J.D. Davis bashed the ball all over the Texas League for the first three-plus months of the 2017 season, and now that he's closer to home, he's not slowing down.
In his seventh Triple-A game, Houston's No. 15 prospect belted two homers -- one a grand slam -- as Triple-A Fresno scored seven times in the eighth inning en route to a 10-3 win over New Orleans.
"You're facing guys you've never seen before, I think that's the biggest issue," said Davis of his Triple-A adjustment. "I just try to learn from the advice from the guys around me and from coaches that Triple-A is a little bit more of a mature level, I would say. The pitching difference, you see way harder fastballs and the guns light up more in Double-A than in Triple-A. But the guys are smarter up in Triple-A and they have a feel for all their pitches.
Video: Fresno's Davis belts grand slam
"It's a challenge to face these guys that have been around for so long, and they're going to move the ball left and right, up and down. It's helping me become better as a hitter."
He's certainly looked like a quality hitter through his first week in Triple-A. Davis got to New Orleans' Mike Kickham in the bottom of the second inning when he tattooed a solo homer to center field to put Fresno on the board with the game's first run.
Gameday box score
"I just tried to look for something out over the plate because I'd never faced him before," he said. "The first at-bat, he left a changeup over the plate and I just tried to stay through it. I didn't really try to really do damage on it, I would say. I just tried to square it up and I caught it more on my uppercut."
After striking out in the third and fifth, Davis was encouraged by a flyout to right that ended the seventh. Though he hit it well, the third baseman got just under that one, a mistake he wouldn't repeat in the eighth.
With two gone, the bases loaded and three runs already home for Fresno in the inning, Davis put his team over the top by crushing a grand slam to left-center off New Orleans reliever Kyle Lobstein.
"I think the first pitch was a slider down and in that I fouled off, so I figured he was going to come back with it with the bases loaded," he said. "I think he ended up doing that, but he left it a little bit more middle. I just tried to stay through it and get under the ball because I knew it was going to be diving down and in."
The Cal State Fullerton product has hits in six of seven games with Fresno and is batting .323/.364/.677. Tuesday's game marked his second straight with a homer. The line matched Davis' best from his stint with Double-A Corpus Christi this year, a June 8 showing against Frisco in which he also collected two homers and five RBIs. But that one came two time zones away, and the win over the Baby Cakes took place where the newest Grizzlies slugger feels comfortable.
Davis was raised in Elk Grove, California, roughly a two-hour drive from Fresno. That proximity has allowed friends and family to come see him get things started on a high note in Triple-A.
"We've always talked about starting [a season] in Fresno or getting the callup to go to Fresno, and to finally have the opportunity to play there, it's awesome to play in front of familiar faces," Davis said. "They don't really get a chance to see me except through MiLB.TV or through Twitter. It's kind of nice to see them in the stands and play for them. It's comfortable being back in California, and it's way better than the Texas weather."
Davis led the Texas League with 21 homers in 87 games this season when the Astros promoted him to the Pacific Coast League on July 19. He joined a team that sports the circuit's top team average (.296), has scored the league's most runs (664) and showcases some of the top bats at the level.
"[Jon Kemmer], he's going off right now," said Davis, who batted fifth Tuesday, one spot ahead of the left fielder. "He doesn't get as much credit as he deserves. He won the Double-A (Texas League) batting title two years ago, and he's doing really well this year. [A.J. Reed], we call him 'Big Papa,' and he's always a threat when he comes up to the plate. Being between those two guys, it's kind of a relief knowing that if you don't get on base or if you don't do your job or if they pitch around you, the guy behind you is going to pick you up for sure."
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Fresno won for the 25th time in the last 30 games. The Grizzlies have scored 127 runs in winning 11 of 13 games since the Triple-A All-Star break.
"All these guys, 80 percent of them have already been up in the big leagues, or a big portion of them have been in the big leagues, so they know what they're doing," Davis said. "In the clubhouse, it's awesome. It's a great group of guys, and it's fun to be around them. There's not much tension when we're down or when things aren't clicking for a couple innings. I think everyone knows it's just a ticking time bomb until one of us or two of us start getting going with a couple hits, and all of a sudden, it's contagious."