Cone paces attack in Spokane romp

Rangers' '11 first-round pick homers, doubles twice, scores three runs

Zach Cone has lifted his average from .198 to .232 with six hits in his last three games. (Spokane Indians)

By Tyler Maun / | July 20, 2014 3:15 AM ET

On good days, Zach Cone is happy with hitting the ball hard, no matter the result. On the best days, he does things like he did on Saturday.

The Rangers' 2011 first-round pick homered and doubled twice as part of a 16-hit attack as Short-Season Spokane rolled past Everett, 12-3, at Avista Stadium.

After starting last season on a strong note in seven games with Class A Advanced Myrtle Beach, Cone tore his Achilles tendon and missed the rest of the campaign. His road back has been a lengthy one, but the University of Georgia product has hits in nine of his last 10 games and multiple hits in two of his last three.

"It's definitely been a process," Cone said. "Getting back on the field was one process in itself, then getting back in baseball shape, getting the timing and everything. I'm starting to show a lot more consistency, hitting the ball hard. It feels pretty good. It's taken a while, but it's worth it."

Cone started quickly on Saturday night, doubling in the second inning, then walking and scoring in the fourth on Fernando Vivili's two-run double. The 24-year-old outfielder smacked a one-out solo blast in the fifth to extend Spokane's lead to 6-3.

With a man aboard and two runs already home in the sixth, Cone came through again, driving a double to right to produce his second RBI of the night.

"I'm happy just hitting the ball hard," he said. "If I line out four times in a row, three games in a row, I'll be happy. Just to show that I'm consistent, staying on the ball, driving it, the hits will come. It's always good to get a little string of hits going.

"I can't control if the guy catches it or if it goes over or doesn't. As long as I'm squaring balls up and hitting them hard, I feel good. That's all I'm supposed to do."

Spokane got production throughout the lineup. All nine starters tallied at least one hit, with Cone and leadoff man Isiah Kiner-Falefa each registering three. Marcus Greene drove in three runs, while Cone and Vivili plated a pair apiece.

"It's a lot of fun," Cone said. "Fernando, he's been banged up the last few games. He had a game-changing double, hitting two guys in, tying it up. That put all the momentum on our side. It's just fun. Everyone has their own part. Everyone's stepping up."

After beginning this season by batting .181/.267/.235 in 43 games with Myrtle Beach, Cone has started to rediscover his stroke in the Northwest League. Since batting .191 in June, he's hitting at a .262 clip through 17 July contests.

"I've been seeing the ball lately and working a lot with [manager] Tim [Hulett] and [hitting coach] Rick [Down] and all of them," he said. "It definitely is a confidence-boost. Tomorrow, I've got some confidence going up there and hopefully, it keeps going."

In addition to their offensive showing, the Indians got six strong innings from Nick Gardewine (5-1), who gave up three runs on three hits and two walks while striking out three.

The victory kept Spokane one game ahead of second-place Vancouver in the North Division with two days remaining in the first half of the season.

Dan Altavilla (0-2) took the loss after surrendering five runs -- four earned -- on eight hits and three walks with one strikeout in 3 2/3 innings.

Tyler Maun is a contributor to Follow him on Twitter @TylerMaun. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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