Jahmai Jones and the BayBears boarded their team bus early in the morning Wednesday. Embarking on a three-hour journey to open a rare six-game set with the Braves, the club was focused on one thing: having fun.
The infectious attitude spilled from the bus into warmups, then into the cages for batting practice and finally onto the field for the game, when Jones used it to fuel his best effort of the season.
The Angels' No. 4 prospect reached base four times for the first time all year, going 3-for-3 with a homer, walk, three RBIs and a pair of runs scored to help lift Double-A Mobile past Mississippi, 5-3, at Trustmark Park.
Video: Mobile's Jones goes yard
"It was just a fun, intense environment that we created early in the morning and it just kind of trickled down to everyone and stayed with us the whole time today," he said. "Just the chemistry of this team, we kept things carefree and light and just wanted to have fun and it felt good to get things started here with a win."
The 21-year-old turned in his fourth multi-hit effort of the season and first since May 22, when he singled twice against Biloxi. He bumped his slash line to .186/.256/.259 with 19 RBIs and 28 runs scored.
"I've just been working on the same stuff that I've been working on the last few weeks and I've been able to hash some stuff out here," Jones said. "My big focus is staying within my zone, not chasing and trying not to do too much with something in any count."
He walked against 10th-ranked Braves prospect Joey Wentz in the opening frame but was stranded when Wentz retired No. 12 Angels prospect Brandon Sandoval and 23rd-ranked Jack Kruger on nine pitches.
Gameday box score
The 2015 second-rounder stepped in against the left-hander again leading off the fourth and jumped ahead, 2-1, before sending a slow roller to second base that he legged out for a single. After Sandoval flied to left, Kruger plated Jones and opened the scoring with a two-run blast to left-center field.
"Wentz is a really good pitcher -- his stuff is great -- and knowing that, I think everyone came in just locked in on trying to take those borderline pitches out of the zone and swinging at the ones in the zone," Jones said. "And as a team, we did that really well today. I think it started at the top and everyone did their part."
In the fifth, Jones came to the dish with a pair of runners in scoring position and one out. Seeing Wentz for a third time, he took the first pitch low before launching a fastball beyond the fence in left field to give Mobile a 5-1 advantage. It was his second homer of the season and first since May 7.
"I got myself into a good hitter's count there and just waited for a pitch I knew I could drive," he said. "My thinking was to keep it simple. With runners on second and third, I knew a single would score both, so I didn't want to try to do too much. I got the pitch I wanted in my zone and thank goodness it went out of the park and helped us earn the victory today. But kudos to the guys hitting before me in the lineup earlier in the inning, because I wouldn't have been able to do that if they weren't on base and in that position."
The Georgia native led off the eighth against reliever Jonathan Aro. After falling into an 0-2 hole, the right-handed hitter fouled off a couple of pitches before lining the fifth the other way for a base hit. He was erased three pitches later, when Sandoval grounded into a fielder's choice.
Top Angels prospect Jo Adell appeared in his eighth game with Mobile since returning from the injured list, and although he did not reach base on Wednesday, Jones believes that MLB.com's No. 11 overall prospect is making an impact that stretches beyond the stat sheet.
2019 MiLB include
"He's such a special talent. Him being one of the younger guys on the team is still kind of crazy to think about," Jones said of the 20-year-old. "He's doing really good things here. Especially with him leading off, it gives me a chance to see how a pitcher is going to attack a hitter like that -- what he's comfortable throwing and to where. So after seeing that, I pick out what I think a pitcher is going to try to do and execute a plan when I step up there. Also, if Jo gets on, it gives me a chance to try to drive him in or at least move him over. Just try to do my job and pass it on to the next guy, so it really helps having him in the leadoff spot for us.
"It's just that trickle-down effect and everybody is impacted by it."
Luis Pena (1-0) tossed 2 2/3 scoreless innings out of the bullpen, shrugging off a hit and fanning two en route to the win. Adrian Almeida worked around a hit and two walks, striking out two over two frames to earn his second save.
Braves No. 5 prospect Drew Waters knocked in two of Mississippi's runs with a double in the fifth. Top prospect Cristian Pache doubled and scored a run.