Comfortably back at home in Arizona, playing 20 minutes from where he grew up, C.J. Cron is once again at home in the batter's box. The Solar Sox first baseman leads the Arizona Fall League with a .393 batting average and his 1.089 OPS ranks third.
Cron boosted those numbers Friday as he went 4-for-4 with two doubles and a walk, helping Mesa to a 6-1 victory against Surprise at Hohokam Stadium. The win snapped the Solar Sox's three-game losing streak.
Cron, the Angels' No. 2 prospect, had been in a groove at the plate during the Texas League playoffs when he hit .303 with four home runs in eight games. He said wanted to build on that performance when he came to the AFL.
"[I'm] just sticking to my approach and not trying to do too much," Cron said. "It's good to get out here and play with these guys. It's been fun."
Mesa scored three runs in the first inning to take control of the game. Cron hit an RBI double to drive in the game's first run. Second baseman Devon Travis capped the inning with a two-run, two-out single. The Solar Sox added two more runs in the fourth, again with the benefit of a double by Cron, and added another insurance run in the sixth.
The Solar Sox also benefitted from another strong start by left-hander Sammy Solis, the Nationals' No. 11 prospect. Solis allowed five hits and struck out five batters in 4 1/3 innings. He lowered his ERA to 2.25 and now leads the league in wins (four) and strikeouts (25).
Cron said the Solar Sox have come to expect that kind of performance when Solis is on the mound.
"He has a good tempo and he throws three or four pitches for strikes consistently," Cron said. "You know it's going to be a quick day when he's on the mound and he'll put up a lot of zeroes. That's what he did today."
Solis allowed just one run Friday. He was relieved in the fifth inning by left-hander Kenny Faulk with one out and two runners on base. Faulk issued back-to-back walks to Red Sox prospects Mookie Betts and Garin Cecchini, forcing in a run. But he escaped the inning without further damage.
Surprise, the league's highest-scoring team, was otherwise held in check by Mesa's pitching staff. Center fielder Tyler Naquin, the Indians' No. 5 prospect, was the only Saguaro to record multiple hits. He went 2-for-4, increasing his league-leading hit total to 35.
The victory kept Mesa a half game in front of Salt River in the East Division with five games to play. The winner of that race will play in next Saturday's championship game, likely against Surprise, which holds a commanding lead in the West Division.
Cron said the Solar Sox know they are in a tight race and want to make sure they have a chance to play for the AFL title.
"We want to win this thing," Cron said. "We've played a month and a half of baseball and no matter how short the season is, it [stinks] to lose. We're going out there trying to win a ring and have fun."