Anderson strong early in Rafters' walk-off win
D-backs prospect strikes out five over four frames; White Sox farmhand homers in 10th
Chase Anderson and Andy Wilkins have faced each other in the past, most recently while with Double-A Mobile and Birmingham respectively. But the most prominent of those meetings came three years ago in the NCAA Tournament when Anderson's Oklahoma squad squared off with Wilkins' Arkansas team.
It ended well for one of them.
"They beat us pretty good," remembered Anderson, who didn't appear in the Regional Finals. The final score: Arkansas 11, Oklahoma 0. Wilkins was 5-for-5 with two homers and five RBIs in the Razorbacks' big victory.
Needless to say, Anderson is happy to have the slugger on his side with the Salt River Rafters in this year's Arizona Fall League.
The D-backs' No. 19 prospect struck out five and allowed only one hit in four shutout innings Monday, but it took a walk-off solo homer off the bat of Wilkins -- a first baseman in the White Sox system -- in the 10th inning to give Salt River a 5-4 win over Mesa.
Anderson retired the first five batters he faced to start off the contest before escaping jams with a runner in scoring position in the second and third frames. He then set down three consecutive Solar Sox in the fourth to end his night after 60 pitches, 39 for strikes.
"My fastball command was really good," said the 24-year-old right-hander. "I threw a lot of those and was able to work it, both in and out, on a lot of counts. My other off-speed stuff works off of that, so it makes everything that more effective when my fastball is on. For me, I'm not an overpowering guy, so I need the whole package to be effective."
The start represented an improvement from Anderson's previous two outings for the Rafters, in which he allowed three earned runs on four hits and four walks in 5 2/3 innings.
Because of that marked improvement between starts, the Texas native admitted a little part of him wanted to remain in the game.
"Of course, I felt good enough to go maybe five or six innings," Anderson said. "But at the same time, you know how it works down here, and you're only going to get so many pitches or innings. I always have that competitive edge, though, to keep going when things are going well."
Anderson went 5-4 with a 2.86 ERA in 21 starts and totaled 97 strikeouts in 101 innings for Mobile this season before joining Salt River in the AFL. He said he's expected to get 25 to 30 innings during his time there, and through the first third, he's been enjoying the experience.
"Everything's been a blast so far," the righty said. "I wanted to be here, and I feel blessed that I'm around on a great bunch of guys and that the Diamondbacks gave me the opportunity. I'm hoping to continue push myself and make it to the Majors, but right now, it's nice to be here and with this group."
Despite Anderson's stellar start, Salt River and Mesa battled into extra innings after the Solar Sox scored three times off D-backs reliever Kevin Munson in the top of the ninth, thanks to a two-run single by Brian Ward (Orioles) and a game-tying hit by Matt Szczur (Cubs).
But in the 10th, it was time for Wilkins' heroics as the left-handed slugger took Chris Petrini's offering over the right-field wall for the game-winner.
"It was awesome," said Anderson of his teammate's second blast of the AFL season. "Everyone was going nuts. I was actually back in the clubhouse, lifting weights and preparing myself for my next start because that's what I do. ... But you could hear the reaction all the way from there, and it was crazy."
After his 3-for-5 night, Wilkins is batting .414 with two homers and six RBIs through his first seven AFL games.
White Sox's No. 7 prospect Carlos Sanchez drove in a game-high three runs for the Rafters.
Sam Dykstra is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.