Keury De La Cruz had the kind of game Thursday that serves as an exclamation point for his breakout season.
The Class A Greenville outfielder smacked two home runs and drove in a career-high seven RBIs as he led the Drive to a 10-5 win over the Asheville Tourists.
De La Cruz was a South Atlantic League midseason All-Star and ranks in the top five in the league in multiple offensive categories. The 2009 international signee has collected career highs across the board.
"I'm very content and happy with what I've done this year," he said through translator Miguel Pena. "Mainly it's that I put in the work in the offseason and throughout this season, and good things have been coming out of it, like these two homers."
After Thursday's game, De La Cruz is hitting .316 with a .362 on-base percentage and a .553 slugging percentage in 104 games with Greenville. He's hit 18 home runs, five more than the combined total from his previous three years of professional baseball, while driving in 77 runs.
Those numbers have put him fourth in the Sally league in average, third in home runs, second in slugging and tied for fourth in RBIs. His .916 OPS is fourth in the league.
It's remarkable progress from his 2011 season, when he played in 71 games for Class A Short-Season Lowell. The 20-year-old batted .263 for the Spinners, with a .292 OBP, a .390 slugging mark, four homers and 24 RBIs.
The year before, with the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League Red Sox, he hit .263 as well, adding six homers, 31 RBIs and a .794 OPS in 51 games.
De La Cruz said a key reason for the advancements he's made as a hitter this season was the strength and conditioning work he put in during the offseason in his native Dominican Republic.
"Going back to the Dominican, working hard, hitting weight rooms at the academy [all helped]," he noted. "Working on every little aspect of my game that needed work. I put on about 15 pounds from the offseason to the beginning of the season. With that transformation, I've felt more powerful than I did before."
De La Cruz has hit well over .300 in every month except July and slugged over .500 in every month except June. The left-handed hitter, who is listed as 5-foot-11 and 170 pounds, has also been consistent against the type of pitcher he faces, with a .912 OPS against righties and a .916 mark against southpaws.
Thursday's game, though, was probably one of the highest peaks for what's been a very satisfying season -- in particular his career best in RBIs.
"I got an adrenaline rush after the second home run, a little bit of a boost, but I've experienced feeling two homers in one game," he said. "I'm definitely happier, more excited about the seven-RBI game than the two home runs."
No. 10 Red Sox prospect Garin Cecchini also went 3-for-5 with a double and an RBI and Cody Koback added three hits and three runs for the Drive.