Daytona struggled with both the bat and the ball in the first half of the season, but manager Dave Keller hopes a pair of standout individual performances Thursday night will set the tone for the rest of the year.
No. 10 Cubs prospect Dan Vogelbach homered, doubled and fell a triple shy of hitting for the cycle and right-hander Starling Peralta pitched 4 2/3 perfect innings of relief to help the Class A Advanced Cubs rally past the Brevard County Manatees, 7-4, on Thursday.
"They were two guys within the mix of the team that really stood out," Keller said. "Danny took a great swing and hit it out to dead center, and when we were down 4-2, Peralta came in and retired every hitter he faced. He did a great job pitching ahead and pitching with poise and confidence. He came in with the bases loaded and one out and got out of it. That was huge for us."
Vogelbach slugged a solo homer -- his sixth long ball of the season -- with two outs in the first inning, singled to second base in the third and smacked a game-tying RBI double to right field in the seventh.
"I think it was a 1-0 fastball that he hit to the left of the batter's eye," Keller said of Vogelbach's dinger. "It's 404 to center and he hit it about 420 feet. I thought he was very productive. He waited to get good pitches to hit and then put good swings on them when he got a pitch over the plate."
The designated hitter also struck out in the fifth and grounded out to begin the ninth, but he lifted his average to .266. He broke an 0-for-18 skid with a 2-for-4 performance against Tampa on Wednesday and Keller believes a minor tweak at the plate will help him going forward.
"We talked about a couple mechanical changes, something really simple that has to do with his feel and his setup, and that has helped him a lot mentally and physically. It's got him in a better position to hit."
But as big as their cleanup hitter's production was, a pitching performance proved to be even more clutch.
The Manatees loaded the bases in the fourth against Cubs starter Felix Pena on the strength of two free passes and Pena's throwing error. Keller summoned Peralta out of the bullpen and the right-hander set down the next two batters to strand all three runners.
That started a stretch of 14 consecutive outs in which only two balls left the infield against the 23-year-old native of the Dominican Republic.
"I was about as pleased as anybody could be," said Keller. "You try not to overanalyze it, but when pitchers throw strikes, it makes hitters expand the zone and they have a tendency to chase outside of the zone. He used his fastball to get ahead and then worked from there using his breaking balls early and late in the count."
The Cubs, who rank second-to-last with a .240 team average and a 4.48 team ERA, tied the game in the seventh and took the lead for good later in the frame. That made a winner of Peralta (4-1), who had only factored in a decision once in his past eight relief appearances.
He has appeared in 17 Florida State League contests for the Cubs this season, including a pair of spot starts in late May. But the Cubs would like to see him stay in a middle relief role, especially coming into situations where he can try to get two outs with one pitch.
"We will try to keep him in the bullpen and let him be effective for three or four innings at a time," Keller said. "He's excelling in that role. He's a creature of habit and this makes it easier for him to pitch.
"Some guys get really fired up and others are overcalm. It just depends on the individual, it's a personal thing. He's very calm, but inside, you know the fire is burning bright. It's heavy and it's hot and he wants to do well."