Royals righty tosses five two-hit frames, first baseman homers twice
With help from cleanup hitter Balbino Fuenmayor’s two home runs, Royals’ No. 5 prospect Miguel Almonte secured his third straight win as Double-A Northwest Arkansas topped Arkansas, 5-3, on Monday at Dickey-Stephens Park.
The right-hander held the Travelers to two hits and two walks while fanning three across five innings.
“Outstanding, just great fastball, electric,” Naturals manager Vance Wilson said of Almonte (3-1). “He was getting ahead of the hitters, did a nice job of throwing his breaking ball for strikes and also being able to come in here and get a couple strikeouts below the zone.”
After Fuenmayor put Northwest Arkansas ahead in the first with a two-run blast to left-center field, Almonte allowed a single in the home half of the frame to Drew Maggi, but quickly erased the runner with his first pickoff of the season.
“I thought he did a great job of just holding the ball, not rushing over to first, letting the guy get set and get a little antsy,” the manager said. “Any time you go out, your team scores you a couple runs, and then all of a sudden a guy gets on, to be able to pick a guy off like that, to be able to squash a rally, is huge for any pitcher.”
The 22-year-old Dominican Republic native didn’t run into much trouble after that, not allowing another hit until the fifth — a two-out single by Anthony Bemboom.
On his recent win streak, Almonte has held Texas League opponents to one run on 11 hits and four walks while striking out 12 in 15 innings. Wilson credits the right-hander’s improved fastball command as the key to his success.
“Sometimes in the past, he’d get a little erratic with his fastball,” the skipper said. “I just think our pitching coach, Jim Brower, has done a great job with him and [making him understand] how important it is to get ahead of hitters, especially as hard as he throws, and [then him] being able to do that.”