Once is chance, twice is coincidence, but by homering in his third straight game on Sunday, Corey Ray has developed a pattern. And it's a pattern that appears to be here to stay for the 24-year-old who battled through a hand injury early this season, but is now back at
Once is chance, twice is coincidence, but by homering in his third straight game on Sunday, Corey Ray has developed a pattern. And it's a pattern that appears to be here to stay for the 24-year-old who battled through a hand injury early this season, but is now back at full health.
The second-ranked Brewers prospect went 3-for-5 with a pair of RBIs and two runs scored, falling a triple shy of the cycle, as Triple-A San Antonio dropped a 10-9, 10-inning decision to New Orleans at the Shrine on Airline.
"He's just healthy now, and he wasn't at the start of the season," Missions hitting coach Al LeBoeuf said. "He had a jammed middle finger on his bottom hand -- that supports the bat -- and early on it was rough for him to hold the bat properly. So he was doing things that he's not accustomed to doing. So they put him on the [injured list], sent him to Arizona, where he got some rest, and now he's healthy again and looking like the player he's always been."
Ray opened the season with San Antonio and batted .170 in 12 games before going on the seven-day IL on April 17. He was activated on May 3, was placed on the temporary inactive list the next day and returned on May 7. Sunday marked his sixth game back -- all against the Baby Cakes.
"I feel like familiarity against this team has helped. Anytime you play the same team this many times in a row you get to kind of know the pitchers," LeBoeuf said. "But one thing I know that he's doing better is that he's picking one pitch when he goes up there. It's difficult to hit 94 mph and 84 mph at the same time, so if you go up there with an idea of what you're going to get and you wait for it -- that has helped him some."
After going homerless through his first 15 Pacific Coast League games, Ray has raised his slugging percentage 194 points during the power surge. He mashed five dingers during his debut season in 2016, split between Class A Wisconsin and Class A Advanced Brevard, with all five long balls coming in a 57-game Florida State League stint. The following year, he improved his numbers with seven roundtrippers in 112 Carolina League league games, but Ray's power really showed last season when he clubbed a Southern-League leading 27 dingers in 135 games with Double-A Biloxi.
Gameday box score
On Sunday, MLB.com's No. 94 overall prospect wasted no time extending the streak, launching a 1-0 fastball from right-hander Dustin Beggs beyond the fence in right-center field to open the game.
Two innings later, Ray stepped in against Beggs again with one out and hammered a double to right. He scored two pitches later when fifth-ranked prospect Mauricio Dubón took Beggs deep to left for a two-run shot that gave the Missions a 4-3 lead.
Ray battled for an eight-pitch at-bat in the fifth before fouling out. After striking out to end the seventh, the 24-year-old went the other way with a go-ahead RBI single to left off righty R.J. Alvarez. It capped a six-run frame as the Missions surged in front, 9-8.
"Anytime you have success, you're going to have more confidence," LeBoeuf said. "But I saw it even when he was struggling because he knew he wasn't healthy, and he believes when he is healthy he can perform at a pretty high level. That's what you're seeing right now."
Dubon mashed another tater to center to get things started in the eighth on a 3-1 heater from left-hander Brian Moran. The 24-year-old finished with three RBIs. No. 29 prospect Tyrone Taylor plated top-ranked Keston Hiura with a double to left and No. 16 prospect Jacob Nottingham chipped in an RBI double before scoring on Ray's single.
Marlins No. 6 prospectIsan Díaz had a pair of hits, including a two-run dinger, walked, knocked in three runs and scored three times for New Orleans. Yadiel Rivera connected with a game-tying homer leading off the eighth and Deven Marrero -- the Baby Cakes' designated runner in the 10th -- scored the winning run on a two-out passed ball by David Freitas.
Rob Terranova is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter, @RobTnova24.