Looking back at 10 best games from 2019

Relive the most memorable contests of Minor League season

By Duane Cross / MiLB.com | December 5, 2019 10:00 AM

From Opening Day through the final championship game, MiLB.com chronicled the top on-field achievements throughout the 2019 season. This week we're looking back and rolling out the 10 best games as voted by our staff. Below is the fully updated list:

10. Lux, Garlick more than OK for OKC

Video: Dodgers' Lux lifts homer for fourth hit

No. 2 overall prospect Gavin Lux got off to a torrid start with Oklahoma City, penning a 16-game hit streak with the Triple-A Dodgers. However, his gaudiest numbers may have come July 18 in an 18-5 win against Iowa, when he posted his first career five-hit game.

Lux went 5-for-6 with two doubles, a roundtripper and three RBIs as he raised his average to .531 while extending his hit streak to 15 games. It also marked his fifth straight game with a homer.

"We haven't seen someone be this hot before," Oklahoma City skipper Travis Barbary told MiLB.com. "Even my hitting coach Scott Coolbaugh said he hasn't seen a hitter on a run like this. In the gap, out of the park, all over the place -- if he gets his pitch, he's not gonna miss it."

The left-handed slugger finished the season batting .392/.478/.719 across 199 at-bats with OKC. He was called up to the bigs on Sept. 2.

Kyle Garlick, who made his Major League debut on May 19, added his second three-homer effort of the season. He cleared the wall in left field in the third and seventh frames before blasting his third long ball to center in the ninth.

Garlick's first three-homer game came May 5 at New Orleans. He was one of four Minor League players with a pair of three-dinger games in 2019, joining Reno's Kevin Cron, Syracuse's Rene Rivera and Salt Lake's Jared Walsh.

9. Lehigh Valley/Rochester launch 15 homers

Video: IronPigs' Rodriguez smacks second homer

Gusting winds and Triple-A sluggers are a mix for excitement. So it was extra special on April 13 when the IronPigs and Red Wings obliterated the single-game record of eight combined homers at Frontier Field, smashing 15 long balls.

Ten different batters hit dingers as Lehigh Valley eked out a 20-18 victory in 10 innings. Phillies farmhands Jan Hernandez, Dylan Cozens, Andrew Romine and Sean Rodriguez went deep twice, while Mitch Walding added one for the IronPigs. The Rochester homers came from Zander Wiel (two), Wynston Sawyer, Wilin Rosario, eighth-ranked Twins prospect Brent Rooker and Ronald Torreyes.

It was the only multi-homer game of the season for Hernandez, Cozens and Rodriguez. Lehigh Valley's nine taters topped the previous franchise single-game record of five.

Rochester estimated the 15 homers traveled a combined 1.1 miles (5,919 feet).

8. Anderson fans 14 in Mississippi no-no

Video: Braves' Ian Anderson chalks up 14th K

Braves right-hander Ian Anderson helped author the 16th of 31 no-hitters thrown in 2019, punching out 14 batters across seven frames on June 28 as Double-A Mississippi blanked Jackson, 2-0.

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The gem came just hours after MLB.com's No. 31 overall prospect was named to the All-Star Futures Game. He struck out the side in the first and fifth innings, tallied two punchouts in the second, fourth and seventh frames, and posted one each in the third and sixth. While tossing 103 pitches, 66 for strikes, Anderson also struck out No. 54 overall prospect Jazz Chisholm three times. Jeremy Walker fanned two over the final two innings to finish the no-hitter.

Anderson told MiLB.com that his teammates did not talk about the no-no while he was on the bump, but admitted, "After I came out, I was breaking the rules. In the eighth, I was talking to anyone, everyone."

7. Rohlman's walk-off blast lands Legends second straight crown

Video: Rohlman's homer gives Lexington title

Royals prospect Reed Rohlman lived every kid's sandlot dream: a game-winning dinger for all the marbles. On Sept. 13, the third-year prospect helped Class A Lexington walk off with its second straight South Atlantic League championship, stroking a two-out, two-run homer in the bottom of the 13th inning as the Legends clipped Hickory, 3-1.

