Record: 30-27; Third place in the Pacific South Division (3.0 games behind Sacramento)
The Fresno Grizzlies see-sawed between a winning record and a losing mark through the last few weeks. This past week they took hold of the positive side of their winning percentage thanks to strong pitching performances.
The rotation has undergone small changes with the retirement of Brian Bowles May 21. The 13-year veteran, mostly of the minor leagues, called it quits after his start against Salt Lake. Sun Woo Kim joined the starting rotation after an up-and-down two months in the bullpen.
Kim carried over the uneven play in two starts since moving up to the rotation. In his first start May 25 at the Salt Lake Bees, he allowed one run over five innings for his first win as a starting pitcher this year. Last Thursday was an instance of the bad Kim, when he gave up seven runs in only three innings.
The relief corps was there to salvage the game. New-old addition Jonathan Sanchez pitched two scoreless innings in the game. Sanchez returned to Fresno after Russ Ortiz completed his rehabilitation assignment with the Grizzlies toward the end of May, presumably to pitch the innings he was not getting while in San Francisco's bullpen. The prized left-hander has picked up a considerable load of work since coming back to Fresno with six innings pitched in three outings, striking five hitters, all without allowing a run.
Reliever Erick Threets has been forgotten in Fresno due to injury problems and pitching problems. The hard-throwing right-hander took a step forward with a great appearance May 29, when he pitched one scoreless inning, walking two and striking out two.
In truth, Threets's turnaround goes back to the first week of May, but not since May 18 has he put together consistently successful appearances in relief. Since then, Threets has pitched seven innings without allowing a run with six strikeouts, including earning the win on June 2 against Albuquerque.
With the score tied 2-2, Threets held the line, allowing the Fresno offense to score six runs in the seventh inning to win the game. (Starter Matt Kinney deserves mention in this discussion on good pitching as he allowed the two runs with six strikeouts.) The Grizzlies are turning to Threets more often now that he has stabilized as a reliable reliever.
Three of Fresno's best arms kept the winning streak alive through the week. Starter Matt Palmer won the game that started the six-game winning streak with 6 2/3 innings May 29. The Opening Day starter allowed one run on seven hits and struck out five hitters before turning it over to the bullpen.
Threets was in on the action again in that game too, when he got his first hold of the season. Palmer's second entry in the winning streak saga yielded another win. His June 3 start was very similar to his previous outing: six innings, one run allowed, six strikeouts.
Starting pitcher Travis Blackley resolved his own yo-yo issues and is now the go-to guy in the Fresno rotation. The lone starting lefty threw seven innings of two-hit ball May 30 without allowing a run.
Blackley's last seven starts dating back to April 27 against Colorado Springs can be seen as "quality starts," but for the full weight of what he's doing take a closer look at his numbers in those last seven starts: 31 strikeouts to 15 walks, a 5-1 win-loss record, and four starts where he allowed four or fewer hits. Two of his starts he didn't allow a run to score.
Fresno was the last hurdle Chris Begg had to clear to prove himself in professional baseball. Begg's start on June 1 was another win for the Grizzlies and it was the right-hander's second win in a row after an unlucky string of two no-decisions and a loss. Begg won his 2007 Fresno debut May 4, but didn't win another game until nearly three weeks later on May 26, when he allowed one run against Salt Lake. Friday Begg went six innings to extend Fresno's winning streak to four games.
Great pitching helped the Grizzlies to their first sweep of the season, a four-gamer against Round Rock. The upswing is a welcome one after splitting the series at Salt Lake and, before that, getting swept on the road by Colorado Springs.
By the numbers: 42
The six-game winning streak isn't completely due to the pitching staff. Fresno's hitters busted out big time this week with 42 runs scored. While most times their pitchers didn't need the big run tallies, the 11-10 free-for-all Thursday required the bats to step up to win the game.
Player of the Week: Matt Palmer
Palmer is 2-0 this week with 12 2/3 innings pitched, two runs allowed, two walks, and 11 strikeouts. Hard to argue with that when it comes to the best of the week in Fresno.
Chris has been a Giants fan since her days in utero. She loves baseball and writes about whatever she can get her hands on… even the Athletics. She's a Bay Area gal through and through. This is her 24th season of fandom. Love/hate mail can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org, where the love mail gets top priority and the hate mail gets used for kindling.
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