It might not be fashionable for a player to admit he went to the plate swinging for a home run. But when the opportunity presented itself to Brett Phillips on Thursday, he went for it.
Phillips hit the final blast of back-to-back-to-back home runs in the third inning while No. 8 Astros prospect Vincent Velasquez struck out a career-high 11 as Class A Advanced Lancaster throttled High Desert, 12-0. The right fielder finished a single shy of the cycle.
"I've never been a part of a back-to-back home run-type deal like that," said Phillips, whose solo shot followed homers by Austin Elkins and Tanner Mathis. "[Elkins] just got a good piece of one that went out to left-center. Then Mathis comes up, hits one right-center. I come up to bat and was basically trying to hit a home run. Something like that doesn't come along that often.
"I think everyone in that position tries to go for that home run."
With four runs already home in the frame, Phillips connected on a 1-2 offering by Mavericks starter Jake Zokan and deposited it behind the right-field wall. The JetHawks erupted for 19 hits in the rout.
"This is a great way to get out of a bad slump that we had the past four or five games, leaving a lot of runners on base," Phillips said. "As a team, it feels great that we were able to capitalize tonight and do what they did the past two games as well. They put a pretty good hurting on us yesterday."
After falling in the first two games of their three-game series, including Wednesday's 13-2 defeat, the JetHawks handed starter Velasquez a 10-run cushion by the end of the third.
"Vince started the tone for us. He threw a heck of a game," Phillips said. "Tonight's a good stepping stone. We're getting close to the playoffs, so we need to keep that winning mode going."
Velasquez set down the High Desert side in order in the first and worked around Chantz Mack's two-out and Tim Lopes' single in the second.
"He was lights-out. In that first inning, I think he went three up, three down, and it just gives you the momentum going into your at-bats as a team," Phillips said. "When you give him a cushion like that, there's no telling what he can do on the mound when he's feeling himself like that and mowing guys down. He threw great and I hope he continues to do what he's doing because it's working."
Velasquez (6-2) allowed three hits and two walks and hit a batter. The right-hander struck out the side in the second and fifth and fanned at least one batter in each of his six frames.
Phillips, who boosted his California League average to .390 on his three-hit day, wasn't the only one vying for the cycle as Mathis came up a double shy.
"I've been blessed this whole year," Phillips said. "As of right now, all I'm trying to do is finish strong. I'm not trying to do too much. I haven't been trying to do too much all year, which takes a lot of stress off your shoulders. The past two weeks here have been great. It's great guys, great teammates here and in [Class A] Quad Cities. If you would've told me I'm having the year I am now at the beginning of the season, I probably would've told you that you were a liar. It's just been awesome. It's a great step for my career."
Zokan (2-2) was charged with 10 runs on 12 hits in 2 2/3 innings in the defeat.