Lexington took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the sixth on Nathan Eaton's RBI single. However, Hickory answered in the top of the seventh, knotting the score with Pedro Gonzalez's solo homer.

That set the stage for Rohlman's extra-inning heroics. Eric Cole walked to lead off the bottom of the 13th before Chris Hudgins whiffed and Eaton flew out to left field. Facing Crawdads right-hander Tyree Thompson, Rohlman lofted an 0-1 offering over the wall in right field for the pennant-clincher.

"That game just completely epitomizes our whole season, these guys not giving up the entire season," Legends skipper Brook Conrad told MiLB.com. "They fought their hearts out until the last out of every game. This game going so long, the ups and the downs, both teams playing so hard, it was just an outstanding feeling."

6. RailRiders' epic rally leads to IL North title

Video: Kratz's double gives RailRiders the lead

Scranton/Wilkes-Barre needed late-game heroics to extend its postseason streak to five straight seasons. On Sept. 3, the Triple-A RailRiders scored eight times in the bottom of the eighth and held on for a 14-13 win against Syracuse in an International League North Division tiebreaker game.

The Mets scored five times in the top of the first inning and were up 7-1 entering the bottom of the seventh. SWB's Kyle Higashioka led off the home-half of the frame with a homer to spark a five-run outburst. However, Syracuse responded with a six-spot in the top of the eighth.

Trailing 13-6, Higashioka again jumpstarted a rally with a lead-off long ball, his third multi-homer game of the IL season. After the RailRiders batted around, he worked a six-pitch walk before being lifted for pinch-runner Terrance Gore. With Mandy Alvarez on third, Gore swiped second base ahead of Erik Kratz's two-run double, which proved to be the game-winner.

"We were no-hit through the first three, and then we finally got a hit and put runs together and made a game of it," RailRiders manager Jay Bell told MiLB.com. "It was an ugly game, but at the same time, it was fun to be a part of."

5. DSL Yanks set scoring record in 38-2 win

The Yankees set a whole new level of offensive outburst, routing the DSL Twins on July 3 as each Baby Bombers batter had at least two hits, including four apiece for Alex Garcia, Mauro Bonifacio, and Brayan Jimenez, who had four doubles and drove in seven runs.

While tallying 31 hits, including 17 for extra bases, the Yankees scored in every inning except the first and batted around in five different frames. The Yankees were 31-for-62 (.500) and left 26 runners on base.

Oddly enough, 18-year-old righty Luis Velasquez picked up a save. He allowed three hits and walked three while striking out seven across four innings.

The previous Minor League record for runs in a game was held by Rookie Advanced Ogden, which whipped Helena, 33-10, on Aug. 27, 1995, in a Pioneer League matchup.

4. Reno's Tomas homers four times as Szczur cycles

Video: Aces' Tomas slugs four homers

On May 20, the Triple-A Aces scored 25 runs against Tacoma, spurred by Yasmany Tomas' career-high four long balls and eight RBIs. The Arizona prospect's effort was bolstered by Matt Szczur's 4-for-6 showing that included hitting for the cycle.

Tomas put Reno ahead with a three-run blast in the first inning and followed up with a solo shot in the third. In the fifth, Tomas had an RBI single and a two-run dinger as part of the Aces' nine-run outburst. He capped his night with a solo homer in the eighth.

"He was looking to be aggressive early on a pitch he could do damage to, and he was fortunate enough that each home run was on a first-pitch fastball," Reno hitting coach Jason Camilli told MiLB.com. "He didn't waste any time and was ready to go. I love his aggressiveness. … When he's on time, he can leave [the yard] every at-bat."

Szczur's feat came four days after being activated from the seven-day injured list for an oblique injury. He homered to left-center in the first frame, doubled to left field in the fifth, slapped a single to center field an inning later, and capped his night with a two-out triple to right in the seventh.

"I didn't say a thing [before his final at-bat], just wanted him to go out there and have a good at-bat," Camilli told MiLB.com. "Of course, I'm praying he hits it in the perfect spot where he can use his wheels. The chances of that happening are slim to none, and he did it. To his credit, he got a pitch he could work with, and he put it in the exact spot he could easily leg out for a triple."

