Given the regular season Alex Kirilloff just finished, it seems appropriate he would take center stage in the opener of the Florida State League semifinals.
Minnesota's No. 2 prospect homered in his first postseason at-bat and finished with two hits as Class A Advanced Fort Myers defeated Palm Beach, 3-1, on Tuesday night in Game 1 of the best-of-3 semifinals at CenturyLink Sports Complex.
Gameday box score
Kirilloff's monster season began in Class A Cedar Rapids and ended with a flourish in Florida. MLB.com's No. 30 overall prospect wasted no time making his presence felt in the playoffs, depositing an 0-2 pitch from Palm Beach starter Jake Walsh over the right-field fence in the first inning. The 20-year-old reached on a fielder's choice to short in the third, grounded to short in the fifth and singled to center in the eighth.
"My first thought was, 'I hope [the umpires] ruled it a home run,'" Kirilloff said. "I kinda just kept running because the first-base umpire only motioned that it was a fair ball. Then I saw the umpire at second motion for a home run. I was just happy to help my team get out to an early lead. ... I think everyone plays with a little more heightened intensity in the playoffs. I really didn't have any nerves. The atmosphere was the same for the most part."
Ryan Costello and Minnesota's No. 29 prospect Jose Miranda increased Fort Myers' lead to 3-0 with consecutive two-out RBI hits in the third. Top Twins prospect Royce Lewis singled, stole a base and scored a run.
The Twins' first-round pick in the 2016 Draft amassed a combined slash line of .348/.392/.578 to lead the Minor Leagues with 71 extra-base hits and 44 doubles in 130 games this year despite missing all of 2017 after undergoing Tommy John surgery. He added 101 RBIs and finished second in the Minors with 178 hits, two behind Triple-A Albuquerque's Josh Fuentes.
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The Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, native wasn't necessarily surprised by his success in 2018, despite losing a year of development.
"No, not at all," Kirilloff said about his strong season. "I'm definitely happy with my overall year. I hope to improve even more next year."
Andro Cutura (1-0) allowed one run on four hits and two walks while tying his career high with nine strikeouts in seven innings. The 25-year-old wrapped up the regular season by surrendering one run over his last three starts spanning 17 frames. Ryan Mason gave up a hit and struck out one over two scoreless innings to earn the save.
St. Louis' No. 12 prospect Dylan Carlson doubled, singled and scored Palm Beach's lone run on Stefan Trosclair's groundout in the fourth.
Walsh (0-1) was charged with three runs on five hits and a walk with seven strikeouts in five innings. Colton Thomson followed with two perfect frames and 10th-ranked Cardinals prospect Griffin Roberts gave up one hit over one inning.
The Cardinals and Miracle are meeting in the semis for the second straight season. Palm Beach swept the series last year and was named co-champion with Dunedin after Hurricane Irma canceled the Championship Series. The semifinals shift to Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium in Palm Beach for Game 2 at 6:30 p.m. ET on Wednesday.
In other FSL playoff action:
Threshers 7, Tortugas 6
Grenny Cumana, who entered Tuesday with six home runs in 428 career Minor League games, slugged a go-ahead solo shot in the eighth to give Daytona a 1-0 series lead in the other Florida State League semifinals. Phillies No. 12 prospect Daniel Brito chipped in two hits and an RBI for the Threshers. Addison Russ (1-0) pitched 1 1/3 scoreless innings out of the bullpen to pick up the win. Taylor Trammell -- Cincinnati's third-ranked prospect -- and Courtney Hawkins hit two-run homers for Daytona. Gameday box score