Record: 35-29; Second in the Pacific South Division (1.0 game behind Sacramento)
The Fresno Grizzlies are closing the gap on division leading Sacramento and passing Tucson in the Pacific Coast League standings. Last week the Grizzlies went 5-2, building on the five game win streak the week before to get back into the divisional race.
The team still has some work to do before they can be considered contenders in the division, but they're off to the right start. As of Saturday Fresno has the second best offense in the PCL in terms of runs scored with 342. They are tied with New Orleans and sit only two runs behind Iowa for the league lead. The Grizzlies are tied for the league lead in OPS at .798, with Albuquerque.
Frenso owes much of their offensive success to outfielder Nate Schierholtz. Schierholtz's .341 batting average is fourth best in the league. He is third in hits with 74 and stands three hits away from the league leading mark of 77. Fresno's best hitter is also tied for third in doubles with 20, along with five others in the league.
Many Grizzly starters are hitting above .300 so far. Since his callup from Connecticut Brian Horwitz is hitting .412 with Fresno in 16 games. Infielders Luis Figueroa and Tomas De La Rosa are hitting .320 and .316 respectively.
Justin Knoedler was passed over when teammate Guillermo Rodriguez was called up to San Francisco to back up Bengie Molina, but the remaining catcher is unfazed. Sunday against Las Vegas Knoedler hit two home runs and boosted his batting average to .303
Clay Timpner is hitting .329, not bad for a guy who started the year in a diminished outfield role behind Fred Lewis, Dan Ortmeier, and Schierholtz, the three starters who got more playing time than Timpner. However, Timpner has been out of action since June 5.
Justin Leone is in the top ten in steals in the PCL with 13. Leone has been asked to play all over the field since the Grizzlies went through some position shuffling. In addition to playing third base, he has appeared in the outfield. At first Leone played the corner outfield positions but has seen a little time in centerfield in Timpner's absence. Something about all this shifting must be working for him, as he's hitting .412 over his past 11 games.
Fresno's pitching staff isn't doing too poorly either. Before Sunday the pitchers were leading the league in earned run average at 3.67 and walks-plus-hits per inning at 1.30, Grizzlies starters also have four shutouts and three complete games. Both marks are tied for league best. The staff's 435 strikeouts is fifth best in the PCL, and their walks total is fourth best at 195.
These pitchers can shoulder a heavy workload. Their 559 1-3 innings pitched is tied for second most behind Sacramento. They are also fourth best in wins with 34 and perhaps one of the most encouraging stats, best in the league at keeping the ball in the ballpark. Fresno pitchers have allowed 39 home runs, by far the fewest in the league.
The sum of the pitching staff's parts works better than individual performances. Matt Palmer is the closest of the starters in terms of league leaders and even then his 3.91 ERA doesn't come close to the best on the leaderboard.
Matt Kinney leads the Grizzlies in strikeouts with 50 and sits around tenth place in the PCL. Palmer and Travis Blackley have 48 strikeouts each. Given that Milwaukee Brewers prospect Yovani Gallardo currently leads theworld in every minor league pitching statistic (98 strikeouts already), the PCL is a tough league for Fresno pitchers to make their mark.
Chris Begg's 2.88 ERA is fourth best in the PCL but isn't included on many leaderboards because he has been in AAA for seven starts following his callup from AA.
The bullpen continues to be one Fresno's strengths. The five relievers who get the call most, Scott Munter, Billy Sadler, Pat Misch, Scott Atchison, and Dan Giese, have combined for 157 1-3 innings pitched. The group has a 2.88 ERA and a strikeouts to walks ratio of 3 to 1. Misch, the lefty of the group, has nearly as many strikeouts as the top starters with 45.
With only two losses in the month of June Fresno has hit its stride. As long as the Grizzlies can keep hitting and pitching like they have been in the last few weeks they can make a move up the standings.
By the Numbers – 3
Three wins by relief pitchers this week, including two by Giese, shows that the bullpen is on the ball. Atchison won June 5 in relief of Sun Woo Kim. In two innings Atchison struck out five batters and did not allow a run. Giese is 2-0 this week.
Player of the Week – Dan Giese
Giese won the extra innings game June 8, coming into the ninth inning with the game tied. The right hander pitched three strong innings with three strikeouts and earned the win when Fresno scored three times in the eleventh inning. Fresno took it into the eleventh inning again Sunday and there Giese almost blew it. He relieved Sadler allowed one of his inherited runs to score and tied the game at 7. Knoedler bailed Giese out when he led off the eleventh inning with a home run. Misch retired three 51s hitters in a row to close the game. Giese got the win and Misch got his first save of the year.
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