Cullen Large came to the ballpark Thursday night feeling comfortable at the plate, but eschewed more batting practice in favor of defensive work and some last-minute weight training. After his performance at the dish, the tweaked schedule might have to become part of his daily regimen.
The Toronto infield prospect set a career high with five hits while scoring three runs -- including the game-winner -- as Class A Lansing rallied for an 8-7 walk-off win against Dayton at Cooley Law School Stadium. The 22-year-old collected two doubles, three singles in his second straight multi-hit game.
Gameday box score
"I actually didn't take as many rounds in the cage as I normally do, which I don't know if that translates or not," Large said. "Our strength coach [Aaron Spano] was kind of making fun of me. He was like, 'Cullen, man, we might have to add this to your routine. You might have to lift right before the game instead of right when you get here in the early afternoon.' There were some jokes flying around, but other than that it felt like a pretty normal day."
Large improved his slash line to .314/.429/.549 with eight extra-base hits and nine RBIs. The 2017 fifth-round pick has hit safely in three consecutive contests and eight of 15 overall this season. Large, who batted .246/.356/.325 in the Northwest League last year, said things have turned around for him over the past few games.
"This confidence has been slowly building up," he said. "I guess it was just a matter of time and a little bit of luck to have a day like this. I'm just excited to see the ball the way I am, and hopefully, that'll continue for a little while."
With runners on the corners to start the second, Large worked a full count against Tyler Mondile. On the seventh pitch of the at-bat, the William & Mary product socked a single into left to plate Kacy Clemens from third.
"That particular at-bat, I was getting a little frustrated, I was fouling a bunch of fastballs off that I thought I should have put in play," Large said. "The pitch that I hit was pretty far out. It got to a full count, and I was like, 'I'm going to get a fastball, I've been late to all of these.' I saw it out of his hand pretty well, and just a two-strike approach, I was trying to put the ball in play with a runner at third base. I got a pretty good swing off and got a barrel there."
The 22-year-old delivered a single to right in the third and legged out a double after hitting one through the left side in the fifth. Batting with two outs in the seventh, Large smoked a double into the gap in left-center for his second two-bagger. It marked the third straight knock of the night in which the second baseman ambushed the first pitch.
"I figured they were going to come more in again and that one actually got more of the heart of the plate," he said of the fourth at-bat. "I was able to get a little bit more extension on it and hit it into the left-center-field gap pretty well. That was kind when I realized like, 'All right, this is a day.' You kind of go up there and kind of think about what the pitcher's going to do to get you out there. Luckily, I got a mistake there and was able to put a good swing on it."
Leading off the ninth, Large fell behind in the count, 1-2, before ripping a single into right. Following a single from No. 18 Blue Jays prospect Ryan Noda and a sacrifice bunt by Matt Morgan, Norberto Obeso delivered the game-winning knock to score the Virginia native from third.
"My buddy, Ryan Noda, was in the on-deck circle and hyping me up before that last-bat," Large said. "He's pretty rah-rah and I'm kind of the opposite and stay focused, more quiet. He was hyping me up and that got me going a little bit. ... I was just trying to get something to put in play, I know that sounds kind of defensive. I noticed in warmups that [John Ghyzel] wasn't feeling his curveball very well, so I was pretty sure I was going to get a fastball. If he threw a curveball, I was going to tip my cap to him. Luckily, I got a fastball, got a barrel to it and let my teammates behind me fill in the rest."
Although Large had never had more than two hits in a game before, he planned to stay on an even keel about it.
"Obviously, I want to carry over seeing the ball well, being aggressive on pitches into the zone," he said. "Over the past few games, I felt myself not chasing pitches I would be chasing last year, which is awesome. I guess carrying that over is the most important thing and the confidence is good piece of it too."
Clemens finished with two hits and two RBIs while Chavez Young delivered three hits, a walk and two runs scored out of the leadoff spot for the Lugnuts.
On the other side, seventh-ranked Reds prospect Jeter Downs went 2-for-5 with a run and Mark Kolozsvary delivered two knocks and three RBIs.