A's Freitas headlines Mesa's offensive showcase
Top prospect Russell adds solo shot; Nats' Solis strong over five innings
After back-to-back losses to end last week and a day off Sunday, the Solar Sox returned to form Monday with the help of a pair of A's prospects.
Catcher David Freitas and shortstop Addison Russell each hit a home run in Mesa's 9-6 victory against Surprise at HoHoKam Stadium. Even after last week's losses, the Solar Sox still have the Arizona Fall League best record and highest-scoring offense.
Freitas said manager Bill Richardson addresses the Solar Sox at a team meeting at the start of each week. Monday, Richardson's message was simple.
"He reminded us to take it one game at a time and week by week," Freitas said. "Last week was a success, because we won more than we lost. We're out here to win and we're always competing against each other."
The Solar Sox's offense quickly got to work against the Saguaros. They took the lead with four runs off left-hander Miguel Pena in the second inning. Freitas capped the inning with a three-run home run to left-center field.
Freitas said he had been carefully watching how Pena was attacking the other right-handers in Mesa's lineup.
"I noticed he was pounding it in to righties early in the count," Freitas said. "So in the back of my mind, I knew how he was pitching other righties and I was ready for it. He threw me a slider and I hit it."
Four innings later, Russell led off the sixth inning with a home run off right-hander Jeff Johnson. It was Russell's first home run of the fall. The A's No. 1 prospect, finished the game 2-for-5 with a double.
Freitas said it was special to homer on the same day as Russell.
"We're always rooting for each other out here," Freitas said. "We're teammates for the long run, hopefully, and anytime [Max] Muncy or Russell are up or any of the pitchers go out to the mound, we're just rooting them on extra hard."
The offense helped left-hander Sammy Solis, the Nationals' No. 11 prospect, improve to 3-0 with a 1.42 ERA in three starts this fall. He allowed one run in five innings and struck out four batters against the Saguaros.
With Freitas behind the plate, Solis was working with a familiar catcher. Freitas was in the Nationals' system before getting traded to the A's for Kurt Suzuki last August.
Solis had Tommy John surgery and missed all of 2012. Despite that, Freitas said Solis was as good, if not better, than he remembered.
"Maybe I'm wrong, maybe it's been a while," Freitas said, "but I think he was throwing harder [Monday] and had more movement on his fastball."
The Saguaros had more success at the plate after Solis left the game. They scored two runs in the seventh and three more in the eighth to get back into the game, but right-hander Corey Knebel ended the game with a perfect ninth inning.
Surprise was led by catcher Jorge Alfaro, the Rangers' No. 1 prospect, who finished the game 2-for-4 with two runs and an RBI. Center fielder Tyler Naquin, the Indians' No. 5 prospect, went 1-for-3 with a walk, extending his hitting streak to nine games.
But it wasn't enough to overcome the contributions Mesa got from the A's prospects. Freitas is hopeful there will be more days like Monday as the fall continues.
"I just want to be able to play the game with all these guys," Freitas said. "I always want to win. And I want to work on my catching, hitting and game calling."