Susac's homer builds lead as Scorpions hang on
Scottsdale jumps out in front with five-run second inning
After starting the week by snapping its eight-game losing streak, Scottsdale has quickly become one of the Arizona Fall League's hottest teams.
Led by catcher Andrew Susac, Scottsdale beat Drew Hutchison, one of the league's best pitchers, and Salt River, 7-4, Wednesday at Scottsdale Stadium. It was the Scorpions' third straight victory.
Susac went 2-for-3 with a home run and two walks. The Giants' No. 15 prospect is hitting .361 with a .529 on-base percentage in the AFL.
Susac has struggled at the plate since the Giants drafted him out of Oregon State in the second round of the 2011 First-Year Player Draft. He spent his first season in Class A Advanced San Jose before moving up this season to Double-A Richmond. He hit .249 with 21 home runs in 186 games the last two years.
But Susac said he is making adjustments and trying to find his stroke.
"I've been working hard," Susac said. "I've always been a pretty hard worker. It's been a process to say the least, but it's starting to come together for me."
Now, in the AFL, Susac said he can feel the hard work starting to pay off.
"My swing has been feeling good down here," Susac said. "I've had a little bit of luck and I've been getting in good counts and not doing too much."
Susac helped Scottsdale score seven runs in the first three innings to take control of the game early. His two-out single in the first inning gave the Scorpions a 1-0 lead. They added five runs in the second inning. Susac capped the big inning with a two-run home run.
Shortstop Alen Hanson, the Pirates' No. 3 prospect, went 3-for-5 with two runs and two stolen bases. Second baseman Elmer Reyes also had two hits.
Scottsdale scored its first six runs against Hutchison. The Blue Jays right-hander entered the game having allowed just three runs in 15 2/3 innings, but he wasn't as sharp against the Scorpions, giving up seven hits in his shortest start of the fall.
Despite falling behind early, the Rafters were able to keep the game close thanks to third baseman Jake Lamb. He had two hits, including a towering two-run home run in the third inning, his first of the fall. The Rafters added a run in the fifth and another in the eighth, but it wasn't enough.
Because Mesa lost Wednesday afternoon, Salt River had an opportunity to get within a half game of first place in the East Division. Instead, it remains 1 1/2 games back with seven games to play.
After the five-game testing period of MLB's replay system got off to an innocuous start Tuesday night, Wednesday provided a bigger test. Salt River manager Mike Shildt made a two-part challenge (both calls were upheld) and, for the first time, a call was overturned by replay.
With two outs in the top of the first inning, James Ramsey hit a ground ball to third baseman Kyle Kubitza, who threw to first for the forceout. Ramsey was called safe by umpire Jeff Gosney, but the replay showed Ramsey was out. The ruling cost the Rafters a run, as there was a runner on third base.
Still, Susac said he thought the replay process worked well Wednesday.
"I was talking with the home-plate umpire and he said the main purpose is to get the call right in the end," Susac said. "We might have to sacrifice a little time of play, but you want to get the play right. That is the main goal."
Susac, meanwhile, said he has learned a lot from his time in the AFL. He knows he still has a lot of work to do to reach his goals, but said he has made important strides this fall.
"Managing the game, little things here and there that I'm starting to get a grip of," Susac said. "I have a lot of responsibility laid on me behind the plate. There's no way I'm close to where I want to be yet, but I'm getting closer."