Mesa rallies behind Goodwin in rain-shortened tilt
Homer, three RBIs help increase Solar Sox's division lead to 2 1/2 games
The desert usually provides beautiful weather for the Arizona Fall League. But every once in a while, it reminds everyone it does rain in the desert.
Monday was one of those times. Rain twice delayed Salt River's game at Mesa and eventually forced the game to be called in the bottom of the eighth inning. The Solar Sox overcame the weather and the Rafters for a 5-4 victory at HoHoKam Stadium.
Center fielder Brian Goodwin is playing in the AFL for the second time, and he said one of Mesa's games last year was also delayed by rain. But Monday's storm caught him off guard.
"The skies just kind of opened up," Goodwin said. "It came up out of nowhere."
Rain interrupted the game for the first time in the middle of the sixth inning. The delay lasted 21 minutes. But before the rain, Goodwin got the Solar Sox's offense started. They were trailing, 3-0, in the third inning when he drove a fastball from left-hander Grayson Garvin to right-center field for his second home run of the fall.
"In my first at-bat, he pitched me in, a lot of fastballs and hard stuff in," Goodwin said. "In my second at-bat, he started doing same thing. I was ready to swing and I didn't miss it."
Goodwin also helped start Mesa's three-run rally in the fifth inning. He drove in the first run of the inning on a groundout. Right fielder Jorge Soler, the Cubs' No. 3 prospect, followed with a two-out, two-run double to give Mesa the lead.
Goodwin, ranked No. 65 on MLB.com's Top 100 prospect list, went 2-for-4 with a stolen base to go with his three RBIs. He also extended his hitting streak to seven games. Soler finished the game 1-for-4.
Mesa had gotten in an early hole thanks to Salt River's three-run second inning against left-hander Matt Purke. After the Rafters loaded the bases with no outs in the inning, Purke allowed a walk, single and sacrifice fly.
The second inning was the only rough spot for Purke, the Nationals' No. 8 prospect. He gave up three runs on four hits in four innings.
Goodwin said he thought his Nationals teammate did a good job of battling through his struggles.
"He had a couple innings where he walked a couple people and left the ball up and they put the bat on them," Goodwin said. "But he kept throwing strikes and showed a bunch of poise on the mound. I think he competed well tonight."
First baseman Kyle Parker, the Rockies' No. 9 prospect, drove in the Rafters' only other run with an RBI single in the fifth inning. He finished the game 3-for-4 with a double and a run. Designated hitter Cristhian Adames, the Rockies' No. 15 prospect, added a hit and an RBI.
The victory was an important one for the Solar Sox. With the win, they have a 2 1/2-game lead in the East Division over Salt River. The East Division winner advances to the championship game against the West Division champion on Nov. 16. There are nine games left in the season, but the Solar Sox and the Rafters will play each other for the last time Tuesday.
Goodwin said the Solar Sox know what is at stake in the season's final two weeks.
"It's kind of an unspoken thing, but everybody can feel it," Goodwin said. "We just show up and take it one day at a time."
Goodwin, meanwhile, wants to remain sharp as the season approaches the end. He has been playing baseball since Spring Training began nine months ago.
"It's a long year," Goodwin said. "I want to keep my head where it needs to be. Just keep my intensity up and stay with my same approach."