With the Pacific Coast League playoffs on the horizon, Tyler O'Neill couldn't find a better time to start peaking.
"You always want to finish strong," the fourth-ranked Cardinals prospect said. "That's my goal and I'm going to go out there tomorrow and stay with my gameplan and play to the best of my abilities and see what happens."
O'Neill went deep in his third straight game as part of a three-hit, five-RBI performance to lead Triple-A Memphis to a 15-7 win over Colorado Springs on Sunday at Security Service Field.
Video: O'Neill belts three-run homer
MLB.com's No. 96 prospect has compiled a seven-game hitting streak and collected homers in five of the last six games. Over his last two games against the Sky Sox, O'Neill went 6-for-11 with two roundtrippers and nine RBIs
"I'm feeling pretty good, making sure I get pitches in the zone," he said. "I'm not missing them. I think that's the most important part, I'm not fouling back or swinging and missing on pitches to hit. It's nice to be finding some holes and nice to have runners and be able to drive them in."
After grounding out in the first inning, O'Neill came to the dish with two runners in scoring position in the third and worked the count to 3-0 against Aaron Brooks. On the fourth pitch of the at-bat, the 22-year-old took a hack and sent the ball over the left-field wall for his 31st homer of the season. Taking some advice from Redbirds manager Stubby Clapp, O'Neill planned to be aggressive if he had the chance.
"Stubby said I was going to be hitting in the middle of the order," he said. "So if it's a close ballgame, especially early in the ballgame, he wants me swinging and that's what I did. You really just look for one spot, one pitch. I know it was close enough to the area where I was looking and I did some damage with it."
Gameday box score
Back up in the fourth with two runners on, O'Neill came through again with a single up the middle to plate Jeremy Martinez from third. The native of Canada stepped in again in the fifth after five consecutive batters reached base. On the first pitch of his at-bat, the 5-foot-11, 210-pound outfielder ripped a single into left for his fifth run of the game.
O'Neill grounded out to lead off the eighth and fanned to end the ninth, but improved his overall slash line for the season to .247/.322/.502. In 36 games with the Redbirds after his trade from the Mariners, O'Neill has amassed a .255/.308/.560 line with 12 homers and 39 RBIs.
"I think it's more of a mental game than a physical game when being out of sync," he said. "My swing's there, my swing's always been there, it's just making sure that I'm able to get a pitch that I can hit and drive. I think it's just keeping it simple and not trying to complicate things."
The Redbirds notched their 90th victory of the season to become the first team to hit that mark on the circuit since the Tucson Sidewinders in 2006. While he hasn't been with the club all season, O'Neill is proud of what the team has accomplished.
"It's great, you pretty much come to the ballpark pretty much knowing you can win," he said. "It's a good atmosphere, good chemistry in the clubhouse and we're just going to keep right on rolling with that right into the playoffs and see what happens."
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Nick Martini and Wilfredo Tovar also homered for the Redbirds, driving in four and three runs respectively.