Cole Tucker entered Friday's game with no home runs this year after hitting two in each of his first three Minor League seasons. He exited with his first career multi-homer game after tying the Class A Advanced Bradenton franchise record for RBIs in a game.
The Pirates' No. 5 prospect plated seven runs, homered from both sides of the plate and fell a single shy of the cycle as the Marauders ran away with a 20-2 win over Palm Beach at LECOM Park. Afterwards, he jokingly credited his performance to some new attire.
Gameday box score
"We wore special uniforms tonight because it was Child Cancer Awareness Night at the field," Tucker said. "Jake Brentz gave me black and white cleats to wear since our jerseys didn't match my typical black and yellow spikes, so maybe those had the hits in them."
Footwear aside, the 20-year-old switch-hitter started his night 0-for-2 against Palm Beach right-hander Ryan Helsley before ripping hits -- all of which went for extra bases -- in his final four at-bats against the bullpen.
"In my first at-bat, I was trying to do too much and trying to hit the ball 800 feet and, obviously, I'm not known for my power -- it's no secret, but I was getting away from myself," Tucker said. "In the second at-bat, I smoked the ball to right and [Randy Arozarena] made a really nice play running back to the track."
After that fourth-inning flyout, the Marauders put the next eight batters on base before Tucker returned to the dish with the bases loaded. He ripped a three-run double to left off left-hander Ian McKinney to cap an eight-run outburst.
"I knew that [catcher Jeremy] Martinez was setting up middle-in -- that's just how they were pitching guys," Tucker said. "Just acknowledging that and looking for something middle of the plate to drive, I was able to hook a ball down the line and clear the bases."
Two innings later, Tucker took a 1-0 pitch from southpaw Anthony Ciavarella deep to left for a two-run shot to start a four-run uprising and open a 12-0 lead. A .241 career hitter from the right side with one homer in 245 at-bats entering the game, he was a bit surprised to rip multiple extra-base hits against lefties.
Video: Bradenton's Tucker drives one out
"I was literally just telling a teammate in the dugout that I was stoked to get that double since I feel way more comfortable left-handed than right-handed, "Tucker said. "I was joking around that I'm not as good right-handed, so that was a cool moment there."
Returning to the left side in the seventh, the 2014 first-round pick hit an RBI triple to right off Steven De La Cruz and was a single away from the cycle when he stepped in to face Cardinals shortstop Leobaldo Pina the following inning. A 6-foot-3, 185-pound shortstop, Tucker ended up with much more than a single, blasting a solo homer to right-center to tie Jeremy Farrell's club mark for RBIs set on April 8, 2010.
"That's pretty sweet, I had no idea [about the record]," Tucker said. "Obviously, anywhere you go you want to leave a legacy and leave something behind, so that's really cool. ... It was really cool to get one from both sides of the plate.
"Obviously, I was going for the single -- maybe hit a line drive up the middle -- and got the head out, got the barrel on the ball and it went out to right-center. That was the only time in my life where, I wouldn't say I was disappointed, but I wasn't shooting for the home run. Going for the single, but I'll take the home run."
Video: Bradenton's Tucker hits second homer
Tucker, who's been working on his power stroke since last year's instructional league, said he understands his game is predicated around hitting for average and his plus speed, and he entered the season with 44 steals in 62 tries in 201 Minor League games. He's already up to 24 in 28 attempts this season, leading the Minors by six over Brewers prospect Mauricio Dubon at Double-A Biloxi.
"I am getting the green light more, but it's definitely a testament to what we worked on in Spring Training ... just learning and studying catchers and when I should and shouldn't go," Tucker said. "Last year, I got thrown out a few times early and it made me gun-shy. I know I'm leading [the Minors], which is cool, and it's obviously a long season, but I use it as motivation.
"Every time I play the [Tampa] Yankees, me and Jorge Mateo joke around like, 'How many you gonna get tonight?' and make it a competition -- we're always keeping a competition. Quietly, Ke'Bryan Hayes has been pushing me -- he's not known for his speed, but he's stealing bases and not getting caught. He's right on my heels and always joking about how he's going to catch me."
Like Tucker, Mateo is known for his speed -- he's sixth in the Minors with 15 thefts -- and launched his first two homers of the season Friday night in Tampa's 11-5 win over Clearwater.
Logan Hill went 2-for-3 with a homer and five RBIs, reaching base five times for Bradenton. Logan Sendelbach (1-2) allowed five hits and struck out one over five scoreless innings to pick up the win.