Diaz Big Hits Leave Big Impression In Blue Wahoos Home Win

June 27, 2019

Pensacola fans gained their first chance Tuesday night to see first baseman Lewin Diaz at Blue Wahoos Stadium.

It became quite an introduction.

The 22-year-old Diaz flashed his power, his fielding prowess and a megawatt smile, after driving in four runs with a homer and bases-clearing triple to lead the Blue Wahoos to an 8-3 victory against the Biloxi Shuckers. The win began a nine-game, two team homestand in a desired way.

Diaz had a 2-for-5 night at the plate Tuesday, which followed getting eight hits in the past weekend road trip at Jacksonville, during his Double-A level debut series.

“He can be really special,” said Blue Wahoos manager Ramon Borrego, who managed Diaz last season with the High-A Fort Myers Miracle, where Diaz also played the first half of this season. “He’s turned into a really different ballplayer.”

Diaz, signed by the Minnesota Twins as a 17-year-old in 2013 from Santiago, Dominican Republic, has been the Blue Wahoos’ best player since joining the team.

He’s had five extra-base hits with three doubles, the triple Tuesday and his first-inning home run that became his 14th this season.

He also elicited a crowd reaction with a long flyout to centerfield in nearly the same spot he blasted a pitch off the wall for three RBI.

“The biggest thing has been the teammates here,” said Diaz, speaking with help of Borrego, who is bilingual. “I feel really comfortable with my teammates and that has made me more relaxed, more focused in the game.”

Also helping, as Borrego pointed out, is how the 6-foot-4, 225-pound Diaz has reshaped his body after going through a weight-loss program that adversely affected him last season.

In 79 games with the Fort Myers Miracle, Diaz hit .224 with only three homes and 35 RBI.

This season? He’s batting .385 with the Blue Wahoos with a combined 14 homers and 44 RBI in 63 games.

“He just lost a lot of weight,” Borrego said. “I can’t say how much weight … but he had basically some baby fat. So we put him on a program on eating healthy, but last year, he lost too much weight .

“Mentally, he was just out. This year is totally different. He’s more confident, he feels really good, and you see the results now.”

The results Tuesday quickly wowed. Moved up by Borrego to No. 2 in the batting order, Diaz hit a one-out pitch in the first inning like a moon shot, soaring higher than top of the outfield video board, before the ball dropped straight down into the grass berm beyond the right field.

In the second inning, after Jimmy Kerrigan led off with a blast over the left field fence, the Shuckers chose to walk Travis Blankenhorn to load the bases with two out against Diaz.

He promptly hit a 1-0 pitch off the right-center fence padding, scoring all three baserunners and giving the Blue Wahoos a 5-0 lead. That was plenty for Blue Wahoos starter Bryan Sammons, who pitched five scoreless innings against the Shuckers.

“Basically, everything has changed for me,” Diaz said. “I’ve been working on my mental approach. I am getting more focused in the game and trying to get better quality at-bats.. I am happy now.

“At 17, I was immature, still trying to learn a lot of things. But now I feel more mature and I’m playing in a different level.”

The Blue Wahoos, meanwhile, looked like a different team Tuesday night than the one which lost the final three games of their last series at Jacksonville.

And different than the team swept by the Shuckers in a five-game series June 7-11 in Biloxi that ultimately decided the Southern League South Division first-half winner.

Borrego, who was coming off an extended family vacation, as permitted in season by the Twins, noticed an uplift when he walked into the team’s clubhouse at Blue Wahoos Stadium. He flew into Pensacola earlier Tuesday from Fort Myers.

“I recharged my body and that was great,” Borrego said. “I was able to spent time with my family, especially after how the first half ended, a long first half…. then getting to spend time with my daughter and my wife, it’s always great.

“As soon as I got here, the clubhouse was totally different. I can feel that. I am big on that. When I can see players laughing, I know it’s good.”

Sammons was good on the mound, allowing just two hits, one walk and striking out six batters in five innings. Anthony Vizcaya followed with two scoreless innings, then Zack Weiss overcame a shaky eighth inning when he allowed three runs, to slam the door on the win.

The Blue Wahoos added three runs in the eighth inning, after Biloxi closed the deficit to 5-3. Alex Kirilloff led off with a double Jimmy Kerrigan reached on a fielding error. With one out and the bases loaded, Aaron Whitefield grounded into a fielder’s choice play which scored Kirilloff. Jordan Gore followed with a two-run single.

The Blue Wahoos spread eight hits in the game among seven batters in the lineup.

The Blue Wahoos will continue the homestand Wednesday.

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