The Fresno Grizzlies (74-54) stunned the Sacramento River Cats (50-78) on Wednesday night at Raley Field with a six-run top of the ninth; their eighth victory this season when trailing after the sixth inning, and the sixth win of 2018 when trailing during the seventh, eighth or ninth. The 10-8 win coupled with Reno's 11-1 loss at Tacoma lowered Fresno's magic number to clinch the Pacific Northern Division to four. The earliest the Grizzlies can clinch is Friday, August 24 at home when they open a series against Salt Lake, as their lead over Reno jumped to eight games with 12 to play.
Fresno took a quick 1-0 lead in the first, after Myles Straw scored on a double play ball. Straw led the game with walk, and moved to third base on a Kyle Tucker (3-for-4) single.
Sacramento took a 2-1 lead in the second, on a two-run homer by Gregor Blanco to right-center, Blanco's third of the season in Triple-A.
The Grizzlies re-took the lead in the third. Tucker led off with a walk, and stole his 18th base of the season. He scored from second on a Jack Mayfield (2-for-5) double into the left corner. Mayfield eventually scored on a J.D. Davis sac fly to left for a 3-2 advantage. In the home half of the inning however, the back-and-forth continued with a Miguel Gomez sac fly and a Chris Shaw two-run homer (23) to right field.
With the River Cats leading 5-3 in the in the fifth, Sacramento smashed their third two-run homer of the game, when Gomez lifted his second of the season to right field. It was 8-3 after an Orlando Calixte RBI fielder's choice in the sixth.
Fresno starter Brock Dykxhoorn lasted five innings, and the seven runs against him were earned on six hits. The right-hander walked two and struck out seven. Sacramento starter Jordan Johnson also went five, allowing three (earned) runs on five hits. Johnson walked four and struck out three, as neither starter would factor into the decision.
With 1,221 strikeouts as a team on the season, the Grizzlies broke the club record of 1,213 set in 2016. There are still 12 regular season games remaining, as Fresno pursues the PCL modern-era record for team strikeouts in a season (since 1958), chasing last year's Oklahoma City Dodgers (1,277). The Grizzlies are on pace for 1,335 punchouts this year.
Tucker smacked his 18th homer (solo) in the seventh, reducing the River Cat lead to 8-4. Trailing by the same score in the ninth, the Grizzlies loaded the bases with nobody out: A Taylor Jones walk, an Alex De Goti (2-for-5) double and a Straw walk set the table for Tucker, who teed off on his second homer of the night, a grand slam to right field. Tucker, who is 8-for-14 this season with the bases loaded, hit the fifth slam of the season for Fresno, joining Mayfield (April 7 at Reno and August 6 at Memphis), Derek Fisher (July 19 vs. Sacramento), and Yordan Alvarez (August 4 at Memphis). It was the first career five-RBI game for Tucker in Triple-A, and his second game this season with four-plus RBI. He drove in four runs on May 28 at home vs. El Paso.
Sacramento used three pitchers in the ninth, all to no avail, as Fresno re-loaded the bases with nobody out (Mayfield single, AJ Reed double and a Davis walk), before Alvarez and Jamie Ritchie each walked with the bases loaded, adding the winning run and an insurance run for the eventual 10-8 final.
Brendan McCurry notched his 14th save by retiring the side in order in the bottom of the ninth. Ralph Garza (1-2) picked up the winning decision in relief, tossing a scoreless eighth inning with two strikeouts. With the victory, the Grizzlies improved to 41-22 against Sacramento as a Houston Astros affiliate (since 2015), with a 24-7 record on the road.
The series finale will be Thursday evening at Sacramento's Raley Field. Probable starters are RHP Brady Rodgers for the Grizzlies, and RHP Tyler Herb for the River Cats. First pitch is slated for 7:05 p.m. Fresno is aiming for a three-game sweep.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.