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Tigers' Eaves delivers in extra-innings AFL win

MLB.com @JonathanMayo

MESA, Ariz. -- The Arizona Fall League has often been used as a laboratory for experimental rules, from instant replay to pitch clocks. This year, the AFL has been trying out the runner placement rule, where the 10th inning begins with a runner on second. The rule was implemented in Thursday afternoon's game between the Surprise Saguaros and Mesa Solar Sox, but A's infielder Sheldon Neuse made the rule irrelevant with one swing of the bat.

The Saguaros and Solar Sox were tied at 6 through nine full innings. Surprise couldn't get its placement run across in the top of the 10th. Cubs outfielder Charcer Burks started at second in the bottom of the inning and couldn't advance on Astros outfielder Kyle Tucker's flyout to center. But Burks got to trot home when Neuse turned on a 2-1 pitch and deposited it over the left-field wall for an 8-6 Mesa win.

MESA, Ariz. -- The Arizona Fall League has often been used as a laboratory for experimental rules, from instant replay to pitch clocks. This year, the AFL has been trying out the runner placement rule, where the 10th inning begins with a runner on second. The rule was implemented in Thursday afternoon's game between the Surprise Saguaros and Mesa Solar Sox, but A's infielder Sheldon Neuse made the rule irrelevant with one swing of the bat.

The Saguaros and Solar Sox were tied at 6 through nine full innings. Surprise couldn't get its placement run across in the top of the 10th. Cubs outfielder Charcer Burks started at second in the bottom of the inning and couldn't advance on Astros outfielder Kyle Tucker's flyout to center. But Burks got to trot home when Neuse turned on a 2-1 pitch and deposited it over the left-field wall for an 8-6 Mesa win.

Video: Neuse crushes walk-off homer in Arizona Fall League

"You come out here and play hard. It's a long day, so for that to happen, it's always great, especially for him," said Kody Eaves, who was instrumental in helping make sure Mesa kept pace with Surprise by driving in four runs.

Box score

Eaves opened the scoring in the bottom of the first. Mesa had loaded the bases with one out against Royals right-hander Zach Lovvorn. Eaves unloaded them with a double to right, giving the Solar Sox a 3-0 lead.

"I was just trying to find a pitch up, get something in the air," Eaves said. "I got a fastball and hit it well."

He barreled up the ball well in his next at-bat as well. The lead he gave the Solar Sox was short-lived, thanks to Rangers catcher Josh Morgan. The Saguaros rattled off four straight hits against A's starter Logan Shore, the third of which was an RBI single from Rangers outfielder Michael O'Neill. Morgan, his organization-mate, followed with a home run to left on an 0-2 pitch to give Surprise a 4-3 lead.

Video: Mogan's monster game in Arizona Fall League

But Mesa was not to be outdone and again, Eaves contributed. Nationals third baseman Kelvin Gutierrez had flipped the score in favor of the Solar Sox with a two-run homer in the bottom of the third. Eaves made it 6-4 with a solo shot to right, his second home run of the fall off of Lovvorn.

"He tripled up on the changeup, so I got to see it a couple of times," Eaves said. "Then he left one [with two strikes] and I put a good swing on it luckily."

Morgan, who went 4-for-5 with four RBIs in a losing effort, drove in a run in the sixth and Cardinals outfielder Oscar Mercado tied the game up with a sacrifice fly. That's the way things stayed until Neuse's walk-off heroics, making a winner out of A's reliever Nolan Blackwood, who allowed two hits in as many innings and struck out four.

For Eaves, squaring up the baseball has become par for the course this fall. His 2-for-4 performance upped his average to .347 and he now has a .999 OPS. This is coming off a solid 2017 season in the Tigers organization, his second since coming from the Angels in a trade, where he reached Triple-A for the first time. The 24-year-old is the type who has been described as a "gamer" and over-achiever, knowing he has to prove himself constantly to show he belongs.

"Every day," Eaves said. "This is my fifth year. Every year counts, but hopefully this year's as a big leaguer. I just come out here and try my hardest, play the game the right way and it will all work out."

Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLBPipeline.com. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanMayo and Facebook, and listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.