Two-strike counts are supposed to play into the pitcher's favor. Someone forgot to tell Cristian Pache.
MLB.com's No. 17 overall prospect recorded his first four-hit game of the season on Friday night, going 4-for-4 with a double in Double-A Mississippi's 4-1 loss to Jacksonville at Trustmark Park.
Video: Braves' Pache singles for fourth hit
Pache entered the game hitting .231 in May, but coinciding with the recent weather, he's been hot the last eight contests -- going 12-for-34 (.353) with three multi-hit efforts -- to raise his season average to .295.
The top-ranked Braves prospect doubled to left field in the first inning off right-hander and Marlins No. 22 prospect Robert Dugger. With one out in the third and down 0-2 in the count, he singled to left off the Jumbo Shrimp starter. Facing Dugger again with two outs in the fifth, Pache lined a 2-2 pitch into right for another base hit.
"It was good for him," Braves hitting coach Carlos Mendez said. "First pitch, double in the gap and his next two hits were with two strikes. He's an aggresive hitter, likes to drive the ball. He's learning that with two strikes, you can still do damage.
"He went through a tough stretch," he added, referring to the 10-for-48 stretch Pache endured during the first two weeks of May. "But he puts his head down and works harder, and we are seeing results."
Gameday box score
In the eighth, the 20-year-old outfielder dropped a one-out single -- again with two strikes -- into shallow center field against right-handed reliever Tyler Stevens. It was his fourth career four-hit game and first since July 3 with Class A Advanced Florida.
"I'm big on being a two-strike hitter," said Mendez, who is in his 12th season with the Braves organization. "I don't want to strike out. I want guys to compete. If you're facing a good pitcher, he will make a mistake. You have to be ready.
"Sometimes [Pache] tries to do much -- swings for the fences -- and puts himself in a bad situation. With two strikes, it's a gap-to-gap approach. He has quick hands. He has to learn to trust his hands early in the count, too. When he minimizes movements, stays short to the ball, he will hit into the gaps."
The native of the Dominican Republic is in his fourth Minor League season and sports a .287/.329/.392 slash line. He also has speed (56 career steals), but Mendez pointed out there's room for improvement.
"Learn from mistakes, correct those mistakes," said Mendez, who played 16 seasons in the Minor Leagues and spent 26 games in the Majors with the Orioles in 2003. "Pache has all the ability in the world. Defensively, he can play center field in the big leagues now -- for any team.
"He has to make adjustments at the plate. He has to grow in his baserunning. If he stays healthy, don't worry about tomorrow, I tell him; tomorrow will take care of itself."
2019 MiLB include
Coming off a no-hitter and making his Double-A debut, Braves No. 25 prospect Jasseel De La Cruz (0-1) allowed four runs on six hits and three walks in five innings. He struck out four.
Marlins No. 24 prospect Bryson Brigman had two hits and an RBI for Jacksonville, while Magneuris Sierra chipped in two hits and scored once. Stone Garrett added an RBI triple and a double.
Dugger (5-5) won his fourth straight start. He scattered five hits and a walk while allowing one run over seven innings. With eight punchouts, he tied Pensacola's Jorge Alcala for third on the circuit with 55. Dylan Lee pitched a 1-2-3 ninth for his fifth save.