Tony Kemp is picking up this season where he left off in 2013.
The Astros prospect, who sparked Quad Cities to a Class A Midwest League title last year, went 3-for-4 with a grand slam, two runs scored, a stolen base and a career-high six RBIs to pace Class A Advanced Lancaster in its 9-4 win over San Jose on Wednesday.
"It feels amazing," Kemp said, adding that the career high is not limited to his professional experience. "That's a career high for my whole entire life, and it's a great accomplishment."
Houston grabbed Kemp out of Vanderbilt University in the fifth round of last season's Draft, and he split the half-campaign between short-season Tri-City and Quad Cities. For the River Bandits, he led the Midwest League with 12 hits over eight postseason games and had three hits in the championshipclincher. After going hitless from April 5-7, he's hitting .400 and has scored 10 runs through seven games this season.
"I definitely feel good. It's a big confidence thing. Most people don't even see that [for three straight games] I didn't have a hit," he said. "I was finding a way to get on, walking and stealing bases, scoring runs, trying to help the team win any way I can.
"When it's going good, it's a great feeling. But when it's going bad, you've got to stay positive and look at the bright side. You can't get too high on yourself in this game, and you can't get too low on yourself. You have to keep a level head. We're doing that on this team and that's why we're winning right now."
Kemp's big day helped the JetHawks close out a three-game sweep of the Giants, and it started with the spry second baseman digging out an infield hit off San Jose starter and 20th-ranked Giants prospect Kendry Flores.
"You always want to start the game off with a hit or whatever you can. My philosophy is, 'If you hit the ball hard, you win.' That's a [hitting guru] Steve Springer quote," he said. In the first at-bat, "I hit a chopper up the middle over the pitcher's head. I just beat it on a bang-bang play. I was running down the line as fast as I could."
When Kemp was aboard, he didn't wait for a steal sign to get on the move.
"That was on me personally," he said. "I'd gotten thrown out trying to steal [Tuesday], but you can never be scared. You can't be timid. On 2-2, [Flores] lifted his leg and I took off."
The next inning, the left-handed hitter followed Carlos Perdomo's one-out triple with a sacrifice fly to left field.
"On 1-1, [Flores] threw a fastball and it was up and away," Kemp said. "I tried to drive it to the outfield. It was a little shallow and it was a bang-bang play, but I was just trying to do my job."
He had a similiar mentality when he came to bat after two consecutive teammates struck out against the Giants' Mason McVay with the bases loaded in the sixth.
"Honestly, I was just trying to get something up in the zone," he said. "He threw the 2-1 fastball up and in, and I put my best swing on it. Luckily, it went over the fence."
Teoscar Hernandez, the Astros' No. 13 prospect, followed with another homer. Hernandez also had an RBI triple -- his third three-bagger of the young season -- and a walk.
"Oh my gosh, the guy is amazing," Kemp said of Hernandez, whom he also batted ahead of with Quad Cities. "We have a lot of fun together. He usually swings early, but sometimes I tell him, 'Hey, give me two pitches to try to steal.' He has that great feel for the game, and he's very understanding. Today, before the game, I told him, 'Man, all you do is hit triples.' Then he hit a triple. After that he hit a home run, and I said, 'Now all you do is hit home runs?'
"We're just having fun, keeping it loose. When you take baseball way too seriously, that's when things can start to go south."
Mitch Delfino was 3-for-4 with a homer, two doubles and four RBIs for San Jose.