Tyler O'Neill believed the struggles he's been through this season have only made him work harder and that he'd turn the corner sooner rather than later. On Friday, the second-ranked Mariners prospect finally felt things begin to click.
O'Neill homered twice, doubled and drove in a season-high seven runs to power Triple-A Tacoma to a 13-6 triumph over Reno at Greater Nevada Field.
Gameday box score
"I'm feeling pretty good, finally putting the bat on the ball and good things are starting to happen and I'm going to roll with it and go from there," said O'Neill, who fell one RBI short of tying the career high he set for Double-A Jackson on June 8, 2016.. "This is a big game for me. I kind of figured a couple of things out, not thinking so much, just swinging hard, hit it and good things will happen. I'm going to keep doing that and see what happens."
MLB.com's No. 31 overall prospect compiled a 292/.374/.508 slash line with 24 homers and 102 RBIs last year, culminating with Southern League MVP honors. In 69 games with the Rainiers, O'Neill has a .221/.298/.399 line with eight long balls and 33 RBIs. The 22-year-old has put in extra work with hitting coach Dave Berg after taking some lumps in the Pacific Coast League.
"Me and Bergy, we're in the cage a lot, we talk a little bit," O'Neill said. "But he knows that I'm the one that's going to get out of the slump and he can only give me tips along the way. I'm there getting my work in, he's helping me and all's good on that point."
After grounding out in the second inning, O'Neill came up in the fourth following Mariners No. 9 prospect D.J. Peterson's leadoff single and ripped Aaron Laffey's first offering over the left-center field wall for a two-run homer. The 2013 third-round pick learned something from his first at-bat that helped in his second trip to the plate.
"I saw three changeups, so I wasn't really sitting changeup," O'Neill said. "I was just looking for something over the plate and something I could drive. I got a good pitch to do it."
O'Neill bounced out to third in the fifth but stepped up in the sixth with the bases full. With four runs already home in the inning, he doubled to right to score No. 8 prospect Daniel Vogelbach and Gordon Beckham.
"My night's not all on me," O'Neill said. "I had a lot of guys getting on base for me, getting all those RBIs -- kudos to them. I was just trying to put the ball in play, hit it hard and see what happened there. Good things do happen."
In his next at-bat, O'Neill plated Vogelbach again when he grounded into a fielder's choice. The British Columbia capped his big night in the ninth, swatting the first pitch from Louis Coleman over the left-center field wall for another two-run dinger. It marked the sixth-career multi-homer of his five-year professional career and first since April 23 last season.
"I'm not missing pitches over the plate like I used to," O'Neill said. "I'm just trying to put balls in play, hit them hard and just go from there."
The 5-foot-11, 210-pound outfielder doesn't plan on changing much with his approach as the second half of the season approaches.
"Baseball's a grind, it's a long season," O'Neill said. "You've got to stay positive, you have to find the positives each night. That's what I'm trying to do. I feel like going through a tough stretch is good for me, good for my mental fortitude. I'm learning a lot, so I'm going to go out there, play every day, play the way that I play -- playing hard -- and just let the results take care of themselves."
Peterson and Steve Baron collected four hits apiece, while Vogelbach went 3-for-6 with an RBI in Tacoma's season-best 21-hit attack.
For the Aces, Oswaldo Arcia smacked his 16th in a three-hit game, while Hank Conger and Kristopher Negron contributed two hits apiece.