Baseball is known for being a grind, especially in the full-season leagues where teams can play 140 games in 152 days with one three-day respite over the All-Star break.
Players handle this battle in different ways. Midwest League rookie Fernando Perez's style of front-loading his work schedule has been paying off down the stretch.
Perez smacked a game-tying grand slam in the eighth inning and finished with six RBIs as the Class A Fort Wayne TinCaps rallied from an eight-run deficit to beat the visiting Lake County Captains, 12-11, in 10 frames Thursday night.
"It was just an overall great game," Perez said. "We scored three runs and were pretty comfortable and they tied the game. It was pretty tough for us to come back, but I'm glad we did. It's great for the team, especially now that we are playing really good ball. It gives us confidence. Pretty much come off the field and feel confident that we can win any game."
Perez put the TinCaps on the board first with a sacrifice fly in the first inning, but the Captains overturned an early 3-0 deficit to build an 11-3 lead. Perez plated a run in the seventh to close the gap to 11-6 when his ground ball to second base was mishandled by Claudio Batista, and he clubbed a first-pitch grand slam to center field with two outs in the eighth to knot proceedings, 11-11.
"I was just trying to stick with my approach. Not trying to do too much, just getting a good pitch to hit," Perez said of his 10th homer of the year, his first career grand slam. "I saw [Alexis Paredes] throwing in the bullpen. I saw the arm action. He faced [Trea Turner] before me, so I was really focused on his movement and the way the ball was coming out of his hand. Especially late in the game, you try to see the guy. … I saw him throwing sinkers, so I was thinking the ball would probably tail away from me. He left it in the zone and I went with it. It was a pitch right down the middle. I hit it hard. I didn't feel the ball coming off the bat. I said, 'Whoa, that's gone.'
"Especially because we had two outs, I said to myself, 'You can not just let this opportunity go away, especially right now when we're down by a lot of runs. I didn't realize I tied the game. I was just trying to get a couple runs in."
His six RBIs tied a career high. He also plated six in the Rookie-level Arizona League on a two-homer night against the Rangers on July 7, 2012, his fourth game in the Minors. Perez was on deck to bat in the bottom of the 10th when Turner laced a game-winning single to left to chase home Henry Charles for the win.
Selected by the Padres in the third round of the 2012 Draft out of Central Arizona College, Perez is in his third year of pro ball. He hit .273 with San Diego's AZL affiliate in 2012 and he batted .224 across two levels, primarily with short-season Eugene, in 2013.
But 2014 marks his first year in a full-season league, and with that comes almost twice the games, and consequently, twice the work. Slumps are harder to break out of and the mental and physical toll weighs heavier during the dog days of summer. Perez spent extra hours early in the year to make sure he was prepared.
"You do your pregame stuff and stretch," Perez said. "Late in the season, you don't take as many swings as at the start of the season. You have already built muscle memory, so you can take less swings and cut down. You just keep grinding.
"Just trying to work on my approach, especially late in the season. There are a lot of games, I just have to make the adjustments. When it's game time, just go. You have to have the right mind-set."
Lake County's Clint Frazier, Cleveland's No. 2 prospect, went 4-for-6 with a double, two RBIs and a run to raise his average to .266. Shortstop Ivan Castillo also collected four hits and two RBIs at the top of the order, and catcher Eric Haase, first baseman Grant Fink and Claudio Bautista all went deep for the Captains.