This week marks the start of the real, unforced rivalry between the Houston Astros and Texas Rangers as they play meaningful baseball against each other in mid-September. With both teams vying for the number one spot in the AL West, the state championship is about much more than bragging rights now. If that was not enough, both franchises Triple-A affiliates reached the Pacific Coast League Championship and faced off in Game 1 on Tuesday night.
The Fresno Grizzlies fell in 12 innings to the Round Rock Express, the Houston Astros’ Triple-A affiliate from 2005-2010, in Game 1 of the best-of-five PCL Championship Series.
The Fresno Grizzlies had to move on without the production of the PCL MVP Matt Duffy. Duffy joined the Astros in Arlington on Monday and the team made a corresponding move by promoting third baseman Colin Moran from Corpus Christi after their playoff run ended.
The Grizzlies were able to jump out to a quick 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning, but things quickly soured from there. Grizzlies starter Mike Hauschild lasted only 1 1/3 innings after allowing six runs, five of them earned, and a home run. Luis Cruz was called upon to stop the bleeding and was excellent in relief, allowing only one run and striking out eight over 3 2/3 innings.
The Express held a 7-1 lead from the third inning until the Grizzlies’ bats came alive in the sixth inning. Jon Singleton led off the inning with a double to left before moving over to third on a Robbie Grossman ground out. Andrew Aplin was then able to knock in Singleton with a soft line drive that dropped into left field.
Tyler White, replacing Matt Duffy in the starting line-up at third base, came up big in the seventh inning. After a Tony Kemp single, Alex Presley struck out, but White followed with a two-run blast to cut the deficit to three.
After Jake Buchanan held the Express scoreless in both the sixth and seventh innings, the Grizzlies were able to regain the lead for the first time since the first inning with a four-run eighth inning. Aplin led off with a single, L.J. Hoes followed with a double and Tyler Heineman then scored Aplin with a sac fly. After a Nolan Fontana walk, three consecutive run-scoring singles by Kemp, Presley and White tied and then gave the Grizzlies an 8-7 lead heading into the bottom of the eighth.
Kevin Chapman threw a scoreless eighth for the Grizzlies, and after the offense failed to add insurance in the top of the ninth, the team called on James Hoyt to shut down the Express and seal Game 1. Hoyt had not allowed a run in 13 straight appearances since Aug. 14, but allowed a home run to the first batter he faced. Hoyt was able to strike out the side after the home run, but game moved on to extra innings tied 8-8.
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The game remained scoreless in innings 10 and 11 before the Express were able to take Game 1 in the 12th without recording a single hit. Juan Minaya replaced Jordan Jakowski for the Grizzlies after he recorded three walks in the inning. Minaya came in with the bases loaded and one out, but walked the first batter he faced, giving the Express the thrilling walk-off walk.
The PCL Championship continues today in Round Rock, with Dan Straily taking the mound for the Grizzlies. The Grizzlies will need to Straily to go deep in the game after the team used seven pitchers on Tuesday night. Straily was excellent in the previous series against El Paso, allowing only one run over six innings.