If it seems like no lead is safe in this year’s Arizona Fall League, you’re not wrong.
That’s exactly what the Mesa Solar Sox were thinking after falling behind the Scottsdale Scorpions, 10-0, and before coming to the plate in the bottom of the third inning of Monday’s home contest.
Mesa had been involved in a 15-15 slugfest earlier in the year and a 12-9 win two days ago. With that mind-set, the Solar Sox scored three in the third, three in the fourth and five in the sixth, including a game-tying grand slam by Cubs infield prospect Andy Weber, to come away with an 11-10 victory.
“That's exactly what I said when we took Ryan Jensen out of the game,” said Weber after his organization mate Jensen (CHC 15) was tagged for eight runs in 2 1/3 innings and Mesa put up its first three-spot. “I said, ‘I don’t know if seven runs is enough right now, just the way these games go. Anything can happen. And we've seen it.
“So you see that big number up early, you know you're still in the ballgame. We did a great job getting runners on after the first time through the lineup, and after that, we just kind of got a spark and hitting is contagious. So once we got a couple, the ball started rolling.”
The first couple, well, three to be precise, came on a sacrifice fly by Logan Davidson (OAK 12) and a two-run homer from JJ Bleday (MIA 5), his fourth. Marlins catcher Will Banfield’s first homer of the fall was a three-run shot that made it 10-6 after four. A single and two walks loaded the bases for Weber, who took the first pitch he saw from Twins right-hander Cody Laweryson out to right field for his second home run of the Fall League. The Solar Sox scored the go-ahead run later that inning when a grounder by Gabriel Moreno (TOR 1) to Red Sox first baseman Triston Casas (BOS 2) wasn’t fielded cleanly and Davidson crossed the plate.
“I had talked to JJ Bleday after his first at-bat against him,” Weber said. “He said his fastball was pretty hoppy. It had some good ride to it. So I was just trying to get something up in the zone that wasn't too hot. And, you know, just got my pitch and put a good swing on it.”
Weber’s been putting good swings on a lot of pitches in the AFL, with a .333 average and 1.027 OPS to show for it. After adding a triple to his tally on Monday, he’s tied for the league lead with four triples. Weber also stands tied for third with Bleday with 20 RBIs and his OPS puts him in sixth place on the leaderboard. After missing two months with turf toe during the season, having the ability to get in a rhythm has helped Weber. But he’s also driving the ball more after slugging .376 in his Minor League career since being the Cubs’ fifth-round pick in 2018 out of the University of Virginia.
“I've usually thought of myself as a pretty pansy hitter. I'm kind of starting to learn how to use my body and engage my core and things like that vs. this old-school kind of 'hands to the ball' mentality, which worked for me for a long time, but I need to make an adjustment,” Weber explained. “And so I've been able to make it out here with the help of some coaches and some help from some Cubs guys, and it's been helping out.”
Weber’s heroics wouldn’t have been possible if it not for the work of relatively new organization mate Caleb Kilian (CHC 14) on the mound. Acquired from the Giants in the Kris Bryant trade, Kilian entered the game in the fourth and proceeded to put up five zeros, allowing two hits without a walk while striking out five. His ability to shut down Scottsdale’s offense enabled Mesa’s hitters to do their thing and paved the way to the third save for Blue Jays reliever Graham Spraker (9 1/3 shutout innings, 14 K).
“I first saw Caleb in Montgomery when I first came back from rehab and we've been living together for the last two months or so,” Weber said. “So I've gotten to know him really well. He’s a hard worker, he's got a really solid routine down and he hasn't missed a day. Every day matters to him and it's showing out on the field. His stuff is playing, he’s hitting all the spots he's supposed to, and today he did an unbelievable job keeping us in that game when it kind of got away from us early.”