When Cougars second baseman Ben Carhart stepped to the plate in the third inning Tuesday night against Peoria starter Arturo Reyes, he had gone 12 at-bats without a hit, including back-to-back 0-for-5 efforts against Beloit over the weekend.
Things didn’t look much better for Carhart when Reyes slipped two quick strikes against him, but he rallied and after taking three balls and fouling off several pitches delivered a three-run homer to the base of the light tower in left center. His dinger was the centerpiece of a six-run inning and proved to be all the runs the Cougars would need in a 6-1 win.
Carhart’s homer — his second of the season — made it a 4-0 game, and Jeimer Candelario followed four batters later with a two-run double that capped the scoring and chased Reyes from the game as the Cougars sent 10 men to the plate in the inning.
With a big gap on the right side, Carhart was just trying to go the other way and put something in play, but Reyes hung a slider that caught a little too much of the plate and Carhart made him pay.
“I just kept fouling balls off, I kept getting under the ball and kept getting mad at myself,” Carhart said. “He hung that slider and I was a little out in front of it, but I got a good swing on it.”
One of the more consistent players at the plate for the Cougars, Carhart hit .288 in the first half of the season but entered play Tuesday with just six hits in 28 second-half at-bats. But with 2 ½ professional seasons and more than 800 at-bats behind him, he knows how this works.
“It’s such a long season, if you have games where you scuffle, in the big scheme of things, it’s four games out of 140,” he said. “You have to remember that, you have to go out and give your best at-bats you can and find the barrel to the ball. If you do that, good things will happen.”
Paul Blackburn, who struggled a bit in June with a 1-1 record, 4.02 ERA and eight walks to just nine strikeouts in 15 2/3 innings, started July off strong by scattering four hits while striking out three without issuing a walk.
The right-hander’s seven wins (7-2 overall) is second-best on both the Cougars and in the Midwest League behind the eight victories of teammate Daury Torrez.
Blackburn also lowered his ERA to 2.74, good for eighth in the league.
“He has made a couple of mechanical adjustments, he’s a little quicker to the plate and shortened his stride a little bit,” Cougars manager Mark Johnson said. “He’s repeating his delivery now so he’s making good pitches more consistently. His fastball command is better than it has been.”
The win makes the Cougars 4-0 for the season against the Chiefs at Fifth Third Bank Ballpark.Tags: Kane County Cougars