While it's been a tough year for Astros fans this season, they can point to their farm system as a source of pride. The ValleyCats added to that success Tuesday.
Evan Grills struck out eight while giving up two runs on five hits over six innings as short-season Tri-City defeated Brooklyn, 6-3, to clinch the New York-Penn League's Stedler Division.
Grills got through a tough second inning in which he was tagged for two runs on three hits. The 21-year-old left-hander bounced back to retire the next nine batters before Jonathan Clark singled to open the sixth.
"Grills was outstanding and he's been outstanding the whole season," manager Ed Romero said. "He gave up two runs in the second inning and they were ground balls that found holes. He came back and got back on track."
Grills is tied for the New York-Penn League lead with seven wins and sports a 3.38 ERA in 16 appearances for the ValleyCats.
Tri-City looked to be in control of the division until the team lost five straight games to end August. Three straight victories turned the tide again.
"Basically we went through a couple of struggles during the season," Romero said. "We tried to get in the right frame of mind, be positive, keep working and stay with it. [Say] things are going to get better and they did.
"Right now, we're having fun in the clubhouse. They worked really hard, they wanted to win and they played like it."
The ValleyCats became the sixth Astros affiliate to clinch a postseason berth, the first time in history that's happened. They join Triple-A Oklahoma City, Double-A Corpus Christi, Class A Advanced Lancaster, Class A Quad Cities and Rookie-level Greeneville in the playoffs.
"Very proud," Romero said of the feat. "We worked, all of the Minor League staff, have been working since Spring Training. Continuing to stress everything we work on, making these guys understand what it's all about to become a professional baseball player on and off the field."
Ronnie Mitchell drove in a pair of runs and Conrad Gregor reached base three times while scoring a run. Romero highlighted both as key contributors this season.
"Conrad Gregor, he was outstanding," the former Major Leaguer said. "He started the season slowly and picked it up, Right now, he's hitting almost .290. He's hitting with more pop and he got some big RBIs. Ronnie Mitchell picked it up big and got a lot of key hits over the last two weeks."
Gonzalo Sanudo struck out three over 1 2/3 perfect innings of relief to earn his eighth save.
Matt Oberste homered for the Cyclones.