August 10, 2022

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Reds' McLain has a grand time in 2-homer game

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Finding the power stroke is usually the last attribute to emerge for a ballplayer. In the case of Matt McLain, consider that potential tapped.

Baseball’s No. 85 overall prospect went deep twice for the second time in three games, capping his power-packed stretch with the first grand slam of his career. The display propelled Double-A Chattanooga past Rocket City, 13-4, on Wednesday night at Toyota Field.

McLain’s five RBIs equaled a personal best established last Aug. 11 with High-A Dayton and gave him nine in his last three games.

“Honestly, the ball doesn’t look much diffeernt to me,” McLain said. “It still looks small with red stitching and two logos on it. It’s hard to hit no matter how good you’re going.”

The 22-year-old entered play already with two more home runs (five) than he hit in his professional debut in 2021, but in 10 fewer games. Two of those came in the first multihomer performance of his career on Sunday. Following an 0-for-4 performance on Tuesday, McLain clubbed a solo shot in during the Lookouts’ three-run opening frame against Trash Pandas starter Aaron Hernandez.

Retired in each of his ensuing two plate appearances, McLain stepped into the box with the bags juiced and depositied a 1-0 pitch over the center-field fence for his second roundtripper of the night and first career grand slam. The Orange, Calif., native has taken a liking to hitting with the bags juiced. Through his first seven at-bats with the bases loaded, McLain five hits and 15 RBIs.

“I was looking for something up and trying to get the run in,” he said. “I got a pitch I could handle and the wind helped me take care of the rest.. Obviously hitting a grand slam is cool, but I try and look at it as if it’s just another ball I hit hard. That’s what I’m trying to do.”

Despite striking out in his final plate appearance, McLain’s eighth mulithit effort in 22 games improved his slash line to .278/.363/.696 with 16 extra-base hits, seven homers and 21 RBIs in 79 at-bats.

The shortstop put together a solid April, hitting .273/.372/.591, but has taken things to another level through the first three games of May.

“[The pros] are definitely different than college,” McLain said. “We’re playing everyday and we’re playing a much longer season. I look forward to the challenge of it and trying to be the best player I can be.”

Selected 17th overall in last year’s Draft, the UCLA product has experienced no issues transitioning from the college game to the pros. McLain batted .283 with an .851 OPS with Cincinnati’s Rookie-level Arizona Complex League squad and Dayton.

“I just want to be better than I was last year or even yesterday,” McLain said. “And I’m not talking about my numbers compared to last year. I want to know that what I’m doing is making me a better ballplayer and just be as consistent as I can.”

Seven different Lookouts drove in at least one run, including Mike Siani. The No. 18 Reds prospect led off the game with his third home run, singled and scored twice.

Starter Brandon Williamson was the beneficiary of the offensive onslaught while turning in his best outing of the season. Baseball’s 98th overall prospect surrendred a run on four hits with eight strikeouts and no walks in six innings.

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