3. Trammell's slam leads Sod Poodles to title

Video: Amarillo's Trammell blasts go-ahead slam

Entering the ninth inning down 3-1, the Padres' Double-A affiliate was three outs from losing the Texas League championship to Tulsa for the second straight season. Four batters later, the Sod Poodles had a 5-3 lead en route to an 8-3 victory in the series-clinching game on Sept. 15.

With the bases loaded and facing right-handed reliever Nolan Long, Taylor Trammell blasted a 2-2 pitch over the right-field wall. The homer launched one of the year's most memorable tater trots and sparked Amarillo's seven-run outburst.

"That was my fourth time facing [Long] -- he's walked me one time, and he struck me out and struck me out, so I had to be dialed in," Trammell told MiLB.com. "I know what he's got, I know he's a really good pitcher. I just got a really good pitch."

Acquired from the Reds in a three-team deal at the Trade Deadline, Trammell was overwhelmed after the championship game.

"This is awesome for me," MLB.com's No. 28 overall prospect said, "because I've been in pro ball for three years, for four seasons, and out of those four seasons, I've been there three times, I've come in second twice and the last inning, I was like, 'I'm not losing another one.'"

Last year, Tulsa topped San Antonio for the title before the team relocated to Amarillo.

2. El Paso breaks homer record with walk-off slam

Video: Quiroz hammers a pinch-hit, walk-off grand slam

Trailing 12-5 entering the ninth inning, Triple-A El Paso rapped out eight hits and scored 10 runs, capped by pinch-hitter Esteban Quiroz's one-out, walk-off grand slam. It was a small celebration that provided a moment of escape for a community reeling from tragedy.

The game came six days after a mass shooting at a local Walmart that killed 22 and injured 24 others. Before the game, Chihuahuas manager Edwin Rodriguez and several players spent more than an hour at the University Medical Center of El Paso visiting with the families of those who lost their lives.

"The players that stayed here, they were asking us about what happened, how that was, how the family and relatives were doing and all that," Rodriguez told MiLB.com. "So I think we had that in mind when we were taking the field.

"The community is hurt ... that's the least we can do for them," he added. "We can give them good times in the stadium."

Quiroz's game-winning dinger was El Paso's 232nd homer of the season, eclipsing the mark set in 1999 by the Omaha Golden Spikes.

1. Lake Elsinore completes comeback for the ages

On Aug. 14, Lancaster led visiting Lake Elsinore, 13-3, going into the ninth inning. Two outs later, the Storm managed to get a runner to second base but stood on the verge of a blowout loss at The Hangar. Between 1957 and 2018, there had been 157 similar Major League games played -- runner on second, two outs, visitors down 10. The home team won all 157. 

This one would be different.

"The beauty of baseball is that in life we need hope, and I love baseball and how it provides hope," Storm play-by-play announcer Sean McCall said. "I'm a big fan of 'play 27 outs,' and I love the quote from Dumb and Dumber with Jim Carrey. We've all heard it: 'So you're telling me there's a chance.'

"Going into the final [commercial] break, I always say, 'Storm needs two to tie or three for the lead or four,' whatever it happens to be," he said. "Well, in this case, it's 10 to tie and 11 for the lead. It seemed futile, down to the last out and 26 in the books, but there was still this element of in Lancaster anything can happen."

Video: The Comeback Kids of Lake Elsinore

What happened was anything but routine. In the fateful frame, an Allen Cordoba single was sandwiched between two outs. Then, 11 straight batters reached base -- six hits, including one double, and five walks -- as Lake Elsinore stormed back. The final two runs were charged to 20th-ranked Rockies prospect Tommy Doyle, who led the California League in saves (19). He was touched for three hits and a walk in one-third of an inning.

"In a long baseball season, especially in the California League -- and in Lancaster, where we have very favorable conditions for hitters -- we deal with games like that all the time," said Jason Schwartz, the voice of the JetHawks since 2012. "A nine-run inning or a 12-2 score is not unusual at all."

Schwartz also noted he would not change anything about his call throughout the game.

