There may not be a hotter lineup in baseball than Triple-A Colorado Springs right now. Victors of six straight games overall, the Sky Sox won their last two contests against the Memphis Redbirds by scores of 14-4 and 13-4. According to Brett Phillips, the offensive outburst has been a true team effort.
"It's been a lot of fun," he said. "Twenty-seven runs in two days, it's a real testament to the whole offense. There are a whole lot of selfless at-bats, guys taking their walks or hitting the singles. It's about letting the next guy be the hero."
On Tuesday, top Brewers prospect Lewis Brinson played that role by going 4-for-6 with a homer, a double and five RBIs. On Wednesday, with a little help from the wind, it was Phillips' turn.
Video: Phillips bashes grand slam for Sky Sox
The Brewers' No. 10 prospect homered twice and tied a career high with six RBIs at Security Service Field. He added two walks in five plate appearances. With the win, the Sky Sox improved to 9-3, the club's best record through 12 games in team history, tying with Double-A Pensacola for the best record in Minor League Baseball.
• Box score »
With the wind blowing out from right to left field at 10 mph, Phillips gave Colorado Springs a 6-3 lead in the third inning when he cracked a grand slam to center field off Memphis right-handed starter Mike Mayers. The long ball was the left-handed slugger's first grand slam since July 6, 2014 with Class A Quad Cities in the Houston organization.
"You got bases loaded with less than two outs after some great at-bats in front of me, so all I'm looking to do is stay through the middle," Phillips said. "With two strikes, he threw a changeup, and it was a pretty good pitch too. I just got some leverage out in front of it. The wind was blowing hard too, so that helped. I was just looking to do a job by getting the ball to the outfield, but I'm not complaining. ... All you can do is to play to the environment that you're in."
The 22-year-old outfielder's second blast of the day came with the bases empty and one out in the seventh and was more swept up by the wind than the grand slam. Facing southpaw reliever Ryan Sherriff, Phillips got enough muscle on a 1-2 fastball in off the hands to put it up into the thin air and high winds. When the ball carried just over the wall in left-center, Redbirds center fielder Harrison Bader slammed the wall in frustration over what he presumably thought should have been a catchable ball under normal circumstances. Phillips' reaction was quite the opposite.
"With the lefty throwing and two strikes, I got jammed, so I didn't think anything would come of it," he said. "Again, I'm not complaining, but it was definitely one of those wind-aided home runs. Like I said, when the environment helps, all you can be is super thankful."
Video: Phillips goes yard again for Sky Sox
The Sky Sox cleanup hitter had another chance for a grand slam later in the seventh when he stepped up against right-handed reliever Rowan Wick. Phillips gave a 3-1 fastball up in the zone a full-effort swing but came up empty. Instead, he took the next pitch up and away for a bases-loaded walk and his sixth RBI.
Phillips' performance gave him multiple hits in each of his last four games. Since hitting .179 over the first seven games of his Triple-A career, the 2012 sixth-rounder is 9-for-16 (.563) with eight RBIs over that four-game stretch. He sports a .318/.375/.568 line with three homers and 12 RBIs over 11 total contests.
The returns are early but intriguing for a player who dropped out of MLB.com's Top 100 overall prospect list after hitting just .229 with 16 homers, a .729 OPS and a 29.8 percent strikeout rate in 124 games at Double-A Biloxi last season. During that campaign, Phillips said he tried too hard to utilize the breeze coming off the Gulf of Mexico to steal a few extra hits at home. On Wednesday, he tried to approach each at-bat according the game situation, not the wind situation, and still cashed in.
"I got caught up in that a lot in Biloxi," Phillips said. "The crosswind was the same going from right field to left, and I got into a bad habit of trying to hit the ball the other way to left, just to take advantage. That's how I ended up with some of the worse numbers because I just started creating too many bad habits. But now, I'm trying to do a better job of sticking to the same approach. Today that worked out well."
Phillips' start to the 2017 season is even more important, given his roster status. The Brewers sent him to the Arizona Fall League and then added him to the 40-man roster in November, thus protecting him from the Rule 5 Draft.
"It's exciting because it's the biggest accomplishment in my career so far," he said. "They believe I can help win ballgames, and that means a whole lot to me. The whole process has been great since then. The thing now is I have to stay within who I am. I have to be Brett Phillips. They put me on the 40-man because of the player I can be, not who I feel I should be or anything like that."
Phillips entered his first Major League-rostered Spring Training camp expecting to head back to Biloxi, where he could prove his bad habits were behind him. Instead, Milwaukee kept him on course with a move to the Pacific Coast League, where he forms one of the Minors' most interesting outfields next to fellow 40-man roster members Brinson and No. 16 Brewers prospect Ryan Cordell. Even with Keon Broxton struggling immensely, rebuilding Milwaukee isn't expected to be in a rush to push that trio to the Majors. That's just fine by Phillips, if it means more time to mash in Colorado Springs.
"As easy as it can be to get drawn in to that or to see the light at the end of the tunnel, I'm not going to allow myself the chance to feel close to the big leagues," Phillips said. "You still can develop and grow a little, but you're not only there to develop in the Major Leagues. You're there to win. So I have to stay focused and get each part of my game tuned up before that becomes a possibility or I even allow myself to think about it."
Eric Sogard went 3-for-4 with a homer, three RBIs and three runs scored Wednesday. Yadiel Rivera also chipped in three hits -- two of which were doubles -- and an RBI.
First baseman Chad Huffman homered and drove in three of Memphis' four runs.