Often times, the simplest ideas are the most effective.
Sam Hilliard came into Thursday's game mired in a deep slump and with a plan to merely get the bat to the ball and put it in play. Basic as it may have been, that strategy resulted in his best game
Often times, the simplest ideas are the most effective.
Sam Hilliard came into Thursday's game mired in a deep slump and with a plan to merely get the bat to the ball and put it in play. Basic as it may have been, that strategy resulted in his best game in the big leagues so far.
The 12th-ranked Rockies prospect tripled and scored a run in the first four-hit game of his Major League career as Colorado dropped a 10-8 decision to the Astros at Coors Field. Hilliard amassed three four-hit games throughout his five seasons in the Minors.
“I just went out there today and wanted to have fun,” Hilliard told MLB.com. “The last couple games I’ve played, they've been rough and I’ve been too hard on myself. Sometimes I’ve got to remember that it’s a game, and it’s a game you’ve played since you were a kid.”
With the plan to just put the ball in play, Hilliard saved hard contact for a ninth-inning triple -- his first of the year -- off Ryan Pressly. He pulled a 104.9-mph grounder down the right-field line and scored on Matt Kemp's groundout to third. The Wichita State product also had a pair of singles with exit velocities of 78.8 mph and 69.1 mph in the second and fifth respectively and laid down a bunt against the shift for a leadoff single in the fourth.
Hilliard had just three hits in 20 at-bats in August coming into the game. He had whiffed in 17 of his previous 36 trips to the plate. The breakout performance was needed for a 26-year-old who entered camp with an opportunity to seize an everyday spot in the outfield but has been seeing more and more time between at-bats.
The 6-foot-5, 236-pound lefty was a legitimate power-speed threat in the Minors with 89 homers and 124 stolen bases since 2015. Hilliard performed well enough to earn a shot at a starting gig in 2020 after his first big league promotion last season, batting .273 with a 1.006 OPS, 13 extra-base hits -- including seven homers -- and 13 RBIs in 27 games.
Though he has the ability to hit the ball out of the park, he admitted his approach of late needed some tweaking.
"Me and most of the people on this team are having success when we are taking free-and-easy swings,” Hilliard said. “I don’t know if it’s ever happened where you try to hit a home run and you hit a home run.”
The 2015 15th-rounder last had four hits on May 4, 2017 for Class A Advanced Lancaster. His first two four-hit games came in 2015 with Rookie-level Grand Junction, first on June 25, and then on July 21.
Top Rockies prospect Brendan Rodgers (MLB.com's No. 30 overall prospect) went 0-for-5 with a pair of strikeouts in his first start of the season. Colorado's No. 22 prospect Josh Fuentes struck out in his first at-bat of the season.
Abraham Toro got off the schneid with a pair of hits Wednesday, then capitalized on his next opportunity in Thursday's series finale. The third-ranked Astros prospect filled in for the injured Alex Bregman and launched his second homer of the season -- a decisive three-run shot to center to cap a fifth-inning rally. Astros No. 25 prospect Taylor Jones walked and scored on Martin Maldonado's base hit in the second.
Sixth-ranked Cristian Javier was bitten by the long ball in his sixth start of the season. The 23-year-old right-hander yielded three runs on homers by Ryan McMahon and Nolan Arenado and seven total hits with two walks while striking out five in the next 3 2/3 innings. Javier has a 3.55 ERA in 25 1/3 innings this season. Blake Taylor produced his 10th scoreless outing in 11 appearances this season. The Astros No. 29 prospect worked around a walk in the seventh, then got lifted after allowing a base hit to Charlie Blackmon to start the eighth. Taylor has a 1.42 ERA in 12 2/3 innings this season.
