'Riders' Mendonca slugs three homers

Rangers prospect rediscovers his groove, fuels big outburst

Tommy Mendonca's 71 RBIs rank third in the Texas League. (James Garner/MiLB.com)

By Ashley Marshall / Special to MLB.com | July 22, 2011 8:42 PM ET

Tommy Mendonca broke out of a small midseason slump in a big way Friday night when he put things into perspective and remembered that baseball is just a game.

The Rangers prospect went 4-for-6 with three homers and a career-high six RBIs in the Double-A Frisco RoughRiders' record-setting 19-4 rout of the Corpus Christi Hooks.

"It felt good tonight," Mendonca said. "I got my timing back and I'm just happy that we won the game."

The Texas League All-Star smacked the first pitch from Jonnathan Aristil over the right-center field fence with a man aboard in the first inning. He drilled another two-run shot on the next pitch he saw in the second.

"It was a first-pitch fastball," Mendonca said of the first homer. "I was anticipating a fastball, but even if it was a curveball I was probably going to swing at it. I was just trying to get a deep fly ball so the runner could tag up from third. But I put a good swing on it and got the barrel on it.

"The second [homer] was another first-pitch fastball. I saw the ball pretty well out of his hands and I caught it out front."

After singling in the fourth and striking out to lead off the sixth, the former second-round Draft pick crushed his third big fly of the night and the RoughRiders' third longball of the seventh inning.

"I always sit on a fastball and sometimes I get antsy. I don't recommend doing that," Mendonca said. "I was swinging at everything in the sixth inning, but I have 100-something strikeouts, so I can joke about it.

"Then, the next inning, it was a pitcher [Arcenio Leon] who we have seen a lot and I got out in front of his fastball and I knew it was gone. It was the best ball I hit all night."

It was the second three-homer game of Mendonca's three-year career. He ripped three solo shots for short-season Spokane on Aug. 5, 2009.

"My uncle was at that game," the California native recalled, "and that was a fun night, too. I would be lying if that game wasn't in the back of my mind tonight. I was trying to revert back to what I was doing in that game after I hit my second home run."

The third baseman, selected 62nd overall in the 2009 Draft, raised his average to .305 and has 20 homers and 71 RBIs in 84 Texas League games. He'd been in a 7-for-51 (.137) slump over 12 contests since the Texas League All-Star Game.

"Not a lot of people know this, but I had two buddies die in a tragic car accident the day before the All-Star Game," said Mendonca, who missed four games and attended two funerals in six days. "There were a lot of personal things on my mind because they were close, dear friends of mine.

"I couldn't care less if I went 0-for-4 or 0-for-5 or 0-for-6 or if I had 300 strikeouts. I would give all this up to have them back. It put it all into perspective."

The Fresno State product also has put a disappointing 2010 behind him. As a rookie in 2009, he hit .290 across two levels. But he batted .248 with 10 homers and 47 RBIs at Class A Advanced Bakersfield last season.

"Slumps happen. Even great players have got into slumps, but tonight I got back into my groove," Mendonca said. "Last year was a bad year for me and I will be the first to admit it. I didn't do anything to reach any of my expectations.

"This year, I've been working a lot with my hitting coach, Brant Brown, and getting back to basics -- just little things like putting the bat on the ball for once."

Frisco set a team record with eight homers, tied a club mark with 19 runs and established a season high with 24 hits. Robinzon Diaz was 4-for-5 with two homers, three RBIs and three runs scored, Renny Osuna went 4-for-6 with a triple and three runs scored and Mitch Hilligoss finished a triple shy of the cycle. Engel Beltre and Jonathan Greene also went deep for the RoughRiders.

"Nights like this make our job a lot easier because if someone isn't doing it, someone else is," Mendonca said. "It makes it all enjoyable."

Ashley Marshall is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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