PEORIA, Ariz. -- With the Peoria Javelinas four outs away from getting shut out for the first time this season, the Arizona Fall League's two hottest hitters came to the rescue. Eric Filia and Ronald Acuna provided consecutive RBI singles to deliver a 2-1 win over the Salt River Rafters on Monday.
The victory improved Peoria's record to 16-11 and reduced its magic number to one in the West division with three games remaining. Salt River dropped to 12-13-2 and remained 2 1/2 games behind the Mesa Solar Sox in the East.
The Javelinas have the best offense in the AFL, averaging 6.19 runs per game entering Monday, but they managed just five baserunners in the first seven innings. Right-hander Yency Almonte, the Rockies' No. 10 prospect, began the eighth by alternating singles and strikeouts, putting runners on the corners with two out.
Filia, a Mariners outfielder/first baseman who leads the league in hitting (.400) and on-base percentage (.476), drilled Almonte's next pitch for an RBI single to right to tie the game. Four pitches later, Acuna drove in the go-ahead run with a single left. The Braves outfielder, who was coming off a two-homer game Saturday, tops the AFL in runs (21), home runs (seven), extra-base hits (12), total bases (51), slugging (.680) and OPS (1.109).
While many scouts consider Acuna baseball's best prospect, Filia doesn't have the same pedigree. After he was UCLA's leading postseason hitter during its 2013 College World Series championship run, he missed all of the next two seasons. He lost 2014 after injuring his right (throwing) shoulder and requiring labrum surgery, then he was suspended for all of 2015 after he plagiarized part of a paper for a philosophy class.
Filia returned to the Bruins in 2016 then signed for $1,000 as a 20th-round pick. He was almost 24, making him one of the oldest players in the 2016 Draft. Despite his two-year detour from the diamond, he said he never thought that would be the end of his career.
"I knew baseball was always going to be there for me," Filia said. "I've got to give credit to [UCLA] Coach [John] Savage, who gave me back basically an opportunity to play ball again. I didn't take it for granted.
"I had those two years off, they were tough, but I think it helped me grow as a person more, which has kind of helped me really on the baseball field. I learned who I was as a person and it's just really given me the confidence to come out here each and every day and play hard and not take anything for granted."
Filia has enjoyed nothing but success in pro ball. He led the Northwest League in hitting (.362) and on-base percentage (.450) and won the short-season circuit's MVP in his pro debut. This summer, he ranked first in the high Class A California League in OBP (.407) and third in batting (.326).
Few AFL players can make consistent line-drive contact as easily as Filia, who has struck out in just five of 82 plate appearances (the best rate in the league). He doesn't have another above-average tool, however, which may make him more of an extra outfielder than an everyday player in the big leagues. Mostly a corner outfielder in the Minors, he has gotten time at first base with the Javelinas in order to enhance his versatility.
Filia said he has thoroughly enjoyed playing on the Fall League's most talented team. Peoria not only has the AFL's best record, but it also has three Top 100 Prospects in Acuna, Padres middle infielder Luis Urias and Red Sox third baseman Michael Chavis -- not to mention seven former first-round picks and a pair of supplemental first-rounders.
"If we get to the championship and win, it's just the cherry on top," Filia said. "... I'm building a lot of great relationships here and it's awesome to see one through nine hit, so it gives me a lot of confidence as well. I'm just trying to come out here each and every day, have fun, be the same guy and take this opportunity to the best of my capability."
Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter. Listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.