It was only fitting Zach Green fielded a routine ground ball to close out Williamsport's 7-3 win over Staten Island on Friday night. The third baseman played one of his best all-around games of the season, hitting a pair of home runs and making tough play after tough play defensively.
So the final out, which pushed the Crosscutters to 3-1 on their current homestand, was the easiest play of the night for the 19-year-old. He had earned an easy one.
The two home runs tied Green's career high, as did his four RBIs. He moved into a tie for first place in the New York-Penn League with his seventh and eighth home runs, both no-doubt-about-it rockets, jumping on the fastballs he says he's hunting in every at-bat.
The Williamsport Crosscutters’ Andrew Knapp, left, congratulates teammate Zach Green, right, after Green hit his second two-run home run of the night against the Staten Island Yankees on Friday night at Bowman Field. The Cutters won the game, 7-3.
Green finished 3 for 4, and Samuel Hiciano hit his third home run in as many nights as the Cutters' offense continues to break out of its two-week funk.
"We're focusing a lot more on putting the ball in play," Green said. "I think we were just in a funk and now we're coming out of it."
Green took advantage of the fastballs he got in his first two at-bats, the ones he said he's hunting every time he steps to the plate. He laid off a trio of curveballs from Staten Island starter Giovanny Gallegos to start his first at-bat before fouling off a fastball. But when Gallegos' 2-2 fastball got too much of the plate, Green hit a majestic drive to center field, just to the left of the black fence for a two-run homer and a 2-0 Williamsport lead.
In his second at-bat against Gallegos, he didn't wait nearly as long. His first pitch, two-run home run was gone off the bat. Yankees left fielder Mike O'Neill gave a courtesy turn and look at the ball, but knew he had no chance to get it.
Green has had most of his trouble in recent weeks, as his strikeout total has climbed, with laying off breaking balls often out of the zone. So laying off curveballs from Gallegos early in the count last night at Bowman Field set him up to get fastballs to drive.
Green hit two home runs in a game for the second time since being drafted in the third round in last year's draft. His other two home run performance came on Aug. 1, 2012 against the GCL Blue Jays. His four RBIs also tied a single game high he set on July 5 of last year against the GCL Yankees.
"I'm not looking for off-speed stuff. I'm still looking for fastballs," Green said. "I'm seeing the off-speed a little more, but I'm really not changing my approach. I think I've been doing a good job of laying off breaking balls early in the count. With two strikes I've been chasing a bit, but it's something I'm working on."
"When we talk to the hitters, we tell them you have to make the pitcher throw the pitch you want to hit. When you're laying off breaking pitches, now he has to throw you your pitch," Williamsport manager Nelson Prada said. "He's a good hitter and he's going to make adjustments. I think the league is starting to know him and he has to make an adjustment to the league. He might be on his way up now."
Staten Island constantly tested the third baseman with rocket after rocket last night. He fielded five ground balls which forced him to range both to his left and right.
His sprawling stop of a wild spinner off the bat of Eric Jagielo in the sixth inning helped hold the Yankees to just a one-run inning. He stopped a rocket down the third-base line in the second inning off the bat of Mike Ford and made a clean throw for an out. He also made a nice running catch in foul territory by the Staten Island bullpen in the seventh inning.
It's a part of Green's game he's put a lot of work in to. He was a high school shortstop when the Phillies drafted him last year, but was immediately switched to third base. With a prototypical third baseman build and the strong arm to play the position, he's been working most on improving his reactions to increase how much ground he can cover at third.
He often asks for extra work and Prada will hit short-range rockets at him forcing him to react quickly.
"I'm feeling better with it every day," Green said of his defense. "Of course, you can learn something new every day. But I feel a lot better now."
"I don't think his range is changing, I think his reactions have gotten better," Prada said. "He's getting a better reaction so he can go farther, but maybe his range is the same as it was because he had good range, he just didn't have that good reaction."
Both of Green's home runs came with two outs and gave Williamsport a 4-1 lead through three innings. Hiciano increased the Cutters' lead when he launched a solo home run to left field in the sixth inning.
The Cutters scored a run in each the seventh and eighth thanks to wild pitches.
It all backed the solid start of Shane Martin who allowed just two hits and one run in five dominant innings. The only run scored when Justin Parr overran a sinking line drive in left field in the second inning with two outs allowing Jose Rosario to score from first.
Martin threw 42 of his 62 pitches for strikes and threw first-pitch strikes to 12 of the 18 batters he faced. Martin has allowed just two runs in his last three outings covering 16 innings.
His ERA has fallen in that time from 4.73 to 3.38. He improved to 3-2 with his win last night.
"Whenever Shane hits the mound, you know what you're going to get," Green said. "You're going to get a guy who throws strikes and if the defense is making the routine plays, we're in a good position to win the ball game."
"If he's low in the zone, he's got a chance," Prada said. "He got hit in two outings because he was high in the zone. When the ball is on an angle, he's tough to hit. He has good angle, but sometimes he's inconsistent. But if he throws strikes and he throws it down like tonight, he's got a chance."