The Hot Rods have to travel farther than any team in the Midwest League. That didn't seem to faze Ronaldo Hernandez and his teammates on Friday.
The Rays' No. 19 prospect smacked his second grand slam of the season and drove in a career-high five runs to power Class A Bowling Green to a 15-1 romp over West Michigan at Bowling Green Ballpark.
Gameday box score
After Hernandez went 0-for-3 at Fort Wayne on Thursday, Hot Rods manager Craig Albernaz wasn't concerned with how the young hitter might respond.
"He's going to have 0-for games," he said. "There's 140-something games, that's going to happen. I was more happy and proud of everyone having a long travel through the night. Our travel at Bowling Green, we have the worst in the league. Our average travel is eight hours. We got in late last night, and to see these guys, especially Ronaldo, bounce back and have good at-bats was great to see."
The 20-year-old delivered an RBI single to left field in the third and helped the Hot Rods to a 10-run fourth with a grand slam to left-center off reliever Aaron Fernandez, scoring Vidal Brujan, Rays No. 30 prospect Taylor Walls and Moises Gomez.
"He's making some great strides and his development, especially on the mental side, has been great," said Albernaz. "Obviously, the physical tools have been there and always will be there. But it's the mental side of putting the together an approach at the plate, having good at-bats, and everything is starting to come together for him right now. He's still young at times at the plate, but right now everything is clicking for him."
All three of Hernandez's hits came off breaking balls.
"He got one up in the zone and he put a good swing on it," Albernaz said of the grand slam. "He's been hitting in the middle of our lineup. In any league, no matter what level you're at, if you're in the middle of the lineup you're going to see a lot of off-speed pitches, especially behind in the count to keep him off-balance. He's been seeing a lot of those and has made some good adjustments. It goes back to his maturation process. The more he sees, the more he recognizes what pitchers are trying to do to him."
Hernandez, who also hit a slam against Clinton on May 3, is batting .297/.345/.452 with four homers and 37 RBIs in 42 games. He's driven in nine runs in his last four contests and has multiple hits in three of his last five games.
Bowling Green totaled 17 hits, with Gomez slugging a two-run homer and Walls adding a solo shot. Four nights after going 5-for-5, Zach Rutherford contributed three hits, scored twice and drove in a run.
"That big inning we had, it was just all good at-bats," Albernaz said. "We had a bunch of walks and we weren't swinging the bats at everything. We were drawing walks. That's contagious. The hitter on deck sees what they're doing and what the pitcher's trying to do, and when you get into the box you have an idea of what's going on. These guys pay attention."
Riley O'Brien (2-1) got the win, allowing two hits and striking out five without issuing a walk over five scoreless frames.