"I wouldn't take that back in a second," he added. "I didn't say, 'Hey, we for sure won this game.' You're just kind of rolling with the punches. This is what the game is giving you. I'm just doing my job to articulate what I think someone watching or listening to the game is thinking.

"It was kind of just your average everyday game, and then the ninth inning. ... It's just an incredible comeback with all the odds stacked against them. Seven times the batters had two strikes before the third out. As far as comebacks go, it's definitely at the top."

But the 10-spot only tied the game. Lancaster failed to score in the home half of the ninth. In the 10th, Lake Elsinore took the lead and held on by the seat of its pants.

"We had a chance to win it in the bottom of the ninth and then again in the bottom of the 10th," Schwartz said. "That's what's crazy about this game: This insane comeback happened, and yet [Lake Elsinore] still could have lost."


Gameday box score


McCall remembered there wasn't time to revel in the moment.

"In the ninth, you still have to get three outs against the top hitting team in the league," he said. "It started off with a leadoff walk. Well, Lancaster showed bunt, and Luke Morgan pulled back and swung away and hit into a double play -- a huge, huge double play. Then, in the top of the 10th, [No. 12 Padres prospect] Tirso Ornelas drives in a run, and now you have the lead you still need to get three more outs."

Lancaster paced the Cal League with a .271 batting average. Lake Elsinore's 3.34 ERA led the circuit. The stage was set for optimum drama.

"Lancaster had two outs and a runner at first, and now they had the task of trying to rally -- and it nearly happened," McCall said. "They're down to their last strike, and then there was a strikeout-wild pitch, and that brought up league co-MVP Luis Castro. He had two strikes, and Fred Schlichtholz hit him. Now, the bases are loaded, and it brings up Casey Golden, the league's home run leader.

"I'm thinking, 'Oh, well.' Golden had already homered in the game, so he hits a fly ball to center field that [Padres No. 19 prospect] Jeisson Rosario goes back on near the 410 mark and he starts to lose his balance. As he's falling to the ground, he makes this catch and hangs onto the baseball. That's how it ended. If it were a windy night, it would have been a walk-off slam, denying one of the greatest comebacks in the history of professional baseball. It turned out to be an F8 on the warning track."

As memorable as the 10-run inning was, McCall said two 10th-inning sprinkler delays should not be overlooked.

"What I didn't ask about the next day was, 'Who was the culprit?' Who says, 'Hey, I can get us a rainout,'" McCall said with a laugh. "It happened in left field and [the umpires] go out, and they look at it, and they're like, 'OK, it's still playable.' And then there was one that went off in center field.

"The key there was our reliever [Schlichtholz], who's dialed in and trying to get an out. His job is to stay in the moment, and lo and behold here come the sprinklers."

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Schlichtholz tossed 28 pitches --16 for strikes -- across two innings to pick up his only win of the season.

"Fred had to grind through it," McCall said. "He pitched through some trouble -- the strikeout-wild pitch, the hit-by-pitch and then the cleanup hitter comes up, and it's an F8 that ends the game ... a sigh of relief."

One underlying storyline was that Lake Elsinore and Lancaster were battling for a postseason berth. Entering the game, the JetHawks had won the previous five matchups.

"We were in a playoff race with Lake Elsinore," Schwartz noted. "I remember on that broadcast, I'm just talking about what was going to come next -- here's how many games they lead by, here is what they're looking at moving into the final stretch of the season because we had a lot of games with Lake Elsinore down the stretch.

"I remember saying at some point something like, 'This bodes well moving forward. The JetHawks are handling the Storm and playing well against them. If they continue to play like this, it's going to be an easy road to the playoffs,'" he added. "That was kind of the vibe at that point in the game."

Instead, Lake Elsinore went 11-7 the rest of the way and took seven of nine against Lancaster, to clinch a playoff berth. The Storm rolled through Rancho Cucamonga in the first round before losing the California League championship to Visalia in four games.

"My mom passed a few years ago, and she would have been 82 on Aug. 14," McCall said. "Well, the Storm put up 14 on Aug. 14. So, whether my mom was smiling or not from up above, I hope that she was enjoying the thrill of victory. Those players will never forget it, and the coaches won't forget it, and I won't forget it."

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

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