Astros' Lee bashes first AFL homer

November 18th, 2021

MESA, Ariz. -- No one has built a career around a home run total in the Arizona Fall League. But Astros catcher didn’t want to walk away from his time here empty-handed.

His two-run homer in the top of the sixth inning for the Glendale Desert Dogs tied the score and the Dodgers’ Carson Taylor singled in the go-ahead run as the Desert Dogs beat the Mesa Solar Sox, 3-2, on Wednesday afternoon.

“You've got to get one before we end here,” Lee said. “That’s what all the guys were saying, that I had to get one. It felt good obviously.”

Lee, Houston's No. 1 prospect, has power to tap into, as indicated by the 15 homers he hit as a junior at California and the 11 in 88 games across three levels in 2021. But he’d been shut out in Arizona until Wednesday. After swinging the bat well in the early going of his Fall League experience (.344/.447/.375 in nine October games), he’s slowed down in November, going 3-for-27 in seven games. That includes Wednesday's 1-for-4 performance.

“You just have to take it game by game,” Lee said. “Baseball is going to have some rough edges to it, some rough spots, but you just have to grind through them. You have to enjoy the process. You have to enjoy the grind. You have to enjoy the failure, and it’s going to make the success way much better.”

Lee also has a double and four RBIs over his last three games as he reaches back for a little more to try and finish things off on a strong note. He came to the plate with one out and Cardinals No. 26 prospect , who had doubled, on second. Lee got ahead in the count, 1-0, and his knowledge of 14th-ranked A’s prospect Jeff Criswell came in handy.

“I was sitting slider and he threw the slider.” the 23-year-old said. “I knew I was going to get that -- he throws that pitch, and I’m going to go with it.”

Lee went with it out to center to knot up the score, and the go-ahead hit by Taylor (LAD 30) scored organization-mate (LAD 27), who walked and stole second after Lee’s homer. The backstop also helped the Glendale pitching staff put up zeros from the fourth inning on, dancing in and out of trouble, especially as lefty Zack Thompson (STL 8) walked three (and struck out four) in his two innings of work.

“You've got to love working with these guys, especially in how different they are in the different orgs and what they teach,” Lee said. “It’s just learning each guy individually and what they want to throw and what they’re confident in is what I’m going to call. As long as I’m on the same page with them, then they’re going to be rolling.”

Glendale hopes to keep things rolling. The Desert Dogs’ win, combined with Surprise’s loss to Peoria, put them in a virtual tie with the Saguaros with two games of the regular season remaining. The way Lee and his teammates celebrated after Astros right-hander Joe Record induced a game-ending double play for his second save of the fall, it was apparent the competitive switch has been switched on, with an eye toward Saturday’s championship game.

“We want to win,” Lee said. “We want to win on Saturday. If we’re here, why not? It’s November baseball. You've got to love it. This is what we sign up for. We’re baseball players. As long as you get to keep on playing, then you can’t really complain. We’re out here in November. We’re still grinding, and you have to enjoy every second of it.”