C.J. Cron wrecks opposing pitchers when games are in their highest leverage moments. Finding the specific formula for why, however, has proved elusive.
The Angels' No. 3 prospect ripped a two-run, bases-loaded single as part of a three-hit night as Triple-A Salt Lake held on for an 8-5 win at Reno on Saturday night.
"My teammates did a great job getting on base for me," said Cron, who had already scored a run by the time he drove in two more in the fifth inning. "My job in the middle of the order is to try to drive runs in and put some runs up on the board. I guess I don't really know what it is. I just try to get the job done and try to knock in my guys."
Cron's numbers with the bases loaded have cannot be brushed off due to a small sample size. In his professional debut in 2011, he went 3-for-4 with the bases loaded and drove in six runs for Rookie-level Orem. A year later, for Class A Advanced Inland Empire, the first baseman was 8-for-15 with two doubles, three grand slams and 22 RBIs. Last season for Double-A Arkansas, Cron went 3-for-13, meager by comparison, but still managed a grand slam and 14 RBIs.
For the Bees, Cron is off to a 3-for-3 start with the bags packed, including Saturday's two-run single, a double, a grand slam and nine RBIs. In total, that makes his career line with the bases loaded 17-for-35 (.486) with five grand slams, four doubles and 51 RBIs.
So, really, what's the key?
"I just try to stick to my approach, don't try to do too much, let whatever the pitcher's trying to do kind of dictate how I go about trying to get him," Cron said. "I don't know what it is. I guess I just have a better understanding of how they're going to try to get me out with men on base. I sit on some pitches every once in a while, and ... "
His voice, as befuddled as it was honest, trails off.
"I don't even know."
Whatever the formula, the Angels will take it. Since a 4-2 start was spoiled by a nine-game losing streak, Salt Lake appears to be back on track with five wins in eight games. On Saturday, the Bees went 5-for-19 with runners in scoring position, and each member of the lineup had at least one hit in a 14-knock assault. All eight runs were scored by different players.
"We feel good," Cron said. "Coming into the season, we knew we could hit. Our lineup is stacked from 1-9, and the guys on our bench have hit in this league before. We knew we have a good offense. We just wanted to stick to our guns and try to put up as many runs as we can."
Archie Bradley (1-4) can attest to that. The D-backs' top prospect failed to record an out in the fifth and was charged with five runs on seven hits and four walks while striking out three.
After starter Jarrett Grube was struck on his pitching hand by a line drive in the second inning, the Bees turned to their bullpen. Jeremy Berg (1-1) was credited with the win, shutting out the Aces while allowing two hits and striking out a batter over 1 1/3 innings.
Cory Rasmus surrendered two runs in the ninth but pitched two innings for his first save.
"I think last year we were ranked 30th by a few different websites," Cron said of the Angels' Minor League system, "and I think four of our teams made the playoffs and three of us played in a championship series. It just goes to show that you really never know. If a team jells, it can take them a long way. We might not have the big-name guys in our system, but they can all play.
"When we come together, it's pretty good."