Oscar Mercado might have been in neutral over his last seven games at the plate, but Saturday night, he kicked into high gear.
The eighth-ranked St. Louis prospect notched a career-high five hits while scoring twice and knocking in a pair of runs as Triple-A Memphis beat Colorado Springs, 10-1, at AutoZone Park. Mercado tied a career high with three stolen bases, the first time he met that mark since April 22, 2016 at Class A Advanced Palm Beach.
Video: Redbirds' Mercado collects fifth hit of game
The Redbirds outfielder entered the week in the midst of his best season at the plate, but the Cardinals' 2013 second-round Draft pick fell into a 1-for-22 slump. Mercado said initially he was having bad luck finding holes for balls to drop, but after a couple games, it started to bother him.
"I felt good and thought I'd squared up a lot of contact, but guys were hitting the ground and making some good catches," he said. "But that started to get me a little frustrated that I couldn't get anything to fall. I started giving away some at-bats. Tonight, the biggest thing was just putting together a couple good at-bats in a row and building."
Mercado started off with a broken-bat RBI single in the second inning on a grounder to left, scoring Patrick Wisdom. He turned on the jets, grabbing two bases off Colorado Springs pitcher Nick Ramirez with Wilfredo Tovar at the dish. When Tovar put the ball in play, Mercado crossed the plate to give the Redbirds a 3-1 lead.
Gameday box score
In the fourth, the 23-year-old laid down a flawless bunt between Ramirez and Sky Sox first baseman Shane Opitz, and Mercado legged out a single as they hesitated on the play. After stealing second, Tovar knocked in Mercado again with a line-drive single to center.
Those two at-bats enabled the native of Tampa, Florida, to regain the sense of rhythm that enabled his batting average to float around either side of .300 for the majority of the 2018 campaign.
"I definitely didn't expect to start off my day with shattering a bat and getting a hit or a bunt, but after that, I started to feel really confident up there," he said. "Sometimes it's just a broken bat or a little thing that gets you going."
Up again in the fifth with the bases loaded and nobody out, the Tampa native lined an RBI single to left, plating Adolis Garcia in Memphis' four-run frame. He capped his 5-for-5 effort by lining a single to center in the seventh and another to left in the eighth.
Mercado's action on the basepaths has kept himself active and competitive. Despite just one hit over the previous seven games, he managed to steal four bases in the five contests entering Saturday. Collecting hits gives Mercado more opportunities to show off arguably his biggest strength, which he thinks he can be a unique asset if and when he makes it to St. Louis.
"It's a big part in my game because it seems like it's going away in the game, but that doesn't mean I have to take it out of mine," he said. "I can help my teammates out and put myself in a good position to score for them, and that's why I've taken a lot of pride in it. If I ever get a chance to play up there, my job is going to be to get on and score runs. Stealing gives me a great ability to do just that."
Garcia also had a big night at the plate for the Redbirds. He collected four hits, three runs and an RBI, while Wisdom smashed a two-run homer in the eighth.
Cardinals No. 17 prospect Jake Woodford (1-2) surrendering a run on three hits and three walks with seven strikeouts over six innings.