After being stuck in neutral for the better part of six weeks, Nick Pratto may have kicked his season into gear.
The 23-year-old entered Thursday 5-for-29 (.172) with 13 strikeouts in 29 at-bats this month.
The performance elicited a laugh from Pratto
"I was due for one," the slugger said of his big game.
Pratto, who hit a career-high three homers in a game almost a year ago to the day for Double-A Northwest Arkansas, added to the Storm Chasers' early lead with a two-run shot in the second inning. Seemingly not satisfied with barely clearing the fence in right, he unloaded on a 2-2 offering leading off the fifth that reached the top of the berm in right-center field.
It was a long-awaited breakout for Pratto, who sports an .825 OPS despite his struggles this month. The Huntington Beach, Calif., native went deep three times in the first five games of the year only to go 66 at-bats without a homer until leaving the yard in consecutive games on April 30 and May 1.
"I've felt that my at-bats the last three or four weeks were coming along pretty well," he said. "I went back and worked on something that I had gotten away from. It feels good to get some momentum going."
Pratto admitted to frustration creeping in when his offensive woes deepened, but he also never wavered in his belief he'd break out.
"I'm surrounded by a great team and a great group of people who have me focused on what I need to do," he said. "I try not to get too caught up in the results, especially when I'm working on things and tinkering. Now I feel like I'm at a point where I'm set, so I can go out and execute."
The 14th overall pick in the 2017 Draft broke out in a big way last year. Pratto posted a .987 OPS and slugged 36 home runs between Northwest Arkansas and Omaha, tied for second in the Minors behind former teammate and No. 47 overall prospect MJ Melendez's 41 jacks.
"It's exciting to come off a year like I had and realize I'm getting close to that next step," he said. "It's been a good challenge and I'm just trying to live in the moment and dominate wherever my feet happen to be. Getting back to doing things the way I'm used to, especially after scuffling to begin the season, is nice."
With his performance on Thursday against St. Paul, Pratto improved his slash line to .234/.348/.477 with 12 extra-base hits and 20 RBIs in 30 games and 111 at-bats.
Omaha homered four times in the game, including the ninth of the season by Vinnie Pasquantino, who also doubled and drove in three runs. The No. 4 Royals prospect has a .935 OPS and is in a three-way tie for second in the International League with 33 RBIs.
Royce Lewis returned from his first big league stint with a bang, leading off the game with his fourth home run for St. Paul. The No. 42 overall prospect reached safely in all four plate appearances, singling twice and getting hit by a pitch while also swiping his ninth base.
Fourth-ranked Twins prospect Jordan Balazovic was tagged for six runs on six hits and a walk in four innings.