After a slow start in the prospect-laden Arizona Fall League, Kyle Jensen is proving he deserves his place among the top young stars of the game.
The Marlins outfielder picked up two hits, including a prodigious game-tying grand slam in the seventh inning, as the Phoenix Desert Dogs played to a 7-7 tie with the Mesa Solar Sox at Phoenix Municipal Stadium.
"It means a lot to be here," Jensen said. " I didn't have a good start to this year, but I finished strong and I wanted to come out here and continue that.
"You see guys here who have big league arms. When you're putting good swings on balls against them, it makes you feel good. I'm definitely not intimidated."
With the Desert Dogs trailing entering the bottom of the seventh, 6-2, Jensen knew he would get at least one more at-bat to try and turn the game around.
Astros left-hander Alex Sogard walked Kevin Kiermaier (Rays), and Braves' second-rounder Nick Ahmed reached on third baseman Javier Baez's throwing error. Oakland prospect Grant Green then singled to left field to load the bases and Jensen smacked Sogard's 0-1 offering 450 feet to left-center field.
"First pitch was a fastball and I chopped it for a foul ball. Then [Sogard] threw the same pitch again and it was kind of over the plate and I put a nice easy swing on it," Jensen said. "It looked like he was trying to bust me in, but I was just trying to put it in play. It got pretty good flight, but I was still running pretty hard out of the box."
Ahmed gave the Desert Dogs a 7-6 lead with an RBI single in the eighth, but the Solar Sox rallied on a bizarre play in the top of the ninth.
With one out, Rafael Ynoa (Dodgers) slapped a ground ball between first and second base and down the right-field line. Jensen tried to track the ball down, but he slipped up against the fence.
"I was playing in the gap and [Ynoa] hit it down the line. When I got there it kicked off the fence, but my foot slipped and went in a hole and my whole ankle and foot got stuck under the fence," Jensen said. "I couldn't move it at all.
"After the play was over, four or five bullpen pitchers had to lift the fence up. I wasn't expecting it at all. Nothing like that has ever happened before."
Ynoa's hit was ruled an inside-the-park home run and it completed the scoring. Neither team could push across a run in the next two frames and the game was ruled a tie at the end of the 11th.
Selected by the Marlins in the 12th round of the 2009 Draft out of St. Mary's College, Jensen is coming to the end of his fourth year of professional ball.
He was named the Florida State League's Most Valuable Player with Jupiter in 2011, and he built upon this success with the Double-A Jacksonville Suns this season.
In 132 Southern League games, the 24-year-old batted .234 with 24 homers and 84 RBIs. He set career highs in runs scored (70) and walks (69) while posting a .452 slugging percentage.
"I'm just looking to stay calm, get good pitches to hit and put the barrel on the ball," he said. "I'm trying to stay within myself and hit the ball hard."
So far, that plan is paying dividends for the California native. After starting his AFL campaign 3-for-16 with one extra-base hit, Jensen has recorded five consecutive multi-hit games. During that span, he is batting .520 (13-for-25) with four doubles, a home run and eight RBIs.
On Tuesday, Mesa starter Dae-Eun Rhee (Cubs) allowed two runs on six hits over 3 2/3 innings in his third outing of the fall, while his counterpart Brian Flynn (Marlins) yielded three runs on four hits and a walk while striking out two batters over four innings. Neither pitcher factored in the decision.
Mesa shortstop Jonathan Schoop (Orioles) was 2-for-3 with a double, a walk and two runs scored, and first baseman Aaron Westlake went 2-for-5 with a two-run homer and three RBIs. Detroit's No. 17 prospect and the top first baseman in the Tigers' system, Westlake was 1-for-25 with one RBI and eight strikeouts coming into today. Tuesday's outing raised his average to .100.
Phoenix center fielder Christian Yelich -- MLB.com's No. 17 prospect -- was 3-for-4 with a pair of doubles and a run scored, and leadoff hitter Ahmed finished with two hits, an RBI and a run scored at the top of the lineup.