As Zack Collins and his Double-A Birmingham teammates commiserated after Friday's 18-2 win over Montgomery, a debate brewed: What's more rare, a no-hitter or two home runs in an inning?
A two-homer inning has happened 60 times in the modern era at the Major League level, while there have been 256 no-hitters, meaning what Collins accomplished on Friday is pretty darn special.
The eighth-ranked White Sox prospect homered twice in the ninth inning, including his first grand slam, and collected a career-high six RBIs in the final frame as the Barons pulled away for an 18-2 pounding of Montgomery at Montgomery Riverwalk Stadium.
Video: Collins belts grand slam for Barons
With one out and Joel Booker on first base in the ninth, the 23-year-old catcher thumped a two-run homer to right-center field on a 1-1 offering from Dalton Moats. Keon Barnum victimized Moats again with a two-out grand slam and, three batters later, Collins stepped in against Daniel De La Calle with the bases reloaded. He saw seven pitches, smacking a 2-2 offering out of the yard in right to give the Barons 10 runs in the frame.
De La Calle is a catcher who went to Florida State University, the fierce rival of Collins' alma mater, Miami. Smacking a grand slam off a Seminole was just icing on the cake .
"I wanted to get him," Collins said. "It's kind of weird because you don't want to give yourself too much credit when you hit it off a position player, but at the same time he was throwing 92 with sink. I was like, 'What is he doing?' But you still got to hit, and it felt good."
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It was the first time a Barons player whacked two balls over the fence in the same inning since Lee Cruz accomplished the feat in the sixth on July 24, 2008 against Mississippi.
Collins finished 3-for-6, marking his third game with three hits this season.
The 2016 first-rounder is batting .248 with a .828 OPS in 105 games with the Barons, and his 14 homers are five shy of the career high he set last year when he appeared in 12 Double-A games after hitting .223/.365/.443 in 101 games for Class A Advanced Winston-Salem.
"He's definitely got a ton of power," Barons hitting coach Cole Armstrong said. "Man, when he gets going it's pretty special to watch, there's no question."
Regarded by MLB Pipeline as a plus power hitter from the left side, the former Hurricane can get off-balance at the plate. He leads the league with 91 walks but also is fourth with 134 strikeouts. Collins has not been seen as a superb game caller or receiver, but he's put even more emphasis on that part of his game and is pleased with the development.
"I go into the cage every day and receive balls from the machine and have meetings with the pitching coaches about how we're going to attack certain guys and stuff like that," he said. "I also spend a lot of time talking to the pitching in BP, asking what are their goals and what they want to do for that certain day. ... Just knowing what the game plan is before the guy steps on the mound is a huge part of my success defensively this year, and I think just controlling the game and having confidence in each other is a big thing, too."
Armstrong, who spent 10 seasons in the Minors as a catcher, has noticed the same.
"I think we've seen a little bit more commitment from Zack to the position," he said. "He's started to understand the commitment that it takes to your guys and to your pitchers on a daily basis.
"He's putting the extra effort in and realizing how important that part of the game for his progression and getting to Chicago. I think he's really put his best foot forward and really committed to putting the work in to being a great defensive catcher."
Barnum homered twice and also plated six runs. Armstrong did not mince words with his praise of the 25-year-old first baseman.
"He's got as much power as I've seen with anyone in the game, and I truly mean that," Armstrong said. "He's still a young guy and he's had some ups and downs throughout his career, but watching him, especially in the second half of this year, he's matured as a hitter. ... I really think we're starting to see some maturity in his game and his at-bats and like I said, it's prodigious power. It's real, real power."
Alex Call walked three times and scored four runs in the Barons' 13-hit showing. Birmingham walloped a franchise-record seven homers and plated all 18 of runs via the long ball.
"It was a pretty special night, so we'll savor this one for awhile," Armstrong said.
No. 5 White Sox prospect Dylan Cease (3-0) picked up his first decision since July 25, allowing one run on two hits and five walks while striking out six over 5 2/3 innings. His ERA sits at 1.94 in eight starts since being promoted to Birmingham on June 25. He was 9-2 with a 2.89 ERA and 82 strikeouts in 13 starts for Winston-Salem.