GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Every baseball fan has probably seen it. Bottom of the ninth, first base is open. A decision is made to intentionally walk the big hitter at the plate. And the strategy backfires when the next man steps up and comes through to deliver a victory.
There aren’t records of such things in the Arizona Fall League, but as often as that drama has unfolded during the regular season, it’s hard to imagine there having been many intentional walks in the history of the developmental league. Here’s how it went down Thursday night:
It was 5-5 in the bottom of the ninth. Corey Rosier (Red Sox) doubled to lead off the inning for the Glendale Desert Dogs. Peoria Javelinas right-hander Leon Hunter Jr. (Mariners) struck out Jacob Burke (CWS No. 20), one of four players to homer up to that point of the game, for the first out. MLB's No. 17 overall prospect Colson Montgomery, a left-handed White Sox prospect who had driven in two runs in the fourth, was the one who got the free pass.
Damon Keith (Dodgers) grounded out to third to put runners at second and third and Red Sox catcher Nathan Hickey (BOS No. 15) walked with two outs to load the bases. That set the stage for Bryan Ramos to play hero, hitting a ball 102 mph off the bat over the 380-foot sign to give the Desert Dogs a 9-5 win.
The seventh-ranked White Sox prospect had never hit a walk-off grand slam in his career, though he fondly remembers a two-run shot to end a game with Double-A Birmingham this year.
“There was a man on second, but it’s the same feeling,” Ramos said. “[This league] is about developing, but when you do something good like that, it fired me up.”
The 21-year-old has gone deep in back-to-back games to give him four homers and 10 RBIs for the fall, bringing his slash line up to .282/.354/.479. While fatigue is surely setting in as the Fall League enters its final week and change, Ramos is just getting hot, going 3-for-7 with the two homers, six RBIs and five runs scored since the calendar flipped to November.
One of the biggest things Ramos clearly is learning is that he doesn’t need to do much to get to his tremendous raw power. He has very strong bat-to-ball skills and seems to grasp that he doesn’t need to get big in any moment. The Cuba native fell behind 0-2 before taking two pitches to even the count. Even in the relaxed setting of the Fall League, seeing how a young hitter reacts to a moment like that can be telling. And Ramos reacted with calmness.
“I was just trying to simplify my movement, just tried to put the ball in play,” he said. "If you put the ball in happen, anything can happen. [Hitting a home run] wasn’t on my mind. I just wanted to make good contact and hit a good pitch. I don’t try to do that much at the plate. I’m a strong man, so if I get the right point to the ball, the ball is going to fly.”
The ball was definitely flying all night. Paul McIntosh (Marlins) started the fireworks with a no-doubt dinger in the second. Kala’i Rosario (MIN No. 19) hit his seventh homer of the fall in the bottom of the inning to tie him for the Fall League lead. Burke went yard in the third for Glendale and Peoria tied the game in the fourth, 3-3, on the first AFL homer by Nathan Martorella (SD No. 10). It was only fitting that the night should end on a home run.
“I got some, I got some,” Ramos said. “The ball here in Arizona flies, but I think it was pretty good contact.”