For the second time in four seasons as a Houston Astros affiliate and the third instance as a franchise, the Fresno Grizzlies (76-55) are headed back to the postseason after walking off on the Salt Lake Bees (68-63) 7-6 Saturday night from Chukchansi Park. After Reno defeated Albuquerque, the only way for the Pacific Northern Division to be clinched was for Fresno to win their way in. A five-run ninth inning comeback sealed the deal as the Grizzlies will roar back to the playoffs where they will face the El Paso Chihuahuas.
In the bottom of the first, AJ Reed clobbered a two-run shot to right field, making it 2-0 Fresno. It was his Triple-A leading 27th clout of the season. With the two RBI, he surpassed Damon Minor for third all-time in career franchise RBI (260). Brett Pill (315) and Todd Linden (325) are next up on the list. Reed also broke the record for most RBI in a single season by an Astros-affiliated player with 106. He passed his 2017 mark and Matt Duffy's total from 2015 (104).
Salt Lake quickly evened the game in the top of the second when Jose Fernandez (2-for-4) jumped on a fastball and belted it into the right field bleachers. That was his 14th big fly of the year. The Bees grabbed the lead back in the top of the third when Matt Thaiss (2-for-5) smoked a single, adding Luis Rengifo. The advantage extended to 4-2 in the visitor's half of the fifth when Thaiss once again singled in Rengifo.
That would finish the evenings for both starters. Salt Lake righty Dylan Unsworth threw five innings of two-run ball. He scattered five hits and a walk while striking out seven. On the other hand, Josh James equaled Unsworth with five frames of his own. He allowed six hits, four runs (earned), walking a pair and punching out five. Both did not factor in the line.
In the top of the seventh, an error and groundout pushed Rengifo across home for the third time. With a 5-2 lead, the Bees lengthened it to 6-2 when Jose Briceno (2-for-4) launched a solo jack to left-center field in the visitor's half of the eighth. It was his eighth four-bagger of 2018.
A four-run advantage was in the hands of Akeel Morris, but the Grizzlies weren't done clawing back. Derek Fisher singled, Jamie Ritchie reached on an error and Yordan Alvarez walked to load the bases. Then, Alex De Goti (2-for-4) roped a single to center, knocking in Fisher. Myles Straw followed with a fielder's choice and the score became 6-4. After a pitching change, Kyle Tucker (2-for-4) strode to the plate. After five pitches, Tucker locked in on a 3-2 pitch and drove it deep to right field. The ball cleared the wall with ease and Fresno started the 7-6 clinching celebration. Tucker's wallop was his sixth in the last four games and second in the ninth frame (grand slam on August 22 at Sacramento) and 23rd overall on the season.
The winning pitcher was Cionel Perez (1-0), who hurled a scoreless ninth in his home Triple-A debut while Conor Lillis-White (2-2) suffered the decision. Jack Mayfield (2-for-3) supplied two doubles in the victory while Ralph Garza slung three strong innings of relief.
Both squads continue the set with game three of four Sunday evening from Chukchansi Park. First pitch is scheduled for 5:05 PT. Grizzlies LHP Kent Emanuel (5-3, 4.83) and Bees RHP Osmer Morales (4-4, 6.68) are the probable matchup.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.