourth inning and added a second an inning later Wednesday against the Cubs for his first multi-home run game.
Murphy, who had gone 352 at-bats since his last home run on July 16, 2011, said it was funny to blast his first two long balls of the season in consecutive plate appearances.
"The biggest thing I was happy about is the first one was a two-out RBI in a 2-1 ballgame," Murphy said. "I feel like that team over there is very scrappy. If we let them hang around, they've shown they'll make us pay for mistakes."
Murphy smacked a double and two home runs in his first three at-bats of a 17-1 win. He entered the game with two hits in his last 13 at-bats.
Manager Terry Collins said despite the falling batting average, he thought Murphy had been putting good swings on the ball in recent plate appearances.
"You know he's going to break out," Collins said. "Dan Murphy's way too good a hitter. I'm glad it was today. Hopefully, this is a good sign as we head toward the second half."
Collins doesn't expect Murphy to be a significant power threat, but he expects Murphy will gather more home runs as the season progresses.
"He's not going to be a big home run hitter, never has been, but to hit 12 to 15 homers is going to come up big for us," Murphy said. "I think that's what he's going to do. That's what he's done in the past. As we head into the second half, that's something to look forward to."
Nobody was happier for Murphy than first baseman Ike Davis, who also contributed a home run and went 3-for-5 with four RBIs.
"That was awesome, just to get it out of the way," Davis said. "Hopefully he can hit a couple more and help us win some more games."
Rottino claimed off waivers by Indians
CHICAGO -- The Indians claimed Vinny Rottino off waivers Wednesday from the Mets, who designated him for assignment on Monday.
Rottino played for the Brewers and Marlins before the Mets and has logged appearances in the outfield, at first base, at third base and at catcher in his career. Rottino was hitting .182 in 18 games for the Mets and .307 in 36 games at Triple-A Buffalo.
"It does sting a little bit," manager Terry Collins said. "He's a good little player. I told him when I sent him out, he would be back."
Collins said he had hoped the Mets would be able to sneak him through waivers.
"I'm really disappointed we lost him," Collins said. "I hope he gets a chance to get more playing time and be a Major Leaguer for the rest of his career."
Hairston seeing more time against righties
CHICAGO -- Scott Hairston has started all three games against the Cubs, including two against right-handed pitchers after starting just six games against righties all year coming into the series.
Hairston went 1-for-4 on Tuesday against right-hander Randy Wells and the Cubs' pitching staff. Hairston still managed to get on base in each of his first four at-bats, reaching on two errors by third baseman Luis Valbuena.
With a .182 batting average against right-handed pitchers and a .314 batting average against left-handed pitchers this season, Hairston said he's not surprised most of his previous starts came against southpaws.
"I see the ball better against lefties and most of my starts have been against left-handed pitching," Hairston said. "When I feel that I start, I'm in a better rhythm, as opposed to pinch-hitting off the setup man or closer if it's a righty. I believe I have a lot of pinch-hits against righties this season, and I haven't really done the job coming off the bench as a pinch-hitter as I want to this season."
Hairston only has a .181 career batting average as a pinch-hitter and a .211 batting average off the bench this season. His batting average against all pitchers as a starter this year is .253, compared to .188 off the bench.
Hairston said coming off the bench to face a pitcher late in a game is one of the hardest things a player can do.
"Early in my career, I didn't really know how to handle that situation," Hairston said. "Now I've gotten accustomed to it. Psychologically, you have to train yourself to get in the mindset of seeing yourself coming off the bench and doing something good, instead of thinking I'm cold and I'm not loose and I'm not ready."
Manager Terry Collins is showing more confidence in Hairston to deliver against any pitcher by plugging him in to the starting lineup against right-handed and left-handed pitchers this series.
"He gives us some sock in the middle of our lineup," Collins said. "They make mistakes and Scotty can hit them."
Collins not a fan of team meetings
CHICAGO -- Lucas Duda and manager Terry Collins chatted after Tuesday's loss to the Cubs, in which Duda missed a sign from third base coach Tim Teufel to run home on a double from Ike Davis.
Collins said the two talked about a multitude of things, including baserunning, but it's all part of the learning process for the young outfielder, who snapped a streak of reaching base at 25 straight games at the beginning of the series.
Collins said Wrigley Field is interesting, because the wall in right field jets back farther than it looks, allowing players to score from first base more often than not.
"He said it won't happen again," Collins said. "I said, 'That's part of the process. When you make a mistake, you learn from your mistakes.' I said, 'I don't expect it to happen again, because I know how you are.' I'm sure next time, he'll score."
Despite the Mets' four-game losing streak, Collins isn't the type to hold team meetings to reprimand the Mets' performances after each defeat.
"You can hold meetings in football, because you play once a week," Collins said. "Basketball, you play a couple times a week. We play every day. If you hold meetings everyday, they're going to turn you off."
• Ruben Tejada is 2-for-12 entering Wednesday since returning from the disabled list with a right quad strain. Ronny Cedeno has had more success in his return from injury, notching a hit in all four games since being activated June 22.
"Ronny's been playing a little bit longer than Ruben has," Collins said. "What it shows you is the speed of the game here. You can't reenact it at any level. Last week, when I called down when Ronny was down there, I told him the importance of putting some effort into the rehab."
• David Wright's hitting streak ended at 15 games after going 0-for-3 with a walk Tuesday. Wright is one home run shy of tying Howard Johnson for third place in club history with 192.
• Entering Wednesdays series finale, the Mets are 18-10 during day games.
Rowan Kavner is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.