Hedges goes yard in fifth straight game

Padres catcher has homered seven times over his last nine games

With nine home runs, Austin Hedges is just one shy of matching a career high he set in 2012. (David Calvert/Reno Aces)

By Michael Avallone / MiLB.com | June 27, 2016 1:26 AM

Austin Hedges has gone deep so often lately, he figured he would end suspense about when his next dinger would come early in Sunday's contest.

The San Diego catcher launched a three-run homer in the first inning -- his fifth consecutive contest with a long ball -- to lead Triple-A El Paso to a 7-4 win over Reno in the first game of Sunday's doubleheader. He drove in a fourth run with a sacrifice fly in the fifth.

"I got a fastball up and in," Hedges said. "The situation was second and third and one out, so I was just trying to get a pitch up in the zone to at least get a run in. I was able to run into that one pretty good."

Top Padres prospect Manny Margot and No. 14 Carlos Asuaje singled to start the game. After a popout, Hedges took D-backs' No. 14 prospect Anthony Banda over the wall in left-center field for his ninth home run of the season. The 23-year-old has homered seven times in his last nine games and is hitting .500 with 16 RBIs in that span. He flied out to right in his remaining three plate appearances, including the sacrifice fly. 

"I have high expectations for myself," Hedges said. "I'm not necessarily trying to hit home runs. I'm just trying to drive the ball. I expect to do good things with the bat and it's been nice to see." 

The California native's hot stretch began after he was on the disabled list from April 22-June 9 following surgery to repair a hamate bone fracture he sustained just 10 games into the season. San Diego's second-round pick in the 2011 Draft has had little trouble with Triple-A pitching so far, slashing .346/.407/.642 with 11 home runs and 42 RBIs in 47 games with El Paso spread across two seasons. In between, the backstop appeared in 56 Major League games with the Padres in 2015, hitting .168 in 137 at-bats and learned how to become a more well-rounded player.

"The biggest thing I took from it was having a consistent routine each day," Hedges said. "Show up at the field, prepare myself both physically and mentally. I learned a lot by watching and listening from other teammates, and I'm trying to apply that to my game."

Eric Yardley allowed three runs -- one earned -- on seven hits in 4 1/3 frames. He fanned two and didn't walk a batter in his first career start. Leonel Campos (2-1) retired two batters with a walk and a strikeout over two-thirds of an inning to earn the win.

Banda (0-1) was tagged for seven runs -- six earned -- on seven hits and two walks with four strikeouts over five frames in his Triple-A debut.

Reno rallied to a 6-4 victory in the nightcap on a two-run homer by No. 9 D-backs prospect Gabriel Guerrero to earn a split of the doubleheader. Dominic Leone (4-1) struck out one in a perfect inning for the win.

Hector Sanchez, who caught the night game for the Chihuahuas, went deep twice and drove in three runs in the second game.

Michael Avallone is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @MavalloneMiLB This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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