Astros Minors: The Triple-A Fresno Grizzlies win PCL Championship behind Appel

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The Fresno Grizzlies were a new addition to the Astros minors this past offseason. The pairing of the Houston Astros and Fresno has been a match made in heaven, from the failed 2017 Championship ring promotion and the Taco Truck uniform worn one game. Fresno has also been convenient at times when a prospect is needed during a West Coast trip.

The Grizzlies had a better season than most people might have thought. They have housed some of the top prospects in the Astros system, including Mark Appel, Carlos Correa, Tony Kemp, and many others. Some players such as Lance McCullers Jr., Vincent Velasquez, and Michael Feliz have never stepped foot into Fresno. However, the road to Houston goes through Fresno.

The Grizzlies finished the regular season with an 84-59 record (.587 winning percentage). I asked Dan Straily what it was like to play in Fresno, his answer was pretty spot on. “Yes, man our team is pretty much a major league team it seems like.” Some Astros fans have referred to Triple-A as the AAAA Astros, most of the players had major league experience.

The talent pool could explain why the Grizzlies had such a great record and eventually won the championship. With a rotation full of Brett Oberholtzer, Straily, Asher Wojciechowski, Luis Cruz, Brady Rodgers, and Appel, they had plenty of big league time. L.J. Hoes, Robbie Grossman, Jonathan Villar, Alex Presley, and Jon Singleton anchored the lineup in a good mix of veterans and prospects.

It was fitting that the Grizzlies played in the playoffs versus the Rangers affiliate Round Rock Express. The Rangers and Astros are currently locked up in a dogfight for first in the AL West. The Rangers farm system is regarded by many as better than the Astros post trade deadline deals. It was nice to put a Rangers team in its place, even if it was a minor league team.

The series didn’t get off to a great start, with Fresno dropping the first game at home. Mike Hauschild was hit around, checking out in the second inning after allowing six runs. The Grizzlies fought back to take the lead with seven runs in the 6th to 8th innings. The Express came back to force extra innings in front of Astros president Reid Ryan. The Express ended up winning 9-8 in the 12th inning. Aric wrote about this game here: Houston Astros minor-league playoffs: Fresno Grizzlies drop Game 1 of PCL Championship

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The second game was better for the Grizzlies as Straily flirts with a perfect game, he ended up going seven innings giving up only one run. The Grizzlies win 3-1 powered by Jon Singleton’s two-run homer in the first inning. Houston Astros minor-league playoffs: Dan Straily near perfect as Grizzlies even PCL Championship Series

The third game was not quite as bad as the first game, but Oberholtzer gave up six runs without making it out of the fifth inning. Tyler Heineman provided the only offense by driving in two runs in the 6-2 loss.

In game four, Wojciechowski (yes I still remember how to spell it) whom has had a cup of tea with the Astros at the beginning of year, went six innings only allowing one unearned run with seven strikeouts. Singleton once again hit the go-ahead homer in the sixth inning to give them the lead to stay.

This tied the series a two wins apiece going into game five. The Grizzlies fate depended on the right arm of Appel, and he did not disappoint. While he was not overly effective, he still only allowed three runs in 5 2/3 innings with ten strikeouts. Tyler White hit an early homer to give the Grizzlies the lead and the championship series MVP Tony Kemp had a 3-4 day at the plate. Kemp finished the series with nine hits in 20 at-bats .405 average. The Grizzles won the deciding game with a 7-3 score.

Now the Grizzlies sans Straily will play Tuesday in the one-game Triple-A World Series game against the Columbus Clippers. Straily will be joining the Astros, as it was announced earlier today by Evan Drellich and others. Congrats to all the Fresno Grizzlies, now Appel and Trent Woodward will have time to do my interviews.

Next: The Houston Astros lose assistant GM David Stearns to the Brewers

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