Leandro Santana has carried with him a very important bit of information from a conversation with Orlando Merced, his hitting coach with Rookie-level Billings.
"[Merced] said if you hit the ball to the opposite field, you can hit every pitch," the 20-year-old recalled.
And lately, there isn't much he isn't hitting and most of it is going the other way.
The Reds prospect hit his first Minor League grand slam, tripled, singled and drove in a career-high seven runs on Sunday in the Mustangs' 19-2 romp over Great Falls at Legion Park.
Gameday box score
In 18 games this season, Santana is hitting .280/.325/.560 with six homers 19 RBIs and 14 runs scored. The native of the Dominican Republic went 10-for-20 during a six-game hitting streak at the end of June to raise his average to .435. He's scuffled recently, with three hits in 24 at-bats heading into Sunday, although he'd reached base eight times and homered twice in his previous three games.
"It feels pretty good and I feel I have more confidence," Santana said. "Every day I keep working hard to make good contact and make the plays."
The righty-swinging Santana went to the opposite field for each of his three hits against the Voyagers. Prior to a 2-for-4 performance against Missoula on June 30, he had gone the other way for a hit only twice, with both coming in a June 21 game against the Osprey in which he homered and singled. Since June 30, Santana has six hits and two homers to right field.
"I try to hit the ball ... the other way [every time]," Santana said. "I'm ready for the fastball every time, but if he throws me a slider, I hit the slider to the opposite way. The fastball I can hit the other way, too."
The Mustangs scored twice in the first against Great Falls starter Chris Comito on a pair of singles and an error, bringing Santana to the plate with two outs. He hit Comito's second pitch into the gap in right-center and hustled out a two-run triple. Andy Sugilio followed with an RBI infield single.
After lining out to center in the third, Santana faced Comito again in the fifth with the bases loaded. He took a hack at the first offering and lifted it over the fence in right for the slam.
"My plan was to be ready for the fastball and if he throws me a slider, I'll swing," Santana said. "He threw a high slider and a little bit outside and I just hit the ball ... the opposite way."
In the sixth, Santana plated Miles Gordon with a two-out single to right off reliever Will Kincanon and scored on a double by Pabel Manzanero as the Mustangs stretched their lead to 14-1.
Santana had another chance to contribute in the seventh as Billings added three more runs, but he grounded out to third. He flied to right with two on and two outs in the eighth.
Gordon doubled, singled twice and scored twice, while Sugilio collected four singles, three RBIs and a pair of runs scored for Billings. Manzanero doubled, singled and drove in two runs.