Conner Crumbliss knows his role atop the Midland lineup. A leadoff hitter his entire career, the A's outfield prospect's job is to get on base and set the proverbial table.
There are no delusions of grandeur. He is fully aware that his work is often overshadowed by the power hitters in the heart of the lineup. But it certainly wasn't Thursday night.
Crumbliss slugged three homers and plated seven runs -- both career highs -- as the Double-A RockHounds hammered the Northwest Arkansas Naturals, 13-3.
"I hit for the cycle last year, but this is better than that. I can't see myself doing this too many times," he said. "I don't usually hit any home runs, so to hit three is very special. It's all pretty crazy.
"It's not my job to create a bunch of offense by hitting home runs. My job is to get on base and see pitches, it's not to be that power guy. My job is to score the runs, the guys behind me have to drive in the runs. I enjoy it."
It was the 18th three-homer game in the Minors this year, and the second in the Texas League. Frisco's Chris McGuiness also achieved the feat on June 22.
Crumbliss had never had a multi-homer game in four years as a pro entering Thursday's contest. And in 436 games since being selected by the A's in the 30th round of the 2009 Draft out of Emporia State University, he had never recorded more than three RBIs in any one game.
Such is the life of a leadoff hitter.
The three homers Thursday night eclipsed his entire rookie total of two (in 71 games), and it took his season total from five -- the number he hit in all of 2010 -- to eight. That gives the outfielder a new single-season high, passing the seven longballs he smacked in 120 games for the Stockton Ports in the hitter-friendly California League 12 months ago.
Crumbliss, who was in a 5-for-34 (.147) skid over his past 10 games, had homered just once in his previous 79 games.
"It's funny because usually the wind blows in from right, but today it blew out," the 25-year-old said. "Maybe that could have played a huge role? Everything seemed to line up and it just happened.
"I've never hit three home runs ever. I haven't hit two since I was eight or nine, it's been a long time. I've never done anything like this. I'd never hit a grand slam. It's crazy. It doesn't seem real. It's a blast."
The Kansas native hooked an 0-2 changeup into the bullpen down the right-field line to start the game -- Crumbliss said it snuck just inside the foul pole -- and he walked and scored on Tyler Ladendorf's double to center field in the second.
While the power might have been a bit of a surprise, the walk -- and the run that resulted from it -- did not. Crumbliss' 103 walks are the most in the Texas League by a large margin, while his 82 runs scored rank second behind Corpus Christi's Jonathan Singleton (83). He also leads the RockHounds with 23 steals, good enough for sixth on the circuit.
The 5-foot-8, 175-pound Crumbliss then cleared the bases with a grand slam over the fence in right in the third -- that swing alone gave him more RBIs than he had ever have in the Minors -- before adding a two-run homer down the first-base line in the eighth.
"It was on a 1-0 fastball," the left fielder said of his second homer. "The first fastball was pretty high, but the second was middle-in. In my head, I knew there was only one out, so I was trying to hit something to the outfield ... maybe get a sac fly. I just assumed it was staying in the park. If the wind was blowing in, that's an out most days.
"The third [home run] was a 1-1 fastball that also snuck out into the bullpen. I was just trying to get a base hit, nothing special. [My teammates] just kept sitting on the bench, they didn't acknowledge me at all. They were big leaguing me. Then they all came over and high-fived me. It was kinda fun."
Left-hander Fabio Castro (2-4) earned the win for Midland. He allowed a run on one hits and two walks while striking out eight batters over five innings. Right fielder Jeremy Barfield added a grand slam in the victory, his 12th homer of the season.
Northwest Arkansas starter JC Sulbaren (0-1) yielded 11 runs on nine hits and five walks over three frames.