BILOXI – After a slow start with the Shuckers, Brett Phillips showed Wednesday night why he's considered one of the best prospects in all of minor league baseball.
The centerfielder finished 4-of-4 at the plate, including a double and a triple, in a 4-1 victory over the Pensacola Blue Wahoos. He also had a first-inning walk to reach base in all five of his at-bats.
He stepped to the plate in the bottom of the eighth knowing he could achieve the cycle with a homer.
Phillips admitted he was hoping to clear the right field fence in his final at-bat, but instead settled for a single to right.
“That's been the story of my cycle career,” Phillips said. “I have yet to hit one, but I've been close several times with one hit away - a single, double, triple or homer. I'm always one away. I was definitely thinking about it.”
Phillips had by far his best game as a Shucker, tying the team record for hits in a game. He did it in front of his girlfriend and mom who traveled in to watch Wednesday's game.
“It was fun putting on a show for them,” Phillips said.
Phillips was by no means the only star to shine Wednesday night for Biloxi.
Jorge Lopez put in another stellar pitching performance to improve his record to 11-5, including 8-3 in his last 11 starts. He is tied with Birmingham's Myles Jaye for the Southern League lead in victories.
A night after the Shuckers' pitchers took a pounding in a 10-3 loss to the Mississippi Braves, Lopez held the Blue Wahoos scoreless in eight innings. He struck out eight and walked two, allowing four hits in front of a crowd of 1,955.
“That's what I expect out of him. Not eight innings of shutout baseball, but that quality of pitching” said Biloxi catcher Adam Weisenburger, who finished 2-for-3 at the plate. “(Lopez) has been impressive. Early on, he struggled a little bit in terms of Jorge's standards, but he kicked it up a notch in the third or fourth inning and really took control of the game.”
After allowing three hits in the first two innings, Lopez gave up just one over the next six to push his number of quality starts on the season to 13.
That consistency is drawing the praise of Biloxi manager Carlos Subero.
“It tells you that he keeps closing the gap between here and next level,” Subero said of Lopez. “Every time out there, even when he struggles, he does something that tells you not only about his physical talent, but his maturity. He keeps closing the gap.”
Victor Roache joined Weisenburger and Phillips as Shuckers with multiple hits in the game, going 2-for-3 with an RBI.
Phillips ripped an RBI double to right field in the second inning to start the scoring in game one of a five-game home series against the Blue Wahoos.
Nick Ramirez drove an RBI double to left center in the bottom of the third to give the Shuckers a 2-0 lead and Weisenburger pushed the advantage to 3-0 later in the inning with a two-out, RBI single through the right side of the infield.
Phillips, who entered the game batting .222 with Biloxi, began the fourth with a triple that made its way under the glove of Pensacola right fielder Juan Duran. He later scored on a Roache single to give the Shuckers a 4-0 lead.
Phillips, who was recently acquired by the Milwaukee Brewers in a trade with the Houston Astros, raised his batting average to .300 with the Shuckers on Wednesday.
Phillips was all smiles outside the locker room after the game.
“It feels great,” he said. “Starting off with Lopez, he pitched a great game tonight. Hats off to him. We had timely hitting as well. Tonight was a great team win. Lopez pitched his butt off tonight. That was an awesome eight innings. It feels great to get some hits.”