Tyler Naquin knew what to expect from Marcus Stroman on Wednesday. Not because he'd faced the Blue Jays' first-round pick before, but because they're former teammates.
"I played with Stroman with Team USA and he's a great pitcher," the No. 5 Indians prospect said. "He's got a good fastball and changeup, but his slider is excellent."
Naquin didn't want to deal with either of his former teammate's two best pitches, so he waited for the change.
"He threw me two fastballs and a slider and then he went off that and started throwing changeups," he said. "I didn't want to get beat with a fastball and I wanted to stay off his slider down [in the zone]. That last one was a changeup. I put the bat on the ball and a hole was open there for me."
Naquin's two-RBI single capped a three-run rally in the eighth, erasing four hitless innings by Salt River starter Aaron Sanchez in Surprise's 8-6 comeback win Wednesday afternoon in the Arizona Fall League.
Trailing in the eighth, 6-5, Surprise loaded the bases on three walks by Stroman before Baltimore's Michael Ohlman raced home on a wild pitch to tie the game. Naquin, hitess in his first three at-bats, then laced a single to right, scoring Dariel Alvarez (Orioles) and Derrik Gibson (Red Sox). That hit chased Stroman and Naquin later stole second and advanced to third against Cole White (Rockies) but was left stranded.
"I just pretty much had guys on the bags with two outs, my job was to try to make sure we go ahead so we didn't have to go back out in the ninth to try to win it," Naquin said.
Noe Ramirez struck out James Ramsey and induced Kyle Parker (Rockies) to hit into a game-ending double play to finish off the win and secure his first save for Surprise.
The clutch late hit extended Naquin's hitting streak to 11 games, the number of contests in which he's played this fall. He recorded three-hit games on Oct. 15 and Oct. 18 and is batting .364 with seven RBIs, six walks and eight runs scored, going 16-for-44 since Oct. 8.
No big deal, the second baseman said.
"I'm aware of it. I don't think about it," he said. "I'm not thinking about it because it's going to break at some point, whether it's after 30 games or stops after this game. It's not my goal. I just want to put myself in the best position to make contact every at-bat."
Naquin grounded out in the first and fourth, walked in the fifth and bounced another grounder to third when he faced Stroman in the seventh.
"I'd rather make hard contact and get out than have a loopy single," he said. "It's nice to have, but I'm going with the same approach every at-bat."
Sanchez, ranked No. 20 on MLB.com's Top 100 prospects and No. 1 among Blue Jays farmhands, began the game with four hitless innings. He struck out four and walked one, throwing 28 of his 49 pitches for strikes before Surprise roughed up reliever Dean Kiekhefer (Cardinals) in the fifth for four runs -- three earned -- on two hits.
Naquin wasn't surprised his teammates managed to get back into the game after a slow start.
"Our offense is good. It doesn't matter who's in that lineup, everybody can swing it," he said. "We've got a couple guys that can run and couple guys that can defend the baseball."
Indians right-hander Will Roberts allowed five runs on six hits and a walk over four innings for Surprise. He struck out two and allowed a home run.
"Will Roberts has great stuff, [but] today didn't have it, but he's a dang good pitcher," Naquin said. "Ohlman hit a three-run home run [in the fifth] that sparked the lineup."
Tim Wheeler (Rockies) went deep for the Rafters in the first off Roberts, a two-run shot, while Parker went 3-for-4 with a double, two RBIs and a pair of runs scored.
"Up and down, roster for roster, everybody is a big-name guy," Naquin said of the Arizona Fall League. "Everyone can swing it or pitch it. You can't come out and expect too much, you've got to stay even-keeled and realize everyone is really good. I just want to try to stay consistent. Everyone out here has a bright future from what everyone's saying."