After hitting a home run Thursday that helped the Solar Sox cruise to their seventh straight victory in the Arizona Fall League, Devon Travis struggled to explain just how impressed he is by his teammates' talent. He didn't want to fall back on a cliché, but he thought it was the best he could come up with.
"It'd be too obvious if I said this is the best team I ever played on," Travis said. "But really, it's a lot of fun."
Mesa defeated Peoria, 6-1, at HoHoKam Stadium and remains the only undefeated team in the AFL.
Travis was one of four players -- and perhaps the most unlikely -- to hit home runs for the Solar Sox on Thursday. He was joined by designated hitter C.J. Cron, third baseman Matt Skole and right fielder Tyler Collins.
While the other three are known for their power, Travis is listed at 5-foot-9 and 183 pounds, dimensions that don't exactly scream home-run hitter. But he hit 16 home runs in his breakout 2013 season, something he says didn't happen by accident.
"I think the biggest thing is in the offseason the opportunity to be healthy and train hard," Travis said. "Second off is pitch selection. Something all my coaches with the Tigers have done a great job preaching to all hitters is going up there looking for one pitch you can handle."
Travis hit .351 with a .936 OPS between Class A West Michigan and Class A Advanced Lakeland this season. He said becoming a more selective hitter helped fuel his breakout from 13th-round pick out of Florida State in 2012 to being ranked as the Tigers' No. 12 prospect this year.
"Being a smaller guy, the zone's a little smaller and it's a little harder for the pitcher to put it where he wants it," said Travis. "I just stick with my game plan and that's been really big. I'm thankful it's something the Tigers preached to me."
Travis finished the night 1-for-3 with two runs and a walk. Cron, the Angels' No. 2 prospect, went 3-for-4 with two RBIs and a run and center fielder Brian Goodwin, the Nationals' No. 1 prospect, went 2-for-4 with a run.
As well as the Solar Sox offense played Thursday, their pitchers were just as good. Left-hander Matt Purke, the Nationals' No. 8 prospect, struck out seven batters in four no-hit innings. He has not allowed a run in seven innings in the AFL.
The Javelinas managed just three hits and one walk Thursday. The scored their lone run in the sixth inning when shortstop Orlando Calixte, the Royals' No. 8 prospect, tripled and was driven in on left fielder Stefen Romero's groundout.
But Mesa again proved to be too much for Peoria. The Solar Sox outscored the Javelinas, 9-2, in their two-game sweep.
Travis said the Solar Sox are just having fun playing baseball, which is, in turn, leading to victories.
"Everybody wants to win and everybody wants everyone to do well," Travis said. "Bill Richardson, our manager, is doing a good job enforcing that. He says, 'Win first and let everything else take care of itself.'"