A's Nunez homers three times in AFL loss
Renato Nunez went 3-for-5 with three home runs and five RBIs on Monday, but it wasn't enough to net the Mesa Solar Sox their first win of the Fall League, as they lost 10-6 to the Scottsdale Scorpions at Sloan Park.
The A's No. 6 prospect connected on a go-ahead, three-run home run with two outs in the bottom of the third inning off Scottsdale starter Austin Kubitza, taking the Tigers right-hander deep to left field on the eighth pitch of the at-bat.
Scottsdale tied the game in the top of the fourth and then took the lead in the sixth, setting the stage for more of Nunez's heroics. Right on cue, the 21-year-old led off the bottom of the sixth inning with a game-tying, solo home run against reliever Grant Sides.
The Scorpions pushed across two runs in each of the final three frames, giving them a commanding 10-4 lead headed into the bottom of the ninth. Mesa would score an unearned run in its last at-bat ahead of Nunez, who completed his monstrous performance with his third home run of the game -- a solo shot to left field off Chandler Shepherd.
"I was just trying to find some contact," said Nunez when asked about his big game. "I struggled in the last couple games, but today it was about finding the barrel and making good contact. The balls I hit I just let it fly and they went out.
"All three were fastballs," added Nunez, "two of them up and in."
Nunez showcased his promising bat during his 2014 campaign in the hitter-friendly California League, batting .279/.336/.517 with a 29 home runs, 28 doubles and 96 RBIs in 124 games for Class A Advanced Stockton. However, his 113 strikeouts compared to just 34 walks highlighted his vulnerabilities as a hitter, which were expected to be exploited upon reaching the Double-A level.
Instead, Nunez put together a well-rounded campaign in his first taste of Double-A, batting .278/.332/.480 with 18 home runs, 23 doubles and 61 RBIs in 93 games for Midland. Perhaps more significantly, Nunez fanned just 66 times on the season, drastically reducing his strikeout rate to 15.9 percent after fanning 20.1 percent of the time in 2014.
"When I was younger, I always would try to swing hard," said Nunez. "Now I've figured out you don't have to, and it's helped me cut down on the strikeouts."
The third baseman's numbers might have been even more impressive had he not spent roughly two weeks on the disabled list in August. After coming off the shelf, Nunez posted a 1.090 OPS with three home runs, five doubles and 16 RBIs over the RockHounds' last 11 games during the regular season.
The right-handed hitter stayed hot in the postseason, too, helping Midland secure its second consecutive Texas League championship. The 21-year-old hit safely in all seven games across two series, batting .407 with two home runs and 12 RBIs.
On the other side of the ball, Nunez spent a majority of the season at the hot corner, where he committed 11 errors in 49 games. Naturally, he hopes to make strides defensively this fall.
"Out here we're playing four times per week, so it's given me a chance to work on my defense at third while still getting my at-bats," he noted.
In addition to Nunez's big game, A's No. 7 prospect Chad Pinder went 2-for-4 with a pair of doubles and two runs scored, and No. 21 prospect Jaycob Brugman also collected two hits in four at-bats for Mesa.