Better late than never, as the saying goes. That took on a whole new meaning for Cristian Santana and the Class A Advanced Quakes on Tuesday night.
The 13th-ranked Dodgers prospect homered twice, including one of three consecutive long balls in the eighth inning, as Rancho Cucamonga rallied past Lancaster, 8-4, at The Hangar. Santana's two blasts led a five-home run onslaught by the Quakes, who also got roundtrippers from No. 29 prospect Rylan Bannon, No. 6 Jeren Kendall and No. 12 Gavin Lux.
Bannon, Santana and Kendall went deep consecutively in the eighth to slice a 4-0 deficit to 4-3 in the span of seven pitches.
Gameday box score
It was a welcome sight for Rancho Cucamonga manager Drew Saylor.
"From the start of the season, we've been talking to guys about finding ways to manufacture at-bats and play all 27 outs," the Quakes' third-year skipper said. "We talked about pressing on and stringing good at-bats together, which we did in the later innings and got things rolling."
Santana was hitless in three at-bats and the Quakes had four hits and trailed by four runs entering the eighth before flipping on the power switch. Bannon opened the frame by blasting his 14th jack of the year to left field, moving him into tie for the California League lead with Lancaster's Roberto Ramos. Santana cut into the lead further with a shot to right-center and Kendall completed the trifecta with a tater to center. The Quakes tied the game later in the inning on a wild pitch by 23rd-ranked Rockies prospect Ben Bowden, which set the stage for more fireworks in the ninth.
"It was pure joy in our dugout [after that third homer]," Saylor said. "We were smelling a little bit of blood in the water there and we went after it. We put our pedal to the metal and went out and took the game. It was a lot of fun to see the guys band together those last few innings."
Lux joined the barrage by slugging the go-ahead shot to right in the ninth, giving him a homer in four straight games and six of his last nine. Following a walk to Bannon, Santana went deep to center for his eighth home run of the year. It marked the second multi-homer game of the 21-year-old's career. He went deep twice in the Rookie-level Arizona League on Aug. 21, 2016. He stands two home runs shy of equaling the career high he set last season while splitting time between Rookie-level Ogden and Class A Great Lakes.
Santana's three RBIs were the most he's collected since driving in four runs on Opening Day. The Dominican Republic native leads the league with 39, one more than Ramos.
"Cristian is a freak in so many different ways, and I mean that kindly," Saylor said. "His bat-to-ball skills are elite. He has the ability to leave the yard whenever he wants and to any part of the field. The focus for him this season was shrinking his attack zone. It's a chess match with the pitcher and the catcher, so you need to either take some pitches to bait [the pitcher] into your zone or wait until you get one there on your own. He's starting to figure it out and once guys like him do, you see what they can accomplish."
Lux also singled and has gone 15-for-38 (.395) with six homers and 14 RBIs over his last nine games. The 20-year-old has driven in a run in seven straight contests and hit all seven of his home runs in a span of 11 games dating back to May 23.
"Gavin is just buying into what we're doing and what we're all about as an organization," the former infielder said. "The homers are a byproduct of what you can drive and he's bought into finding those pitches and attacking. He's stood out for me from the first game. He's the heartbeat of our team and a leader both on and off the field. It's very impressive to see from a 20-year-old who was drafted out of high school."
Bannon has cleared the fence five times while plating nine runs in his last eight games, helping the Quakes power to the top of the circuit with 72 dingers, nine more than the JetHawks.
Dodgers No. 10 prospect Dustin May started the game and was tagged for four runs -- three earned -- while surrendering a career-high 10 hits and striking out four in 5 2/3 innings. Nolan Long, Stetson Allie (2-1) and Jason Richman combined to allow two hits without a walk and four strikeouts over the final 3 1/3 innings in relief.
Colton Welker, the second-ranked Rockies prospect, had three hits for the JetHawks, who got solo homers from No. 29 prospect Vince Fernandez and Carlos Herrera.
Lancaster starter Matt Dennis allowed four hits and three walks with five strikeouts over seven scoreless frames. Bryan Baker (1-1) retired two batters in the ninth and was saddled with the loss after surrendering four runs -- two earned -- on four hits and two walks.