Jaff Decker got the San Antonio Missions' bats going early Monday morning, and once they started they didn't stop.
In an away game against the Tulsa Drillers that began at 10:00 a.m. local time, Decker homered, tripled, knocked in four runs, scored three times and stole a base as San Antonio cruised to a 23-10 victory. The win breaks a three-game skid for San Antonio.
The Padres' sandwich pick from 2008, Decker tripled in the first inning to kickstart an offensive machine that would homer eight times in the game, beginning with the next batter. With the prospect standing on third base, Cody Decker (no relation), launched a 1-0 pitch over the center-field wall.
"We got ambitious," Jaff Decker said, but he deflected credit for starting the rally. "I think it was more when Cody Decker hit the homer. And then [Vincent] Belnome hit a double in the gap. That was when we really got started. Cody hit the home run, and they say home runs end innings, but..."
Jaff Decker singled in the next inning, and after walking in the fourth, stole second base. He said the sign didn't come from the bench, and he was responding in part to two runs the Drillers put up in the bottom of the third.
"I went on my own. They just put a couple runs on the board. The wind was blowing out, and I just thought, 'don't stop applying the pressure,'" he said. "We had gotten some big hits off their pitcher [Josh Sullivan], so he was more focused on the batter.
"He wasn't paying much attention to me, so I figured I'd try to get into scoring position for the big run-producers in our lineup."
He came around to score on a homer off the bat of 2008 Golden Spikes Finalist Sawyer Carroll, who went yard twice and knocked in five runs, falling a triple shy of the cycle.
After striking out in the fifth and the seventh, Decker came to the plate with one out and the bases loaded in the eighth. He admitted he may have been "a little bit" hungry after whiffing in consecutive at-bats.
"The zone started to get a little bigger, because the game was dragging on and dragging on, and there was just hit after hit after hit. So I was looking to for something to swing at," he said.
He took a called strike, watched a ball go by, fouled off the 1-1 and took another ball before bashing the fifth pitch of the at-bat over the fence in right field for a grand slam.
"He threw me a slider low and in, and I hit to right center."
Asked if he knew the ball was leaving the park, he tried to stifle a chuckle.
"Yeah, I hit it pretty good."
Decker, one of the most highly prized prospects in the San Diego system, missed the beginning of 2010 with a hamstring injury and missed the end after breaking a finger when he was hit by a pitch. In between, he hit 17 homers and doubled 14 times over 79 Cal League games. He had five stolen bases but was also caught four times.
His goal for the 2011 season is "pretty much just stay healthy," he said. "When I'm healthy, I always feel great -- I feel great in the box and feel great in the field.
"From the time I finally got healthy with my hand, I was in the gym for hours in the day and for hours at night, just making sure I'm ready. I want to put a full season together and see what happens."
Beamer Weems also homered twice in Monday's game and collected five RBIs. San Antonio starter Matt Buschmann had a solo shot, too.
"Even our pitcher was getting into it," Decker said. "He hit a home run -- and it wasn't just, like, 'Oh, that cleared the fence.' He really got ahold of it."
The Missions' eight roundtrippers are the most they've had in a game at least since 2005. San Antonio last had more than four home runs in a game on Aug. 30, 2008, when it hit four.
Decker said that the win was somewhat cathartic after the team dropped two in a row at Northwest Arkansas and was beaten by the Drillers on a walk-off homer Sunday.
"We've had a couple hurtful losses, the last three nights. They were all either extra innings or in the ninth inning. We have a great team. A lot of guys from our championship team from [Class A] Fort Wayne [in 2009] are here, and there's some great newer guys, too."
Riding high from the hit parade, Decker made a bold prediction for the Missions.
"We have a real solid team -- the guys on our bench would be starting somewhere else. Hopefully we'll make a run at the championship.
"Our hitting coach [Tom Tornincasa] is great. Our pitching coach [Jimmy Jones] is great. And we have a manager [Doug Dascenzo] who knows the game inside out. He knows a lot about defense, he knows all about pitching and hitting. Those are the three things you need to win, and he's a great teacher of the game."