Noel Cuevas will be the Albuquerque Isotopes’ lone Triple-A All-Star next week.
Recently, though, Cuevas had not looked like an all-star, going 7-for-35 with nine strikeouts over his previous 10 games.
With one swing of the bat Friday night, he looked like an all-star again. Cuevas’ monstrous, go-ahead, three-run homer led the Isotopes to a 6-4 victory over the visiting Las Vegas 51s.
The Albuquerque center fielder was 0-for-3 when he stepped to the plate with two on and one out in the seventh inning, his team trailing 4-2.
“Yeah, that felt pretty good,” Cuevas said. “I was feeling good the whole night even though I was 0-for-3. I was swinging at bad pitches. I came into that last at-bat looking for a good pitch to hit, especially with the runners in scoring position in the seventh inning. I feel pretty good against lefties.
“I was just looking for a good pitch to hit and he left it up there for me. I was able to put a good swing on it.”
A good swing was an understatement. Cuevas destroyed an Alberto Baldonado pitch, hitting it off the Perfection Honda advertisement high above left field. If not for that towering sign, the ball would likely have cleared the ballpark’s back fence.
“He hasn’t hit a home for a while and the last couple days he’s been making some adjustments on the breaking ball,” Isotopes manager Glenallen Hill said. “He’s been able to get his barrel to some breaking balls. So I would like to think that has helped his confidence in being committed to the fastball and not worrying about the breaking ball. In his last at-bat, he looked totally committed to the fastball. It seemed like his timing was right.
“I think he needed it as much as we needed it. It was a good hit in that moment.”
Working on those adjustments paid off at last.
“That’s textbook of what I tell myself,” Cuevas said. “I’ve been working on slowing it down. Ever since I came back from the DL (on June 26), for being sick, I kind of lost my timing a little bit. I’ve been working on looking to hit the ball to right-center. I know my hands are quick. I know if he throws me a fastball inside I can do what I do.
“It’s basically going back to not worrying about the ball inside and making sure I’m ready for that fastball.”
Jordan Patterson made it back-to-back blasts with a shot to the berm above right field.
Albuquerque native Austin House then came on and got the final six outs for his first career save at Triple-A.
In addition to his big hit, Cuevas also had one of the better defensive plays of the game. He was able to make a full-extension, running catch on a wind-whipped flyball in the third inning, forcing him to do a somersault forward flip to slow his momentum.
“I’ve had a couple circus catches like that,” Cuevas said. “You never expect to do something like that so it’s really more a reaction. The ball here in Albuquerque flies a lot, so sometimes you think you have the right read and suddenly the ball is somewhere else. It was a little extra far away from me so I had to take a little more into it.”
Cuevas will remain with the Isotopes (42-44) through the final two games of the weekend before heading to Tacoma for the Triple-A All-Star Game, which is set for Wednesday night and will be nationally televised.
“It’s an honor, it’s an honor, man,” Cuevas said. “I remember back in 2013 I made the California League All-Star (Game). That was a lot of fun. I’m really looking forward to Triple-A, the next level is the big leagues.
“(And) I actually got to tell my family (in Puerto Rico) that I’m going to be on MLB Network, so that’s going to be pretty cool.”
Infielder Ryan McMahon, on the other hand, already left the team to head to Miami to play in the All-Star Futures Game on Sunday, along with Las Vegas shortstop Amed Rosario.
The Isotopes and 51s will continue their series Saturday night at 7:05.