With Las Vegas playoff bound and the end of the season just days away, it's a nice time to have a hot hitter in the lineup. In Kevin Plawecki, the 51s certainly have that.
The Mets' No. 2 prospect turned in his first multi-homer game since 2012 and set a career high with four hits as Triple-A Las Vegas downed Round Rock, 8-3, on Wednesday. He also caught a strong outing by the team's top prospect, Noah Syndergaard, who picked up the win after limiting the Express to one run over 6 2/3 innings.
The right-handed hitter raised his average to .304 in 40 Triple-A games. He's hit five homers with the 51s and a career-best 11 homers on the season after opening with six in 58 games with Double-A Binghamton.
"I'm just getting good pitches to hit, keeping my same approach," Plawecki said. "I'm getting pitches I'm able to drive, not getting outside of my zone, not chasing pitches."
The backstop hit his first homer in the second inning. Following a leadoff single by Taylor Teagarden, Plawecki drove a pitch over the wall in left field to give Las Vegas a 2-0 lead.
He struck again in the bottom of the fifth. Hitting leadoff, Plawecki drove a pitch out to left-center field to stretch the 51s' lead to 6-1.
The 23-year-old also lined singles to right in the third and the seventh, although he was picked off after the latter hit.
Plawecki got off to a slow start after a late June promotion from Double-A, going 2-for-23 in his first eight games. He figured out the level quickly enough, though, and has been red hot of late -- in his past 13 games, he's hitting .440 with eight multi-hit performances.
"You have to have a little luck in this game," he said. "I just focus on trying to hit it hard. I try to do that every time, just hit it hard. Wherever it goes, it goes. If it finds a hole, great, but if not, I did all I could. The first week or two up here, I thought I had some good at-bats, but I wasn't finding any holes.
"It was just a matter of staying with my approach and sticking with it. Try to stay as positive as I could. I didn't get too down on myself, because it can kind of be a tumble effect. I didn't want to spiral downhill too much. I knew better days were ahead."
The Purdue product was the 35th overall pick in the 2012 Draft. After debuting with short-season Brooklyn, Plawecki split 2013 between Class A Savannah and Class A Advanced St. Lucie, hitting .305 with an .838 OPS. The catcher also drew positive reviews for his defense behind the plate, especially his ability to juggle predominantly Spanish-speaking pitching staffs in the lower levels.
Syndergaard (9-7) scattered seven hits and a walk while striking out nine. The right-hander lowered his Triple-A ERA to 4.67.
"He had great command," Plawecki said. "He had great poise on the mound, and he was hitting his spots really well. It's really important with any pitcher, but especially with a guy like him who's throwing 97 to 99. It's easy when you throw hard, but it's another thing, especially when you throw hard, to spot it up.
"He had the curve and the change working as well. When he has two pitches, he can have a good outing, but having three makes it fun and makes for dominant performances like he had tonight."
August has been the right-hander's best month this season. He sports a 3.34 ERA in six starts with 44 strikeouts in 35 innings.
"One thing they've been working on with him is keeping his tempo up," Plawecki said. "Tonight and in the past few starts, he's been better with that. It's not an easy thing to change. It's not an overnight thing. I think he's done a great job trying to adjust to that.
"He had great tempo to the game and confidence. When he does that, it makes it a lot of fun and he can put up those numbers every night if he keeps up that tempo and that focus like tonight."