'Wolves' Collins continues power surge

Tigers No. 6 prospect extends home run streak to five games

Tyler Collins has already matched his 2012 total with seven homers. (Rob Frank/Erie SeaWolves)

By Robert Emrich / Special to MLB.com | May 4, 2013 8:37 PM ET

Tyler Collins is going away and it's leading him back home.

The Tigers' No. 6 prospect homered for the fifth straight game Saturday night as Double-A Erie rallied for a 4-3 walk-off win over Altoona.

With one out and no one on in the sixth inning, Collins sent a 1-2 offering from Curve starter Stolmy Pimentel over the right-center field fence to tie the game, 2-2.

"He was keeping me off-balance, because the at-bat before I saw something like five sliders and lined out," Collins said. "I got the count [to 1-2] and saw a breaking ball in the dirt and I had a hunch he might throw me another fastball. And, sure enough, it was a pretty hittable fastball and I did my best to put a good swing on it."

The 22-year-old outfielder is putting the finishing touches on a spectacular week during which he's hit six homers, driven in 12 runs and raised his average 31 points to .262. On Thursday, he had a two-homer, five-RBI outburst against Binghamton. Collins credits the work he's done with hitting coach Gerald Perry with getting him back on track.

"Most of the time, our day will consist of early in the sessions making sure I'm getting my foot down, making sure I'm driving the ball in the other direction, staying inside of it and hitting line drives," he explained. "From there, he'll mix in inside-outside, just hitting the ball where it's pitched."

Collins has climbed atop the Eastern League leaderboard with seven homers, matching the total he posted in 126 games last season with Class A Advanced Lakeland. His Minor League career high is eight with short-season Connecticut in 2011.

"I don't think there's a big difference in my mental approach, I'm trying to still drive the ball," Collins said. "You do get a few bigger fields in the Florida State League than in the Eastern League from what I've seen so far. I feel really comfortable hitting the ball the other way."

"Last year, I got away from driving the ball in the opposite direction and started trying to pull everything. As guys move up with me on other teams and they're trying to pitch me away, and I feel like I'm trying to drive the ball versus just hit it the other way."

As the season progresses, teams and pitchers are likely to start pitching Collins inside. He acknowledges the possibility and is prepared for it.

"That's the difficult part of baseball," the Howard Junior College product said. "It's a game of constant adjustments. If I feel like a team is going to start pitching me in, obviously I have to look in and drive the ball hard that way. Right now I wouldn't say they're all throwing me away, but that was just kind of the common theme this week."

Collins' streak is one game from matching the Minor League season high. Devin Harris of Class A Advanced San Jose homered in six straight games from April 24-30.

Trailing by a run entering the ninth, the SeaWolves loaded the bases with two outs, setting the stage for an unlikely ending.

"It was crazy," Collins said. "We got bases loaded and two outs and a 3-2 count, so the runners were going. [Eugenio] Suarez hit a ground ball to third base and [Gift Ngoepe] decided to throw the ball to second base. Because the runners were running, the guy [Corey Jones] running to second base beat the throw.

"Somehow, in the midst of him running and sliding and the second baseman [Jarek Cunningham] catching the ball and trying to get to the bag before him, they fell down. Jaime Johnson just happened to be running with his head up and saw him and beat the throw home. It's not your textbook walk-off, I'll tell you that."

Erie starter Warwick Saupold struck out eight and allowed two runs on three hits over six innings. Michael Morrison (2-1) earned the win after tossing 1 1/3 hitless frames.

Andrew Lambo slugged a two-run homer, his fourth, for the Curve, who have lost five in a row.

Robert Emrich is a contributor to MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @RobertEmrich. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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