In the midst of another frustrating year, Levi Michael got to do something Friday he'd never done before.
The Twins prospect drove in three runs and participated in an around-the-horn triple play as Double-A Chattanooga defeated Pensacola, 7-2, at Pensacola Bayfront Stadium.
The triple play, the 13th in the Minor Leagues and first in the Southern League this season, occurred in the fourth inning, with the Lookouts holding a 3-0 lead. With runners on first and second, Ray Chang bounced a ball to third baseman Heiker Meneses, who stepped on the bag and fired to Michael at second base for the second out. Michael relayed over to first baseman Niko Goodrum to complete the triple killing.
"That was a rare occurrence that was fun to be a part of," Michael said. "It just so happened it was hit fairly sharply, taking our third baseman towards the bag. Stepped on the bag and we rolled the triple play. It was a big momentum shift."
Offensively, the 24-year-old second baseman homered, doubled, drove in three runs and scored twice atop the Lookouts lineup. Michael's long ball in the sixth came off reliever Wandy Peralta, opened a 7-1 lead and effectively put the game out of reach.
"I felt good tonight. Couple of things went my way," Michael said. "He [Cody Reed] threw a changeup down and in [in the third] and I was able to stay with it and hit it down the third-base line. Later in the game, the guy [Peralta] made a couple of good pitches, got into a 3-1 count and left a fastball out over the plate. I hit it fairly well; luckily, I had the wind."
A year after playing in only 65 games due to a foot injury, Michael has appeared in 53 for the Lookouts, going down with a high ankle sprain after sliding into second base in a game on May 4. The North Carolina native didn't return until June 19, putting a dent in his season.
"Injuries have bugged me this year and my whole career," he said. "It's part of the game. Very frustrating because I seem to have something every year, and I think the biggest thing in baseball is having the experience and the repetitions."
When Michael has been on the field this year, his bat has been an asset to one of the Southern League's best offenses. The 2011 first-round pick is batting .265 with 36 runs scored and an .830 OPS, the latter of which would rank sixth in the circuit if he had enough plate appearances to qualify.
"When I'm in there and I'm getting consistent at-bats, I feel like I've done fairly well. Just the injuries have kind of plagued me," Michael said. "Being able to stay in there is my biggest focus."
Twins No. 10 prospect Adam Brett Walker doubled twice and drove in two runs, while Shannon Wilkerson slugged a solo shot for Chattanooga.
Lookouts starter D.J. Baxendale (6-4) earned the win, allowing a run on five hits and five walks while fanning six over five innings.
Reds No. 7 prospect Alex Blandino doubled home a run for the Blue Wahoos. Reed, Cincinnati's ninth-ranked prospect, fell to 3-2 after giving up four runs on nine hits with four strikeouts in five innings.