Hillcat extends run to 46 games in ninth; Red Sox deliver triple play
August 4, 2016
Francisco Mejia hasn't been one for drama during his historic hitting streak. That changed Thursday when he became the player with the longest run in the modern era.
Cleveland's No. 4 prospect went hitless in his first four at-bats before doubling down the right-field line to lead off the ninth inning of Class A Advanced Lynchburg's 7-3 win over Salem, extending his Minor League-best streak to 46 games.
It marked the first time during Mejia's historic stretch that the 20-year-old catcher -- who served as designated hitter Thursday -- waited until the final inning to get on the board. He had extended the streak several times in the seventh inning, but never after that.
"I just think that he probably feels the natural feelings that a 20-year-old kid would feel," Hillcats hitting coach Larry Day said. "He's trying to get hits to help his team win. ... I'm sure he feels the heat with the hitting streak, but that's why it's our job as coaches to keep him in the moment and help him on a daily basis like there is no streak."
Streaking in the minors
The longest hitting streaks in Minor League history
San Francisco (PCL)
Lake County/Lynchburg (MID/CAR)
High Desert (CAL)
Big Spring (LHL)
Mejia, who was bumped up to second in the Hillcats' batting order on Aug. 1 after batting mostly sixth since since his promotion on June 27, reached on a fielding error by No. 3 Red Sox prospect Rafael Devers in the first inning after leadoff man Mark Mathias was hit by a pitch. Anthony Santander then grounded into a triple play, the first turned by Salem since July 10, 2000 against the Kinston Indians.
"It was a ground ball that was hit with some good pace that took the third baseman [Devers] towards the base, which made it tailor-made for him to step on the bag, throw to second and then to first," Day said.
The switch-hitter lined out to second in the third, grounded out to short in the fifth and struck out with one out in the seventh. But Lynchburg sent eight men to the plate in the eighth and scored twice, setting Mejia up to lead off the ninth.
"The flow of the game was kind of intense," Day said. "He was locked in on trying to win the game, so I don't think that it was too much suspense leading up to him getting his hit. ... I think that whether or not he got that hit tonight, he would've been happy because of the way the game turned out."
Mejia's position makes his streak even more impressive, in his coach's estimation. Not only does the 5-foot-10, 175-pound backstop have to worry about doing his job at the plate, but he also has to make sure he's working to be effective behind it as well.
"That's what unique about a streak like this," Day said. "You're talking about a 20-year-old kid at high-A who's strung together games upon games where he's had quality at-bats, but he's also got the defensive part of it which is a demanding situation -- physically demanding on your body. Emotionally and mentally demanding. I might be more proud of him as far as how he performed behind the plate as I am the hitting streak."
The hitting coach also had the opportunity to coach Mejia last season when he was with Class A Lake County. Day said the transformation between the 19-year-old and the Dominican Republic native today has been astounding.
"He's matured a lot as a player, a hitter, a catcher," Day said. "I had him last year, and just to compare the two players makes me really happy for him and the direction he's going in. He works at it now. ... I know that a lot of people may just see the number 46, but it's hard-earned and it doesn't happen by chance."
Mejia wasn't the only story on offense for Lynchburg as the Hillcats pounded out 11 hits -- nine for extra bases. Cleveland's third-ranked prospect Bobby Bradley homered -- his league-leading 21st of the season -- and doubled while driving in two to retake the circuit RBI lead from Santander, and Sicnarf Loopstok homered, tripled and scored twice.
Hillcats starter Luis Lugo allowed two runs on four hits and three walks while striking out three over five innings. Lefty Billy Strode picked up the win after giving up one hit in two frames.
Chris Tripodi is an editor for MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @christripodi.