Grizzlies' Noonan drives in eight runs

Giants prospect eclipses franchise record, homers twice

By Andrew Pentis / Special to | May 20, 2012 3:45 PM ET

When Nick Noonan came to bat with the bases loaded and one out in the top of the sixth inning Sunday, he'd already homered and driven in four runs. So when he worked the count to an advantageous 3-1, he thought to himself, "Let one fly."

Only Noonan was thinking sacrifice fly.

The former first-round pick smacked a grand slam, giving him a career-high -- and franchise-record -- eight RBIs and capping the Triple-A Fresno Grizzlies' 11-5 victory over the Round Rock Express.

The win sealed a four-game sweep and was the visitors' fifth straight overall.

Noonan's eight RBIs eclipsed the previous club mark of seven, set by Dante Powell on May 26, 1998 and matched by John Bowker on Aug. 16, 2009.

The key to Noonan's day?

"I saw the fastball well, which is always good," said the shortstop, who turned 23 earlier this month."

That's the pitch the left-handed hitter found to his liking in a 2-1 count against Express starter -- and Rangers' No. 2 prospect -- Martin Perez in the third inning. His two-run shot cleared the right-center field fence.

"I saw a lot of sliders in that at-bat," Noonan said, "then I got in a good hitter's count, saw the fastball good out of his hand and was able to pop it out.

"We did a good job of laying off [Perez's] slider and taking advantage of the fastball."

Batting sixth, Noonan also singled home two runs in the first and led off the eighth with a double. In between, he faced right-handed reliever Sean Green in that eventful sixth-inning matchup.

"It was [against] a sidearm, three-quarter guy," Noonan said. "All his pitches were outside. It was a 3-0 count and I took a fastball and then looked for it again 3-1."

The grand slam was the Grizzlies' second of the season. Joaquin Arias did the deed on April 9 in Las Vegas.

Noonan had not registered a multi-homer game in his six-year pro career. He eclipsed his previous single-game high by three RBIs after tripling, doubling and plating five runs for Class A Augusta on April 19, 2008.

Noonan attributed his re-emergence at the plate -- he batted .237 in 2010 and .229 in 2011 -- simply to aggressiveness. He is batting .326 with 13 extra-base hits and 26 RBIs through 37 games this season.

Whatever the reason, he's performing at the right time. The big league club is without All-Star second baseman Freddy Sanchez and, despite the slick fielding of light-hitting shortstop Brandan Crawford, both middle-infield positions seem in a fluid state. Emmanuel Burriss, Arias and recent Fresno callup Charlie Culberson have all taken turns.

"It's always on the back of my mind," Noonan said. "I can't help but think of it."

Although he drove in all but three of his club's runs Sunday, Noonan was not alone. Third baseman Conor Gillaspie -- a 2008 first-round pick -- and veteran outfielder Todd Linden each had two hits. Linden, who also scored three runs, went 12-for-18 with nine RBIs during the series.

Perez (3-4) was charged with seven runs -- four earned -- on eight hits and four walks over three innings. The left-hander has surrendered seven runs in consecutive starts, both losses.

Fresno counterpart Andrew Kown (4-1) limited the Express to three runs on seven hits over five frames.

Round Rock's Ryan Spilborghs and Yangervis Solarte both went 2-for-4 to extend their hitting streaks to 14 and six games, respectively. Solarte has hit safely in 28 of his last 29 contests.

The Express have lost 10 of their last 11 games and were swept at home for the first time since Tacoma took four straight in August 2009.

Andrew Pentis is a contributor to Follow him on Twitter at AndrewMiLB. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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