The Fresno Grizzlies began "Rivalry Week" with a 1-0 win Wednesday night, a five-game series with the Sacramento River Cats as the final regular season homestand at Chukchansi Park this season. By striking out a season-high 15 batters, the Grizzlies improved to 7-1 against Sacramento this season, and 18-6 against their rivals to the north in two seasons as a Houston Astros affiliate.
A one-out double by Danny Worth, and a two-out line drive RBI single by Derek Fisher in the second inning opened and closed the night's scoring, staking Fresno to a lead that would stand up thanks to yet another superb pitching performance against Sacramento by Cesar Valdez.
The early knock extended Fisher's hit streak to seven games, the current Grizzlies-high. He's batting .360 during the streak (9-for-25), with a homer, three doubles and five RBI. Fisher is currently ranked the Astros #7 minor league prospect by MLB.com.
Valdez took over from there, tossing eight shutout innings. While scattering five harmless hits and a lone walk, the right-hander struck out 12 batters, tying Brad Peacock's single-game high this season for the Grizzlies; Peacock fanned 12 of his own at home July 9 against Reno. Valdez struck out four players multiple times, and whiffed 2014 NLCS hero and former Grizzly Travis Ishikaka three times, twice swinging.
Fresno's 1-0 lead in the ninth was never in Jeopardy, thanks to James Hoyt blowing through the River Cats with three swinging strikeouts, to earn his 29th save of the season. With 12 games left, Hoyt is eying the Grizzlies' single-season saves record (Heath Hembree, 31 in 2013), and the modern-era Pacific Coast league record (33). The right-hander, who now has nine Major League appearances on his resume after his first big league call-up with the Astros, has struck out an incredible 90 batters in 53 innings pitched in Triple-A. Hoyt got the fan-favorite Ishikawa to go down swinging to end the game.
The 15 combined strikeouts for Valdez and Hoyt surpassed Fresno's previous staff-high this season of 14, which they achieved twice, most recently on May 21 at Memphis. In three starts this season against Sacramento, Valdez is 3-0, allowing just one earned run in 24 innings, a 0.38 ERA. He has 27 strikeouts in those 24 innings against the River Cats; his previous season-high was 10 strikeouts on June 16 at Sacramento in a one-hit, complete-game shutout.
Worth is now batting .345 in 72 games with Fresno this season, and is hitting .397 in his last 17 Triple-A games. Worth is batting .358 since his return to the Grizz lineup on August 1 after appearing in 16 MLB games with the Astros.
The victory improved the Grizzlies (68-63-1) to 23-16 in one-run games this season (16-9 at home), as 30% of their games and 36% of their home games have been decided by a single run. If Fresno goes 4-8 in their last 12 games, they'll clinch consecutive winning seasons for the first time since moving Downtown to Chukchansi Park. The 1998 and 1999 Grizzlies went 81-62 and 73-69 in the franchise's first two seasons playing at Fresno State, after the PCL's Phoenix Firebirds relocated to Central California after the 1997 season.
Game two of the series will be Thursday at 7:05, with starters Joan Gregorio (4-8, 5.48) for Sacramento and Eury De La Rosa (0-1, 15.75) for Fresno.