Tyler O'Neill's patriotic timing might have been a little bit off, but the Canadian slugger certainly isn't complaining.
The Mariners' No. 2 prospect belted two homers for the second time in less than two weeks, finishing 3-for-5 with three RBIs, as Triple-A Tacoma beat Reno, 12-4, on Tuesday night at Greater Nevada Field.
On Saturday, O'Neill -- a British Columbia native -- celebrated Canada Day by rocking an all-red-and-white Baseball Canada ensemble for batting practice with the Rainiers. Three nights later, his bat provided the fireworks for Tacoma on Independence Day in his professional homeland.
Video: Tacoma's O'Neill bashes solo homer
"Oh, yeah, I know," he joked about the big night coming three days after Canada celebrated its 150th birthday. "Obviously, Canada Day is a great day for me, just like it is for you guys here on the Fourth. I wish I could have two home runs every game, but it just so happened to be on this day -- and I'll take it."
To lay the groundwork for his big night, O'Neill keyed in on something early against Aces starter Aaron Laffey.
Gameday box score
"I saw a fastball first pitch for a single up the middle off Laffey," he said of the hit that opened his night in the first inning. "I knew that he was being aggressive with the fastball, so I just really stayed on the heater. If he threw me something off-speed, I was going to adjust to it, but I just put a decent swing on a good ball to hit."
That swing came on a 1-0 offering from Laffey with two outs in the third and resulted in an opposite-field solo shot to right, O'Neill's 12th homer of the season.
"I'm finally on time with fastballs, getting good pitches to hit and not missing them like I was in the first few months of the season," he said. "Things are obviously turning around here."
After climbing above the Mendoza line for good on May 11, O'Neill has seen his season steadily pick up steam. In addition to a climbing slash line that sits at .234/.319/.445 through 80 games, his formidable bat is showing signs of life. With Tacoma leading after eight, 10-4, MLB.com's No. 29 overall prospect connected on a two-run homer off infielder Kristopher Negron, pressed into duty on the mound. That shot also went out to right, an encouraging sign for O'Neill.
Video: Tacoma's O'Neill hits second home run
"I wasn't trying to get pull-happy at all, just trying to look for something middle-over and put a good swing on it," said O'Neill, who went yard twice and drove in seven runs on June 24, also at Reno. "My barrel path is there now. My swing's feeling a lot better than it was earlier in the year. I'm just going to ride with it."
At the end of play on June 22, O'Neill was a .214/.293/.369 hitter with six homers. Over the next 12 games, the 22-year-old is batting .340/.446/.851 and more than doubled his homer total with seven jacks and 17 RBIs. Last year's Southern League MVP noticed a series of differences between the Minor Leagues' top two levels and is seeing results from the adjustments he's made.
"I don't think Double-A level guys really care too much," he said. "They really just want to challenge you, see if you can hit their heater, throw good off-speed stuff in there also. But guys in Triple-A, from what I've seen, they don't give in. In hitter's counts, [they throw] a lot of off-speeds, 3-2 [counts] a lot of changeups, a lot of off-speeds, too. It's really just adjusting to that, maturing and being able to deal with it."
As for the struggles to begin his first experience at Triple-A, O'Neill is seeing the bright side.
"It was tough, but I think it was very beneficial for me in my development to go through a struggling period and understand what it requires to get out of there and just to mentally persevere," he said. "I feel like I've done that."
O'Neill was one of a host of Rainiers hitters to put up big performances Tuesday. Tacoma rolled up 16 hits, including a double and homer from Mariners No. 9 prospect D.J. Peterson, who drove in four runs. Gordon Beckham contributed four hits behind Peterson in the order and leadoff man Leonys Martin went 2-for-5 with a walk, two RBIs and two runs scored.
"I love being able to use my bat personally and be able to be at the top of the lineup to hit back-to-back with those guys," O'Neill said. "Hitting's contagious. We just keep stringing things together and we all hit. It's fun."