SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – The explosive Phillies bats will step to the plate Thursday as the NLCS moves to Arizona. Meanwhile, the organization’s Minor League hitters have been keeping the state plenty warm.
Four Phillies prospects combined to go 11-for-15 with seven runs scored and six RBIs Wednesday to lead Scottsdale to a 9-8 walk-off win over Surprise at Scottsdale Stadium.
Oliver Dunn delivered the knockout blow with a bases-loaded walk -- his first walk-off action at any level, he said -- against Royals right-handed reliever Jacob Wallace with two outs in the ninth. The second baseman tripled, doubled, picked up a pair of free passes and scored three times as the Scorpions leadoff hitter. One spot behind him, left fielder Gabriel Rincones Jr. went 3-for-4 with a triple, a walk and three runs scored. First baseman Caleb Ricketts (2-for-3, walk) and third baseman Matt Kroon (4-for-4) were near-perfect from the heart of the order.
Many would love to be in Philadelphia’s spot right now, given the Major League club’s 5-3 and 10-0 wins in the first two games of the NLCS, but what those people are seeing at the top level trickles down to the organizational hitting philosophy.
“Every guy has a different swing,” Rincones said, “but for me, it’s going out there, doing damage, owning an approach, knowing when to manipulate the point of contact. [It’s] just situational hitting, getting the job done."
Dunn and Rincones set that tone early Wednesday.
The former walked in his first plate appearance, stole second, advanced to third on an error and then scored on the latter’s line-drive single to center. Dunn tripled and scored later in the fifth, while Rincones added his own RBI three-bagger in the sixth, naturally scoring Dunn who had doubled the at-bat before. Rincones’ triple would have been a homer in many parks but was kept in by a Scottsdale batter’s eye that is technically in play; in-stadium data said the ball would have traveled 452 feet if not for the wall.
The ninth was another Phillies fest with Kroon beating out an infield single to begin Scottsdale’s two-run final frame. He came around for the tying score on a bases-loaded free pass by Jeremy Rivas, setting the stage for Dunn.
Dunn has hits in all eight of his Fall League games and leads the circuit with an .806 slugging percentage while ranking fourth in average (.419), fifth in OBP (.514) and second in OPS (1.320). That’s an especially solid performance for a player who moved from the Yankees to the Phillies in the Minor League portion of last offseason’s Rule 5 Draft. The 26-year-old hit .271/.396/.506 with 21 homers at batter-friendly Double-A Reading and has carried that momentum forward to Arizona.
“I’m really grateful to the Phillies,” Dunn said. “This was a great opportunity for me, getting to play every day. They’ve treated me awesome. I have nothing but good things to say about the Phillies.”
Rincones’ showing placed him among the AFL leaders as well. He sits sixth with a .630 slugging percentage and eighth with a 1.085 OPS through 12 games.
Ranked as Philadelphia’s No. 9 prospect, the left-handed slugger is known for his above-average power potential -- he went deep 15 times during the regular season between Single-A and High-A -- but swears he isn’t trying to emulate Kyle Schwarber, Nick Castellanos or Bryce Harper when he steps into the box.
“For me, that’s going back to staying within myself and not letting those external factors, like the ego, get in the way of me hitting,” Rincones said. “Whatever the game gives me, I have to take. If a home run’s in the cards, let’s go, but if not, then take what you got.”
Dunn admitted that the Phillies prospects in Arizona have snuck into the clubhouse to check in on how the Major League club is doing in the postseason, but it’s what comes before the prodigious dingers sent into the screaming Citizens Bank Park crowds that draws their attention.
“They’re hitting home runs because they’re being disciplined,” he said. “They’re making sure they’re getting pitches over the middle of the plate, and they’re unbelievable hitters. So I think we just try to do the same thing.”