"It's always been something that I've struggled with," Corey Ray said Tuesday night, "controlling the zone and walking."
Milwaukee's No. 2 prospect could've fooled the Carolina League in recent days.
Ray doubled, singled twice and added two walks on one of his best offensive days of the season as Class A Advanced Carolina started with a nine-run first inning on the way to an 11-2 rout of Down East.
Video: Carolina's Ray extends lead with a two-run double
"I'm trying to slow the game down as best as possible and control the zone," MLB.com's No. 25 overall prospect said. "As a leadoff hitter here, you're facing better pitching, and you're not going to get the hits that you used to get. You've got to take the walks when they give them to you. I've just been trying to control the zone and hit the pitches I can hit. If you don't throw it over the plate, I don't mind taking a walk."
But the Louisville product actually singled to right field to kick off the first frame, scoring four batters later on a bases-loaded walk by Milwaukee's No. 7 prospect Lucas Erceg. With two outs, Ray laced a two-RBI double to right and later scored on a three-run double by fifth-ranked prospect Isan Diaz.
"We put together some great at-bats," Ray said of the outburst against Down East's Jeffrey Springs, who lasted two-thirds of an inning. "The starting pitcher wasn't really around the zone, and we just kind of took what he gave us. Walks tend to lead to hits and momentum, and it just rolled from there."
Gameday box score
In total, the Mudcats sent 13 batters to the plate and paraded around the basepaths on five hits, four walks and one hit batsman. It was quite a change for a Carolina team that was blanked on just two hits by Down East's Pedro Payano and relievers Jacob Shortslef and Brady Feigl on Monday.
"We're a better offense than that," Ray said. "We shouldn't get two-hit or shut out, whatever it was. We took that to heart. We wanted to come out with fire. Everybody stayed focused, and we had energy. I think the thing with us is we don't score our runs until later in the game. We want to change that a little bit. We want to jump on people early and keep our foot on their throats."
Carolina cruised after the first. Ray walked to lead off the third and fifth and reached on an infield single to short in the seventh for his second three-hit game of the season and first since April 28 at Frederick.
"I'm just getting into a routine and finding a swing and a rhythm that works for me and plays in the game," he said. "I think sometimes we take BP every day, and with all the swings that we take, we don't take them as seriously. Every time I have the bat in my hands and I'm in the cage or at the plate, just swing with intent. Get something out of every single swing I take."
The Mudcats cashed in 11 runs on 11 hits, going 3-for-10 with runners in scoring position. Diaz led the way with three RBIs.
"I get on base, and good things happen because those guys can hit," Ray said. "I'm a stolen-base threat, so I think I can buy those guys a little bit more in fastballs. it's very fun, and I take it seriously being the head of this lineup, starting up and getting on base as much as I can so that these guys can hit me in."
Despite a lengthy wait in the dugout in the bottom of the first, Milwaukee's No. 20 prospect Corbin Burnes turned in his longest start of the season for Carolina. The right-hander scattered seven hits over seven innings, allowing two runs -- one earned-- with five strikeouts and one walk. Burnes' start to the year has been so good that while the win improved his record to 4-0, it actually increased his ERA to 1.15 through eight outings.
"He's been locked in the whole season," Ray said. "We were talking about how we never really give him runs. Every time he pitches, it's always 1-0, 2-1. The game's always close and low-scoring when he pitches. We finally erupted. He's an animal. He's a workhorse. He goes on the mound, he throws strikes, he pounds the zone and he gets outs."