The Athletics' big league club once again finds itself leading the American League in ERA yet being held back by a punchless offense, which ranks at or near the bottom of the AL in most major categories. But the good news is help could be just a phone call away.
Second baseman Jemile Weeks was hitting .321/.417/.446 at Triple-A Sacramento and made his major league debut last night. Another welcome development has been the production of outfielder Michael Taylor, the 25-year-old who endured a disappointing .272/.348/.392 season at Sacramento last year in his first season with the organization. Taylor opened the season on the disabled list with a wrist injury and didn't make his debut until mid-May, but he's been producing ever since. Taylor went 2-for-5 with a home run last night in Colorado Springs, raising his line to .321/.380/.476 in 84 at-bats.
The only downside for Taylor is he still hasn't been showing the kind of power he did earlier in his career in the Phillies system, so his homer last night is a positive sign. He has seven extra base hits in 20 games, but three of those including two of his three home runs have come during this series in Colorado Springs, a notorious hitter's park.
While Taylor's hitting has been a more recent development, Adrian Cardenas has been producing for the River Cats since Opening Day. Cardenas went 2-for-3 with a double last night, improving to .343/.416/.461 for the season. Though he doesn't hit for much power–just three home runs Cardenas production has rarely dipped. He hasn't gone more than two game without a hit all season, and he's been one of the hardest hitters in the Pacific Coast League to strikeout as his rate of 12.21 plate appearances per strikeout ranks third in the league. With Weeks' departure, Cardenas played his first game of the season at second base, his natural position, last night after having spent the year playing third base and left field.
AROUND THE MINORS
• You won't find many bigger nights than the one had by Diamondbacks center fielder Collin Cowgill. The 25-year-old went 5-for-6 and hit for the cycle while leading Triple-A Reno back from a 7-0 deficit to defeat Salt Lake 8-7. Cowgill doubled in the first, singled in the third and fifth, homered in the sixth and hit a game-tying triple in the eighth. He also ended the game the only time he didn't get a hit, as he reached on an error by Salt Lake shortstop Andrew Romine in the bottom of the 10th, bringing in the winning run.
"What a night," Cowgill told the Reno Gazette-Journal. "It was just one of those nights where you feel like everything you hit became a hit . . . My teammates were on base for me and I can't ask for anything more than that. I was just fortunate enough to get the job done when they needed to me."
Cowgill's big night continued a 16-game hitting streak, and his .366 average for the year ranks fifth in the PCL. A fifth-round pick in 2008 from Kentucky, Cowgill's blended both power and speed this year, going 18-for-20 in steals, including adding another last night, while slugging 11 home runs.
• Yordano Ventura has as impressive an arm as any in the Royals' system, capable of pitching in the mid-90s and touching 100 mph despite a lack of size. But it's been feast or famine for the 20-year-old righthander since being summoned to low Class A Kane County from extended spring training in mid-May.
Tuesday was definitely a feast. Ventura picked up his first win of the season with five shutout innings against Bowling Green, allowing only one hit and one walk to go with four strikeouts. He improved to 1-1, 5.31 in five starts. While Ventura's permitted 22 hits in 20 innings this year, he owns an impressive 27-7 K-BB mark. In his two quality starts, he's allowed just three hits and no runs in 10 innings, while he's been touched up for at least four runs in each of his other three outings.
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