Veteran Craig busts out with career day

El Paso first baseman goes 5-for-5 with two homers and five RBIs

Allen Craig has notched an .885 OPS in 70 Pacific Coast League games this season. (Ivan Pierre Aguirre/El Paso Chihuahuas)

By Kelsie Heneghan / | July 25, 2018 8:38 PM

Allen Craig stepped into the box in the seventh inning, a triple shy of the cycle.

Knowing he hasn't had many three-baggers, the first baseman put the potential milestone to the back of his mind (though not completely out of it). After swinging through a cutter, the cleanup hitter was in a 1-2 hole.

"I just told myself not to be late again," he said "And to be ready to drive the ball."

He was right on time. Craig didn't cycle, but he did connect for his second long ball of the game en route to a career day at the plate. The San Diego farmhand went 5-for-5 while tying a personal best with five RBIs in Triple-A El Paso's 9-1 win at Colorado Springs on Wednesday.

Gameday box score

"It was good to come out and put up some runs ... just glad to be in the lineup and glad to produce for the team," he said. "I was just glad to have good at-bats and put the barrel on the ball a couple times."

Video: Craig swats second jack for El Paso

Craig admits he was a little slow out of the gate following the All-Star Break, going 4-for-23 with one RBI in seven games. He hadn't had a three-hit game in a month. But Wednesday could be the start of a big second half.

The 34-year-old quickly asserted himself in the matinee, ripping a two-run double to center field in the first inning. Two frames later, Craig slugged his 11th jack of the campaign to right-center.

"It's always good to jump on a team early," he said. "With guys in scoring position, I was just trying to use the middle of the field and got that ball up in the air a little bit and traveled. Just glad to get those guys in."

MiLB include

Craig added a single to center in the fifth to move him a triple shy of the cycle. But with the two-run shot to left in the seventh, he made his own personal history. It marked the Berkeley product's first multi-homer game since 2012, when he amassed three of them across Triple-A and the Majors with the Cardinals.

After battling a slew of injuries -- including ankle, oblique and knee issues -- the past few seasons, Craig has settled in with the Chihuahuas, allowing him to find his power stroke once again. The Southern California native has 13 home runs for the first time since the 2013 season with St. Louis.

"I feel like [the power's] coming back, working on getting back to that approach of really trying to drive the ball in the air to all fields and it's working out so far," he said. "I've hit some home runs and doubles, so it's been good."

Craig capped the big afternoon with a single to left in the eighth for his first career five-hit contest.

"I flipped that one in there, broke my bat and sometimes things just come together for you in a day. It takes a little bit of luck to finish out a really strong day. I had a good approach on that pitch and just got enough of it," he said. "Hopefully this game can jumpstart things for the last month of the season, so I'm looking forward to that."

Video: El Paso's Craig gets fifth hit

Two years after a "surprise" trade from the Cardinals to the Red Sox at the deadline, Craig finds himself in his third organization. While another system swap is in the back of his mind, he is focusing on the opportunities the Padres have provided him, like helping younger players who are just coming up.

El Paso plays home to two of San Diego's top four prospects in Francisco Mejia -- who contributed a sacrifice fly and a walk -- and Luis Urias, who singled and scored three times.

"That's been a big part of this season for me is trying to pass on stuff to the younger guys," Craig said. "It's not something like I go around, telling everybody what to do and whatnot, but just really enjoy talking about the game and the different experiences that I've had and mistakes I've made.

"Anything I could do to help these guys improve as ballplayers, I'm obviously willing to do that. We talk about the game a lot. So it's been a great year in that regard."

With his latest contest, Craig is hitting .299/.373/.512 with 27 extra-base hits and 52 RBIs in 70 games. While it's been his best offensive output since his days with the Cardinals, the 2011 World Series champ isn't worried about when he'll return to The Show.

"It'd be great to get back to the big leagues at some point, but it's not something that I'm really focusing on every day," he said. "I'm just trying to take it one day at a time and focus in on what I'm doing down here. We have a great group of guys down here, great teammates, a lot of talent down here, so I'm just trying to make the most of every opportunity that I have down here and whatever happens, happens."

Kelsie Heneghan is a contributor to Follow her on Twitter @Kelsie_Heneghan. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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