Royce Lewis really enjoys hitting with runners in scoring position. The 20-year-old deems those moments "fun."
He sure looked like he was having fun in those three moments Monday.
Minnesota's top prospect drove in a season-best four runs on two hits, delivering each time he stepped to the plate with a runner on third base as Class A Advanced Fort Myers blanked Clearwater, 6-0, at Spectrum Field. The victory snapped a six-game skid for the Miracle.
Gameday box score
"It's always fun to hit in those situations," Lewis said. "You know the pitcher is trying really hard to not let those runs score, so the pressure is all on him. The challenging part is staying within yourself and your approach. He's got to throw it over the plate. He's gotta come to you. If you think you gotta go out and get it, you're gonna get yourself out. So the idea is just to find a pitch that you can drive, hit it hard and hopefully it will find a hole. Luckily tonight, I was able to find some holes and it worked out.
"We were all excited and pumped up afterwards. It's like you almost forget how to win for second when you're on a skid like that, but this felt great. Everyone was frazzled and excited. It was a really fun feeling."
The 20-year-old notched his 24th multi-hit effort of the season, the sixth with two or more RBIs. Lewis sports a .232/.278/.352 slash line with 22 extra-base hits, 42 runs scored and 29 RBIs in his first 76 games. His 42 runs stand tied with St. Lucie's Carlos Cortes and Lakeland's Brady Policelli for third in the Florida State League. Daytona's Jonathan India -- Cincinnati's No. 3 prospect -- paces the circuit with 46 runs with Dunedin's Cal Stevenson (Toronto's No. 24 prospect) two behind him.
Against the Threshers, MLB.com's No. 7 overall prospect swung at the first offering he saw from right-hander Alejandro Requena (6-5) in the opening frame and flied out to 12th-ranked Phillies prospect Simon Muzziotti in center field.
Lewis stepped to the dish in the third with Minnesota's No. 29 prospect Michael Helman at third base and lifted a slider from Requena into to deep right for a sacrifice fly that put Fort Myers on the board.
"In that moment, with the game still 0-0, I'm just thinking I need to get that run home as fast as possible," the 2017 No. 1 overall selection said. "I was just looking for a pitch up that I could drive and he threw me a slider, middle-away. And I was able to get it up there and deep enough to get the run in."
With a pair of runners in scoring position in the seventh, the California native worked the count full against right-hander Oscar Marcelino before hammering a fastball off the glove of Clearwater third baseman Dalton Guthrie and into left for a two-RBI single.
Lewis stepped to the plate one more time in the ninth with the bases juiced and punched a 2-2 offering from righty Kyle Arjona through a hole on the left side of the infield that plated Andrew Bechtold to cap the Miracle's scoring.
"Sometimes when things are going bad, it's really tough to stay within your approach," he said. "You hit the ball hard, but right at someone and they catch it. It's just baseball. But I've been working really hard with the hitting coaches and some other instructors here. Today was just one of those days where all that work showed up and it actually happened the way you practice it."
Lewis is no stranger to accolades throughout his professional career. He was named a 2018 MiLB.com Organization All-Star as well as Prospect of the Year at the end of last season after posting a combined .292/.352/.451 slash line with an .803 OPS and a career-best 14 dingers over 121 games between Class A Cedar Rapids and Fort Myers. Last week, the 6-foot-2, 200-pound shortstop received his first Futures Game selection.
That was a message he was not expecting.
"It was a really special honor to find out about," Lewis said. "[Miracle skipper Toby Gardenhire] called me into his office and gave me the news and I was just really excited. Honestly, I didn't know what to say at first. I was actually expecting something else. You never know what they're going to say to you when they call you in like that, but that was good news and I was happy to receive it.
"I'm just looking forward to taking in the whole experience -- it may only happen once in your entire career -- and picking the brains of some of the guys there. It's such a talented group of guys."
2019 MiLB include
Cole Sands (2-1) turned in his second straight scoreless outing for Fort Myers. The right-hander scattered two hits and whiffed seven over six frames. Sands has not allowed a run over his last 11 innings while yielding two hits and a walk with 13 strikeouts over that span.
"Sands has been amazing his last two times out for us," Lewis said. "He's been able to dominate, and when you get quick innings like that in the field, it's like, 'Oh, we're hitting again.' And that helps guys get on a roll and we like hitting on this team, so it's like,
'Let's keep this going.'"
Right-handers Cody Allen and Alex Phillips came on in relief to complete the Miracle's 12th shutout of the year. Allen allowed two hits in one inning and Phillips yielded a hit and struck out one over the final two frames.
Minnesota's 25th-ranked prospect Gabriel Maciel collected a pair of hits, an RBI and a run. Helman finished with two knocks -- including a double -- and scored twice.