C.J. Cron was doing well with the bat over the first five weeks of the season but hadn't been hitting for power. Randal Grichuk, meanwhile, hadn't been hitting at all. On Saturday, they did their best to change their early-season fortunes.
Grichuk homered twice, drove in three runs and scored three times, while Cron fell a triple shy of the cycle as Double-A Arkansas rallied for an 8-6 win over Tulsa at ONEOK Field.
Grichuk's second blast of the night put the Travelers ahead in the ninth inning. After falling behind by five runs in the first, the Angels' Double-A affiliate tied the game up at 6-6 entering the final frame. Robbie Widlansky drew a two-out walk and Grichuk took the next pitch from Drillers reliever Muke Marbry over the wall the other way for a two-run blast.
Although he also homered on the first pitch he saw in the second inning, the Angels' No. 7 prospect admitted he wasn't necessarily aiming for the fences with the game on the line.
"Nah, I just feel like barreling balls up pretty well lately," Grichuk said. "So when I got a good pitch middle away, I just tried to hit it as hard as I could. But it was cool to see it get out the other way."
The 21-year-old outfielder batted .169 with a .567 OPS, two homers and five RBIs in 24 games in April during his introduction to Double-A ball. But he's 9-for-35 (.257) with three homers -- all in the last three games -- two triples, a double and seven RBIs through nine contests this month. After eliminating a toe tap in his stance, he hopes Saturday's two-homer effort could be the culmination of what had been a small May turnaround.
"I definitely had a rough month of April, but something like tonight, it really boosts my confidence that things are heading in the right direction," Grichuk said after his fourth career multi-homer game. "It's reassuring, for sure, especially on the mental side of it. Game in and game out, I've got to keep grinding it out and, hopefully, this is the start of something."
While Grichuk's numbers haven't been the prettiest, the opposite could be said for those produced by Cron.
The Angels' No. 3 prospect was batting .302 in his first 31 games, ranking ninth in the Texas League. However, he'd homered just once in 119 games, a surprising lack of power from the first baseman who finished third in the California League with 27 homers a season ago.
Cron took a good step in that department Saturday. After just missing on a deep fly ball to right in the third, the University of Utah product completed the deed in the sixth, going deep on a 1-2 slider away for his second homer as a Traveler.
"They all feel good," said the 23-year-old, who's hitting .315 after Saturday's 3-for-5 effort. "But that was a little extra-special, given the way the other at-bat went. I never try to hit home runs, but it's nice when they come after you just miss like that."
Cron, who had last homered on April 19, dismissed any concern about his early lack of power, pointing out that his home run numbers increased every month (three in April, four in May, five in June, seven in July, eight in August) last season at Class A Advanced Inland Empire.
"They usually come for me, so homers are never really anything I worry about," he said. "I'm just sticking with the same approach that's worked with everything else. Obviously, I'd like to have more than just two, but they'll come."
If Cron can continue to crank out homers and Grichuk can complete his comeback at the plate, the Arkansas lineup -- which also includes top Angels prospects Kaleb Cowart, Taylor Lindsey and Travis Witherspoon -- could become one of the most feared in the Minor Leagues.
"We have a great group of guys here," Gruchuk said. "We've got numerous first-rounders and they're all guys that can drive the ball all over the yard. If we can start clicking, it's going to be deadly. And I think we've got to be the top raw-hitting team in the league soon if we aren't already."