Brentz goes boom, plates five runs

Top Red Sox prospect falls triple shy of cycle in Sea Dogs win

By Andrew Pentis / Special to | August 5, 2012 2:43 PM

Early into the fifth month of his first Double-A season, Bryce Brentz is right on time.

In four games since Portland batting coach Dave Joppie taught him his "knee cock" mechanism -- literally lifting his front foot and planting it in the dirt pre-swing -- Brentz has collected eight hits in 15 at-bats.

The top-ranked Red Sox prospect went 3-for-5, collecting his 15th homer of the season and a career-high five RBIs on Sunday in the Sea Dogs' 11-2 victory over the visiting Erie SeaWolves.

"[Joppie and I] have been working on staying on the baseball, not trying to go out and get the ball. I've been rolling over or just missing 'em," said Brentz, who saw a steady dose of off-speed pitches during a 3-for-19 skid that preceded his improvement. "This is working. We're going to keep going with it."

The righty-hitting right fielder smacked an RBI single toward center field in the first inning, a run-scoring double to left in the second and a three-run homer over the left-field fence in the fourth. He recorded the three hits on a total of four pitches.

"It's being selectively aggressive," said Brentz, who grounded out to the pitcher in the fifth and flew out to center in the seventh -- both on empty counts -- to complete his 3-for-5 day. "If it's the first pitch, I am going to swing if I'm ready for it."

Brentz had four four-RBI games in his three-year career, most recently when he struck a grand slam in a June 12 loss at Bowie.

With his step forward this week, the 36th overall pick in the 2010 Draft, has increased his batting average to .282, the highest it's been in three weeks. His 15 homers and 61 RBIs in 105 games pale in comparison to his 2011 totals (30 and 94 in 115), but he is unfazed.

"As we wind it down, if it ended today, it would be a success," he said of his season to date. "I have always been deemed a free swinger, but I didn't have an approach and that cost me in April. I don't have it all figured out, but now I am starting to command the strike zone and have a better idea of what pitches I can hit and what pitches I can't. It's helped turn me around."

Right-handed knuckleballer Steven Wright (10-6) pitched six innings of one-run ball for the SeaDogs in his organizational debut. Wright, who gave up five hits, was acquired from the Indians in a non-waiver deal before the trade deadline deal for first baseman Lars Anderson. He had been pitching for the Akron Aeros and struck out Brentz on four pitches in last month's Eastern League All-Star Game.

"Obviously, I saw him in the All-Star Game and he is not easy to hit," Brentz said of Wright, whose Eastern League ERA (2.44) ranks second on the circuit. "For the first time seeing him pitch a whole game, he was very impressive [being able to] command the knuckleball for strikes."

Rehabbing Red Sox closer Andrew Bailey replaced Wright in the seventh and gave up a run on three hits. Bailey, who underwent thumb surgery in April and has yet to pitch in Boston, made two Gulf Coast League appearances jumping up to Double-A. He threw 16 of his 26 pitches for strikes and, according to he Sea Dogs, peaked at 94 mph on the radar gun.

Third baseman Marquez Smith went 4-for-4 and scored three runs and designated hitter Jeremy Hazelbaker went 3-for-3 and crossed the plate three times for Portland.

SeaWolves starter James Avery (10-9), who yielded Brentz's first two base knocks, was charged with seven runs on eight hits and didn't come out for the third.

The Sea Dogs earned their first series sweep of the SeaWolves since June 8-10, 2010.

Andrew Pentis is a contributor to Follow him on Twitter at AndrewMiLB. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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