In other action:
Giants 10, Angels 5
Joey Bart, the game's No. 15 overall prospect, doubled and was hit by a pitch in four at-bats during his Major League debut. After taking a curveball off his foot in his first at-bat, the top Giants prospect roped a 109.5-mph liner down the left-field line for a sixth-inning double. Top Angels prospect Jo Adell (No. 6 overall) had a hit and a walk in three trips to the plate to improve to .211 in 38 at-bats this season. Box score
Padres 8, Rangers 7 (10 innings)
Jake Cronenworth added another talking point to his Rookie of the Year campaign with a walk-off single. The 10th-inning roller back through the middle was the only hit in five at-bats for the Padres No. 19 prospect, who is batting .323/.380/.585 with 11 extra-base hits and six RBIs in 65 at-bats this season. Eighth-ranked Michel Baez was saddled with his first blown save after being tagged for three runs on three hits and a walk in one-third of an inning. No. 3 Luis Patino (No. 28 overall) let up a run on two hits while striking out a pair in 1 1/3 frames of relief. Box score
Dodgers 6, Mariners 1
Mariners No. 29 prospect Ljay Newsome retired the first six batters he faced in The Show, but reigning National League MVP Cody Bellinger started the eighth with a homer off the 23-year-old righty. Newsome worked around hits by Enrique Hernandez and Austin Barnes to limit the damage, and finished with one run on three hits with a strikeout over three innings. Seattle's 24th-ranked prospect Taylor Guilbeau allowed an inherited run to score on a wild pitch, issued a walk and recorded the final out of the fifth. No. 19 Braden Bishop struck out in each of his three at-bats. Box score
Indians 2, Pirates 0
Cleveland's No. 15 prospect James Karinchak made his fourth consecutive scoreless relief appearance. The 24-year-old worked around a leadoff walk with a pair of strikeouts in the eighth, recording his fourth hold of the season. Karinchak sports an 0.66 ERA with 26 strikeouts in 13 2/3 innings this year. Box score
Blue Jays 3, Phillies 2 (Game 1)
Second-ranked Philadelphia prospect Spencer Howard allowed a run on five hits and two walks with five strikeouts in 3 2/3 innings in his third Major League start. He kept the Blue Jays off the board for the first three innings and only yielded a run in the fourth when No. 23 Toronto prospect Santiago Espinal delivered a sacrifice fly. Through 11 2/3 innings, the right-hander has posted a 6.17 ERA but has whiffed 11. Jays No. 26 prospect Julian Merryweather yielded one hit and struck out three in 1 1/3 innings. Box score
Blue Jays 9, Phillies 8 (Game 2)
Four days after his first multi-hit game in the Majors, Alec Bohm collected his third for the Phillies. The top Philadelphia prospect went 2-for-3 with a walk, an RBI and a run. He started off with an opposite-field RBI single in the first and crossed the plate during the Phils' seven-run outburst. In the fifth, he drew a free pass and ripped his third double into center in the seventh. No. 11 Blue Jays prospect Anthony Kay (2-0) earned the win, recording the final out of the sixth before Toronto's rally. He gave up one run on two hits in an inning of relief. His ERA sits at 2.38 this season. Box score
White Sox 9, Tigers 0
No. 19 White Sox prospect Danny Mendick ripped an RBI double in the fourth for his lone hit in four at-bats. He smacked a payoff pitch into left that brought home James McCann. For the Tigers, Willi Castro got the start at shortstop and had a hit in three at-bats. The seventh-ranked Tigers prospect worked the count to 2-2 before smacking a double into center in the eighth. The 23-year-old is hitting .238 through 21 at-bats this season. Box score
Twins 7, Brewers 1
Sixth-ranked Minnesota prospect Ryan Jeffers delivered in his Major League debut, going 2-for-3 with an RBI and a run scored. In his first at-bat, he ripped a hard single to left that plated Ildemaro Vargas. He added another single in the fifth and was hit by a pitch in the eighth, later scoring in the frame. Box score
Gerard Gilberto_ is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow and interact with him on Twitter, @Gerard_Gilberto._