Houston Astros Farm Report: Fresno Grizzlies begin title defense

Mar 10, 2016; Melbourne, FL, USA; Houston Astros third baseman Colin Moran (79) at bat during the first inning against the Washington Nationals at Space Coast Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Logan Bowles-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 10, 2016; Melbourne, FL, USA; Houston Astros third baseman Colin Moran (79) at bat during the first inning against the Washington Nationals at Space Coast Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Logan Bowles-USA TODAY Sports /

Defending 2015 Triple-A Champs split first two games in Las Vegas

The 2016 Fresno Grizzlies began their season on Thursday night looking for the same success that the Triple-A club found in 2015. The team split two games with the Las Vegas 51s (New York Mets) before the rest of the weekend’s games were pushed back and eventually cancelled due to inclement weather.

Chris Devenski – the hero of last year’s Triple-A National Championship game – was set to toe the rubber on Thursday’s Opening Day for Fresno, but was plucked by the Astros on Wednesday night, and Brad Peacock was called upon in his place.

Game 1

Peacock was fairly sharp on Thursday night. The right-hander tossed five innings, struck out five, and allowed just two runs on two hits – one of them a home run. After the Grizzlies and 51s had scored a run apiece in the first and fourth innings, the Grizzlies struck for two in the sixth via a two-run home run off the bat of Danny Worth and Peacock left the game in line for the victory.

The bullpen took over in the sixth inning for the Grizzlies but turned out to be a letdown. Cesar Valdez pitched a scoreless sixth, but allowed a one-out home run in the seventh and was pulled for Kevin Chapman. Chapman finished the seventh but allowed a home run to the first batter he faced in the eighth. Jordan Jankowski then replaced Chapman with one out in the eighth and pitched into the ninth. With the game tied in the bottom of the ninth, Jankowski allowed a leadoff single but retired the next two batters. Manager Tony DeFrancesco opted for flamethrower Juan Minaya to finish the ninth. Minaya faced former Houston Astro Mark Krauss and the big lefty proceeded to drill a walk-off home run to center field, giving the 51s a 6-4 win.

Game 2

The Grizzlies came out swinging on Friday night and eventually claimed their first win of the season in a 15-10 shootout. The runs came in all but two innings for Fresno and every starter collected at least one hit; in fact, only two hitters in the Grizzlies’ starting line-up failed to collect multiple hits.

Jon Singleton raked a team-high three hits and four RBIs including a sixth-inning solo home run as well as a bases-loaded walk in the third. Not to be outdone, top first base prospect A.J. Reed collected a pair of doubles, a walk, two RBIs and scored three times. Colin Moran also contributed with two RBIs on two hits, one of them a double.

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Unsettling once again was the pitching for the Grizzlies. Asher Wojciechowski, who this time last year was pitching for the Astros, took a 7-0 lead into the bottom of the fourth inning before getting touched up for three runs in the fourth and three more in the fifth. Edwar Cabrera pitched a scoreless sixth inning but gave up a run on a double in the seventh.

Jandel Gustave, the Astros 19th ranked prospect, allowed three runs in 1 2/3 innings. Gustave came on with two outs in the seventh and retired the first batter he faced. After recording two quick outs in the eighth, he surrendered three consecutive singles that scored one run before allowing another run to score on a wild pitch. After a walk, he gave up one more run-scoring single before escaping the inning.

James Hoyt almost made the Astros Opening Day roster, but made his first appearance of the season in the ninth inning for the Grizzlies and worked around a pair of singles to close out the game.

Coming Up

The Grizzlies last two games of the series will be pushed back to August and made up when the team returns to Las Vegas. The team will be in Salt Lake City for four games to take on the Bees (Los Angeles Angels) starting Monday night before their home opener in Fresno on Friday.

Next: Evan Gattis to practice at catcher

Lance McCullers and Evan Gattis may make brief appearances with Fresno in the coming weeks if the team opts to have them face Triple-A competition. If Gattis returns to Houston from Corpus Christi, expect the Grizzlies to have the 2015 PCL MVP Matt Duffy back at third base immediately.

**Stats from MiLB.com**