Top Astros prospect Carlos Correa was a home run away from hitting for the cycle on Saturday, and that wasn't even the biggest headline for Lancaster. It was that good of a night for the JetHawks.
Vincent Velasquez became the Minor Leagues' first four-game winner as Brandon Meredith hammered two home runs to power Lancaster to a 7-1 victory over High Desert at The Hangar.
"It was a great feeling. Before the game had started, there was a different atmosphere in our dugout tonight," Meredith said. "It just felt like we were going to get after somebody, and that's what happened."
It happened from the outset. The JetHawks raced to a three-run lead in the bottom of the first inning, capped Meredith's solo shot to left field. The outburst was more than enough for Velasquez (4-0), who continued his eye-opening start to the season.
Over five innings, the Astros' No. 9 prospect allowed one hit and struck out four to work around three walks. He pitched Lancaster into a first-place tie with High Desert as his defense turned double plays to end the first and fourth.
"Things were working very well today," said Velasquez, who worked a 1-2-3 fifth. "Not my best with my curveball, but surprisingly it was just my fastball and changeup command. I used my changeup in key situations and that really helped me out to get a ground ball. My defense did a great job behind me in helping me getting out of those tough situations."
The 21-year-old right-hander dropped his ERA to 1.29 and lowered his WHIP to 0.67, tied for the ninth-best mark among all Minor Leaguers and an especially impressive number given the hitter-friendly reputation of the California League.
"I would say that this year is starting off pretty well," he said, "better than I expected coming into the season. I just have that mind-set of going out there and trying to be dominant, making every pitch count. The results have shown it."
Meredith was impressed but certainly not surprised by his starter's night.
"The kid's a bulldog," he said. "He gets after people. From pitch one, he is in there and he is throwing strikes. Even when he struggles and doesn't have his best stuff, he's still going to give you a great outing, he's going to compete. You love playing defense for a guy like that."
The feeling was mutual from Velasquez, who raved about his team's offensive performance and Meredith in particular after the first baseman capped his two-homer night with a three-run shot in the sixth.
"He did a great job taking the ball the other way and hitting one over," Velasquez said of Meredith's first jack. "He really had a good approach at the plate and definitely put the ball in play and let the ball do the work. When you put the ball in play, anything can happen. He did a good job today coming out of that little slump that he's been in. He's a great hitter, and that showed tonight."
"It's always a great time when people get on in front of you and everybody's hitting the ball hard and contributing," Meredith said. "Then Vince goes out, does his thing, shuts it down and gets us back in the dugout to hit."
Velasquez handed the ball to reliever Kyle Westwood, who allowed a run in the seventh but worked four innings for his first save.
Meredith, who entered the game batting .217, left with his second four-RBI night of the season. The multi-homer game was the fourth of his career and first since July 30.
Ahead of Meredith in the order, Lancaster's 1-2-3 hitters -- Tony Kemp, Ruben Sosa and Correa -- combined to go 6-for-11 with two doubles, a triple, an RBI and four runs scored. Correa singled in the first inning, walked in the third, doubled in the sixth and tripled in the eighth but didn't get a shot at trying to complete the cycle.
"It's a privilege to play with these guys. They're so talented," Meredith said. "Tony Kemp is a game-changer, getting on base, getting to second. He's always on base. We pick each other up. Carlos got the job done tonight a couple times. He swung the bat tremendously. Even guys that didn't get hits tonight swung the bat well and hit stuff hard."
The JetHawks' outburst came at the expense of Mavericks starter Matt Anderson (1-2) who allowed five runs on six hits over 5 1/3 innings.