Clark rattles off career-high five hits

Outfielder falls homer shy of cycle with four RBIs, three runs

Zach Clark has improved his batting average by 38 points and his OPS by 102 since June 17. (Wisconsin Timber Rattlers)

By Chris Tripodi / MiLB.com | July 9, 2018 7:10 PM

Zach Clark knew he needed to make an adjustment at the plate. A visit from Brewers hitting coordinator Kenny Graham provided the struggling hitter with some ideas, and now, the Brewers outfield prospect is showing the results.

Clark set a career high with five hits Monday as Class A Wisconsin walloped Peoria, 19-5. He matched his career best with four RBIs, scored three times and finished a home run shy of the cycle out of the leadoff spot.

Video: Wisconsin's Clark doubles for fifth hit

"Lately, I've just been trying to see the ball a little deeper, get my hands inside it and see some strikes," Clark said. "Today, it came full circle for me, so I'm just trying to keep it going."

Leading off the game against Chiefs starter Paul Balestrieri, Clark fouled off the first pitch of the at-bat, watched two balls go by and fouled off two more offerings before looking at strike three. He said he remained confident afterward, though.

"I felt really good my first at-bat, put some good swings on balls and fouled them off, but I just got passive with two strikes and let him throw a fastball on the outside corner," Clark said. "I told myself I was going to be aggressive and put some good swings on balls the rest of the day."


Gameday box score


The 2016 19th-round pick got another opportunity in the following frame. The first four Timber Rattlers batters reached base to set him up with the bases loaded. He singled to left field to score Jay Feliciano and Brent Diaz and give Wisconsin a 4-0 lead.

Clark singled to left against Balestrieri to lead off the fourth and beat out a single to second off reliever C.J. Saylor to start the fifth -- his second three-hit game in a seven-day span. With a 11-4 lead in the sixth, Clark legged out a triple to center off Bryan Dobzanski that drove in J.R. Davis.

Then the native of Springfield, Louisiana, doubled to left against Levi MaVorhis to plate Feliciano and open up a 16-4 advantage. Wisconsin went down in order in the bottom of the eighth, denying Clark an opportunity to go for the cycle.

"That would've been sick, but I'm definitely happy with my day," he said. "It definitely would've been cool to try to get that one last homer in there for the cycle; I've never hit a cycle before."

In a 4-for-36 slump with a .220/.286/.370 slash line after an 0-for-4 night in Kane County on June 16, Clark decided it was time to make some changes at the dish. Graham's visit only confirmed what he needed to do, and the 22-year-old became the first Timber Rattler with five hits in a game since Tyrone Taylor on Aug. 20, 2013.

"I knew I had a huge adjustment to make. I had to stop being so passive early in the count and getting myself to two strikes and cut down my swing," Clark said. "Focusing on keeping my hands inside the ball has helped me control the effort level in my swing. [Graham] came in to town a few weeks ago and told me if there was one thing to do the rest of the way, it was that. It's not how you start it's how you finish, so I've been trying to stick to that pretty heavy."

Since the Midwest League All-Star break, Clark is batting .356/.415/.627 in 16 games and has hit safely in 13 of those contests. The offense has seemingly come easily for him during that stretch, but it was simpler Monday thanks to his team's onslaught.

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"It all happened so quickly because our team was absolutely raking today," Clark said. "I got my last at-bat before I could even think about [having five hits], so I didn't have time to think about it. I play a lot better when I don't think, and that worked out for me. It's easy to succeed when everybody around you is doing as well. It's pretty contagious."

Trever Morrison added four hits, four runs scored and three RBIs while Nic Pierre went 3-for-5 with two RBIs and two runs. Brewers No. 8 prospect Tristen Lutz and catcher Brent Diaz plated three runs apiece. Lutz also homered, scored three times and stole a base.

Gabe Friese (3-4) tossed 3 1/3 scoreless innings in relief of Nelson Hernandez -- who was knocked out after two batters when he was hit on his throwing arm by a line drive -- and Matthew Hardy, who gave up four runs over 2 1/3 innings.

Chris Tripodi is a producer for MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @christripodi. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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