Triston Casas tied for the Olympic lead with three home runs during his run to a silver medal with Team USA but struggled to bring that power back with him from Japan, hitting just one long ball in 20 games since his return to Double-A Portland.
He got back to showing off that internationally renowned pop by equaling his Olympic feat all in one Friday night.
The pair of wins pushed Portland's record on the season to 59-45, putting the club 1 1/2 games back of Somerset for the final Double-A Northeast playoff spot. Perhaps, it was no surprise that a player with recent big-game experience came through on Friday.
"Obviously I want to finish strong, but I know we're tight for the pennant race," Casas told MLB.com over the phone. "I know it's going to be pivotal and vital to get our middle-of-the-lineup bats going. So really, I wasn't even focused about my day. I'm just trying to put together good at-bats and win some ballgames here down the stretch. I feel like I'm at my best when I'm not concerned about myself."
It didn’t take long for the left-handed slugger to get going in the twin bill opener. After singling in the first, Casas rocked a 1-1 offering from Fisher Cats right-handed reliever Patrick Hovis well over the wall in right for a two-run shot in the third frame.
He outdid himself in a few ways one inning later with a three-run shot off Hovis that looked gone immediately off the bat. According to the New Hampshire broadcast, the second blast traveled an estimated 472 feet. For reference, the only homer hit farther by a Red Sox slugger in the Majors this season was a 474-foot dinger by Franchy Cordero on May 23.
The earlier feat represented Casas' second multihomer game of the Minor League season and his career, the other coming May 12 at Hartford.
Casas added to his power show with a two-run homer in the fifth inning of Game 2 that went 430 feet deep beyond the right-field fence and into the Granite State night. Again, the left-handed batter acknowledged the certainty of the blast almost immediately on contact and calmly turned to flip his bat back toward the Portland dugout. That third homer was his favorite of the night, he said afterwards.
"After a couple home runs, I have to imagine the pitchers in the back of their minds are trying to be more careful," he said. "Then by still being able to capitalize on a mistake after two [homers], it felt good to get that third one."
It was no coincidence that all three homers came to right field.
"It's just a graveyard here to left field and center in New Hampshire," Casas said. "So I knew whatever damage was going to be done was going to be to my pull side."
Though the homers grab the headlines, it was also notable that Friday’s Game 1 performance was Casas’ third game of the season with three or more hits, even more so since it came in just seven innings. With two more knocks in Game 2, Casas collected multiple hits in consecutive games for the first time with Portland since June 29 and July 1, also at New Hampshire.
The 21-year-old first baseman bumped his season slash line from .267/.373/.411 to .279/.380/.455 with his showing in the two games alone. The three homers give him 10 over 68 games during the Minor League regular season, though he was limited in that category by his participation in Olympic qualifying and the tournament itself.
Casas climbed to the No. 18 spot in MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 in-season re-rank because of his potential to be a plus power slugger and above-average hitter overall. That same mix of skills earned him a prominent role on manager Mike Scioscia’s team in Tokyo despite being surrounded by veterans with Major League resumes.
"It's been a whirlwind of emotions, definitely," Casas said of his summer. "I've been away from this team a couple of times, which was for a good reason. But I really love these guys in this clubhouse and to go down the stretch and maybe win a championship this year, that would mean a lot to me.
"I love playing meaningful games. I don't know anybody who doesn't or who wouldn't want to. I feel like that's when I have my best games, when the pressure is on."