Raben, 66ers blast seven homers in rout

Inland Empire ties California League record with five first-inning jacks

Dennis Raben's .366 average since the All-Star Break has lifted his season mark to .296. (Mike Andruski/MiLB.com)

By Tyler Maun / MiLB.com | August 18, 2014 1:28 AM ET

Dennis Raben has seen enough games in the California League to know the difference between one buoyed by the elements and a true offensive show. After the first inning Sunday, he knew he was part of a special day at the plate.

The Angels prospect homered twice as Class A Advanced Inland Empire belted seven jacks -- including tying a California League record with five in the first inning -- en route to its 10th straight victory, a 15-0 drubbing of High Desert.

"I've been in this league before when I was with High Desert with Seattle [from 2010-'12]," Raben said, "and the wind really wasn't anything crazy tonight like I've seen it before at High Desert. Those first couple of innings, we were just squaring balls up. Everything we seemed to hit was finding a hole. It was just one of those crazy nights."

Crazy might be an understatement. The 66ers sent 15 men to the plate in their 10-run first, chasing High Desert starter Scott DeCecco after he recorded just two outs. Chad Hinshaw, Alex Albritton, Zach Wright, Sherman Johnson and Raben all went yard in the frame. Johnson had two hits in the inning, singling to lead off before going back-to-back with Wright. Raben's homer came in his second at-bat of the inning.

After the Mavericks managed just one hit in the bottom of the first, the 66ers went back to work. With a run already in, Hinshaw mashed his second of the game -- a three-run shot -- and Raben followed with another solo blast.

"Once we really got rolling with four or five guys in a row in that first inning, guys just feed off of that," Raben said. "I think that's what happened those first two innings."

Johnson, Hinshaw and Wright led the way with three hits apiece while Hinshaw's five RBIs were a game high. The 66ers settled down after the onslaught, recording just three hits the rest of the way.

"As much as you think that you don't take your foot off the pedal or anything like that, it might be in your head a little bit subconsciously," Raben said. "I think we were all still going up there with the same mind-set, still trying to put together good at-bats, squaring stuff up to put some runs on the board. It's just crazy how, in baseball, you can score 15 runs in the first two innings and then get shut out for seven."

Sunday's two-homer day continued a resurgence for Raben, who is batting .366/.428/.717 since the All-Star Break with 19 home runs and 61 RBIs. The Hollywood, Florida native has homered 10 times in his last 13 games.

"It's just one of those things you can't really explain," he said. "Sometimes you just get in a groove. You're getting good pitches to hit ... and you're seeing the ball well. Usually that leads to pretty good numbers."

The extended wait to get to the mound didn't faze Inland Empire starter Clint Sharp. Over five innings, Sharp (3-2) allowed just two hits and struck out seven while walking one.

"Our pitching coach [Matt Wise] was telling him in the dugout, once we put up a 10-spot in the top of the first, 'Hey, the game is 0-0,'" Raben said. "The last thing he wants the pitcher to do is get comfortable and throw, maybe, just fastballs or something like that and get off his game. [Sharp] did a great job staying on the game."

DeCecco (6-10) was charged with eight runs -- though just two earned -- on seven hits in two-thirds of an inning.

The 66ers have won 10 straight to leap into a tie for first place in the California League South Division second-half race, matching Rancho Cucamonga at 29-27 through Sunday.

"I think we've been doing a good job the last month or month-and-a-half," Raben said. "We're just having fun. In the locker room, we're listening to music. Typically in July and August, those are the days you're grinding it out and just trying to make it to the finish line, but I feel like we're really hitting our stride right now.

"Every day is a new day."

Tyler Maun is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @TylerMaun. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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