WEST SACRAMENTO- If there was a way to send a message through the clubhouse that this team was ready to turn it around, Andrew Kown delivered it Saturday night. Following one of their worst losses of the season, the Grizzlies rode the arm of Kown's six no-hit frames to a two-hit, 3-0 shutout of their Highway 99 rivals, the Sacramento River Cats, at Raley Field Saturday night.
Kown (8-5) changed speeds and moved the ball around the plate brilliantly all night long, keeping the potent River Cats (45-25) lineup off balance. He struck out just four, but got a number of weak pop-outs thanks to his array of off-speed pitches. He walked four overall, including two in the first inning, but retired 13 of the final 14 batters he faced. He once again shares the Pacific Coast League lead in wins with Las Vegas' Brett Cecil.
"This is a very good hitting team," said Kown of the Sacramento lineup, which boasts a number of players who have been in the Majors this season. "We were just throwing a lot of off-speed in fastball counts. (Catcher Hector) Sanchez called a great game and made it easy for me."
It marked the second great outing in a row for the Fresno rotation, which saw Matt Yourkin allow a single run on four hits over 6.0 innings of work on Friday night. Kown said that watching Yourkin have success with the game plan that pitching coach Pat Rice had devised for the series gave him confidence to execute.
"It helped a lot to watch Yourkin last night," said Kown. "He did an unbelievable job of leaving the zone when he wanted to and throwing the ball in the zone when he needed to."
Waldis Joaquin relieved Kown in the seventh and got the first batter he faced, Andy LaRoche, to hit a lazy fly ball towards James Simmons in right field. The outfielder drifted back on the ball, then stopped suddenly as he lost sight of it in the late evening twilight, and it dropped next to him for a base hit. With the no-hitter dashed, Joaquin struck out Josh Donaldson and got Michael Taylor to ground into a 6-4-3 inning-ending double play to keep the River Cats scoreless.
That would remain the only hit until Eric Sogard's two-out single through the hole between first and second off Justin Dowdy in the bottom of the eighth. Reliever Dan Otero came on to end the frame, recording the game's final four outs for his second save in as many appearances since being promoted from Double-A Richmond earlier in the week.
The Grizzlies (30-40) got all of their runs on a pair of Thomas Neal singles. They got on the board first in the top of the fourth, when Tyler Graham singled up the middle with one out and moved to second on a hit by Edgar Gonzalez. After Conor Gillaspie's slowly chopped groundout to the right side of the infield moved the runners to second and third, Neal delivered with a shot up the middle, scoring Graham easily and Gonzalez just ahead of the throw from center fielder Jai Miller.
The score stayed 2-0 until the top of the ninth, when Gonzalez walked, Gillaspie singled and Neal chopped a ball through the middle to score the runner from second. He improved his average to .366 (15-for-41) with runners in scoring position.
Saturday marked the second time a Grizzlies starter has thrown six no-hit innings to open a game this season only to be pulled once hitting a pitch count. Recently released pitcher Doug Mathis accomplished the feat on May 16th at Memphis, only to watch the bullpen surrender a 4-0 lead in a 5-4, 14-inning loss to the Redbirds.
Gonzalez, who had seen his team-high 16-game hitting streak come to an end on Friday night, extended his team-leading on-base streak to 24 games, going 2-for-3 with a walk, a double and a two runs scored.
These teams meet again for the third game in this four-game weekend wraparound set at 1:05pm Sunday as Grizzlies lefty Dan Runzler (0-1) takes on River Cats southpaw Lenny DiNardo (1-3).
WP: Kown (8-5); LP: Hernandez (3-2); S: Otero (2); HR: None
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.