After finishing the regular season at 84-59, the Houston Astros’ Triple-A affiliate brought minor-league playoff baseball to the city of Fresno for the first time since 1998. The Fresno Grizzlies began a best-of-five Pacific Coast League Playoff series at home on Wednesday against the El Paso Chihuahuas (San Diego Padres) and jumped out to a 2-0 series lead.
In Game 1 on Wednesday night, Fresno jumped all over El Paso in a 9-1 victory. Dan Straily took the rubber for the Grizzlies and tossed six innings, allowing only one run (a solo home run) and four hits while striking out six. Kevin Chapman, Jordan Jankowski, and James Hoyt followed in the next three innings and combined to allow only one hit and shut down El Paso’s offense.
Offensively, Alex Presley led the way for the Grizzlies, going four-for-five with two doubles. Andrew Aplin was the only player in the lineup without a hit, but reached twice on a walk and error and scored both times. The game was tight, with the score at 1-0 Grizzlies in the fourth until the team combined for seven runs between the fourth and fifth innings to pull away from El Paso.
On Thursday night, the series remained in Fresno at Chukchansi Park as the Grizzlies played a much tighter game but gained a two games to none lead with a 5-4 victory over El Paso. Asher Wojciechowski started for the Grizzlies in Game 2 and lasted six innings, allowing only two earned runs while striking out six. Presley stayed hot by recording another two hits, including another double.
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El Paso jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the second inning, but the Grizzlies answered back in the third, recording four straight singles. Tyler White had the last single of the bunch, which was good enough to score Nolan Fontana and Tony Kemp.
After hitting only .241 with three home runs in the season, Fontana swung the big bat for Fresno on Thursday, going two-for-three with three runs scored. After Robbie Grossman led off the fourth inning with a single, Fontana rocked a two-run home run to break a 2-2 tie. Fontana later scored the team’s fifth and final run in the seventh inning to seal the victory.
The series shifts to El Paso on Friday for Game 3 of the series. 2013 first-overall pick Mark Appel will have all eyes on him as he attempts to clinch the series for the Grizzlies. Appel was also the starter when the Grizzlies clinched their division in August against the Iowa Cubs. A win tonight will place the Grizzlies in the PCL Championship.