Zach Rutherford had been searching for power in his first full professional season. Until Monday, the Rays infield prospect had knocked just one homer in nearly 150 at-bats this spring.
But sometimes when it rains, it pours.
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Rutherford knocked two home runs and drove in six runs on a perfect 5-for-5 afternoon at the dish Monday as Class A Bowling Green dismantled Dayton, 14-1, in a rain-shortened contest at Bowling Green Ballpark.
The Old Dominion alum set a personal best with six RBIs, tying the Hot Rods record for a single game in the process with Mark Thomas on June 9, 2010 at Wisconsin and Tyler Goeddel on April 15, 2012 at Lake County. Rutherford previously belted two homers in a game last Aug. 13 with Rookie-level Princeton. Meanwhile, Bowling Green also matched a franchise mark for biggest margin of victory with a 14-1 win on June 21, 2013 vs. Lansing and a 13-0 win on June 19, 2016 at Fort Wayne.
"It was pretty awesome to be part of," Rutherford said. "Guys up and down our lineup were swinging really well. We had several guys with three or four hits. It was just really cool to see a team swing like that together."
Tampa Bay's sixth-round pick in last June's Draft began his day by beating out a ground-ball single to shortstop in the first inning. In the bottom of the third with Bowling Green leading 1-0, he opened the flood gates with a solo homer over the wall in left-center field.
After a walk in the fourth, Rutherford reached in the fifth on a two-RBI single to left. He lined another single to left in the the seventh before a downpour delayed the game for about 30 minutes in the bottom of the eighth.
Once the teams took the field again, the Hot Rods loaded with one out in the inning. As Rutherford exited the dugout, he wasn't sure he'd get a chance to swing the bat.
"As (Carl Chester) walked, it just started pouring so much. I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to go up, or if I would even be able to see," he said. "I went up there and I wasn't sure if I could pick up the ball out of the pitcher's hand, cause it was raining right in our faces."
But on the first pitch he saw from right-hander Tyler Buffett, Rutherford coiled his swing, spotted a fastball in the zone and jumped on it. No sooner did his second homer of the game clear the fence before the game was again delayed and then called before the end of the eighth.
"I couldn't even see it land," he said.
The Dayton dugout challenged the call, arguing that Vidal Brujan didn't touch home plate on the play. The call was changed and Rutherford's grand slam was changed to a three-run homer.
The infielder's game seems to be a culmination of his efforts in May. After notching a .230 average in April, Rutherford strung together a 12-game hit streak and collected a base knock in 18 of 19 games before a pair of hitless contests this weekend. He's hitting .393 in May and .327 for the season.
After all of Monday's excitement, Rutherford just wants to stay consistent, something he didn't have a firm handle on in his full-season debut earlier this season.
"The first couple weeks I was just trying to get my feet under me and get used to how things work here," he said. "I needed to get more comfortable and see the ball better while staying disciplined at the plate. Now I just hope I can keep putting together good at-bats day in and out."
Adrian Rondon collected four hits and plated four runs while Rays No. 19 prospect Ronaldo Hernandez added three hits, two RBIs and a run for the Hot Rods.