Just as the Arizona Fall League season is winding down, A's prospect Max Muncy is warming up.
The 23-year-old slugger reached base three times Tuesday in Mesa's 8-1 romp over visiting Peoria, singling twice and drawing a walk as the Solar Sox's designated hitter. Muncy has hits in four of his last five games after suffering through a 2-for-22 stretch in his previous seven.
Muncy led the Oakland organization with 25 homers and 100 RBIs during the regular season, which he began with Class A Advanced Stockton and concluded with Double-A Midland. He hit .285/.400/.507 in the California League but saw his numbers fall to .250/.340/.413 in the Texas League. He continues to adjust to the advanced pitching he's encountered in Double-A and the AFL.
"I've been feeling pretty good the last couple games. I felt pretty good after the bad start I had out here," Muncy said.
"I took some time off after the season, and I think I probably took too much time off. My swing didn't feel right after first couple games here. I think I'm getting my swing back now."
Battling with Salt River for a berth in Saturday's AFL championship, Mesa enjoyed a balanced attack while notching its fourth consecutive victory. Eight of the nine batters in the Solar Sox starting lineup collected a hit, with the ninth -- leadoff man Addison Russell (A's) -- walking twice and scoring a pair of runs.
The Solar Sox jumped all over Peoria starter Brandon Maurer (1-2), scoring four times on five hits and four walks in the first two frames. Muncy drew a walk in Mesa's three-run second but was thrown out at home trying to score from second on an RBI single by Albert Almora (Cubs).
Muncy singled in the fourth and again in the sixth, with the latter hit coming off Royals southpaw Noel Arguelles.
"It's been important for me to get at-bats against the best pitching that's up and coming," Muncy said. "The big thing for me is I've seen a lot of lefties out here. I haven't always been that great against lefties."
Peoria managed to keep Muncy off the bases in the eighth as he bounced out to shortstop Nolan Fontana (Astros).
Mesa first baseman C.J. Cron (Angels) continued to rake, collecting multiple hits for the fourth straight game. He delivered a two-out RBI single in the second and a solo homer, his fifth, in the seventh. Cron is 10-for-23 with two homers, three doubles and eight RBIs over the four-game stretch, which kicked off with a 4-for-4 outing last Friday.
The Javelinas managed just four hits, although three of them were doubles. Fontana walked and scored their lone run on a passed ball by Mesa catcher Adrian Nieto (Nationals) in the eighth.
The first four Javelinas hurlers each allowed runs before reliever Andrew Robinson pitched a perfect eighth.
After five Mesa pitchers combined to blank Peoria, 4-0, on Monday, the Solar Sox nearly kept a clean sheet Tuesday afternoon. Starter Blaine Hardy improved to 2-0 after allowing four hits over four scoreless innings. None of the following five Mesa hurlers gave up a hit, but Lendy Castillo (Cubs) issued three walks, leading to an unearned run, in the eighth.
For Muncy, the Solar Sox's battle for first place in the AFL East is part of a learning experience.
"We've got a great group of guys," he said. "There are no bad attitudes out there. I know we've only been together a month and a half, but we all like each other and I think that's been a key to our success.
"I've been frustrated with how I've played this fall, but luckily there are still a couple games left and I'm hoping to get some more at-bats and finish on a strong note."