Fresno Grizzlies (30-14) at Albuquerque Isotopes (26-19)
5:35 PM PDT at Isotopes Park
Radio: 105.5 FM “The Truth”
Justin Christian may have went hitless last night, ending his hitting streak at 14 games, but the centerfielder walked in his final at-bat of the game, thus extending his consecutive on-base streak to 15 games. If Christian reaches base safely in tonight’s game, he will tie Roger Kieschnick (April 16-May 2) for the longest consecutive game on-base streak by a Grizzlies hitter this season at 16 games.
Grizzlies manager Bob Mariano is going for his 200th career win tonight. After posting a 30-14 record this season, Mariano currently holds a 199-183 career record (.521 winning percentage). Mariano entered the season with a 169-169 record over three seasons.
The Grizzlies have the best road record in the PCL with a 15-5 mark (.750), leading the second-place Sacramento River Cats (14-7, .667). Including last night’s loss, three of the Grizzlies five losses on the road this season have occurred in a walk-off fashion. The other two walk-off losses for Fresno were on April 23 at Tacoma and May 6 at Colorado Springs.
Fresno Grizzlies (30-13) at Albuquerque Isotopes (25-19)
5:35 PM PDT at Isotopes Park
Radio: 105.5 FM “The Truth”
While the Grizzlies are locked in their battle for first place in the Pacific Southern Division, the Albuquerque Isotopes are also fighting off a close second-place opponent, the Oklahoma City RedHawks, in the American Southern Division. Fresno is ahead of Sacramento (29-15) by 1.5 games despite the Grizzlies being the only team in Triple-A with 30 wins. Albuquerque, meanwhile, leads Oklahoma City by a half game. The RedHawks are 24-19. On a related note, PCL playoffs are 107 days away.
The Grizzlies lost the last three games against the Isotopes in 2011, but Fresno won the final three games last played at Isotopes Park between the two teams in 2010. Either way tonight is going to extend some sort of winning/losing streak: four consecutive losses to Albuquerque or four-straight wins against the Isotopes in Albuquerque. Only three players who played in the final game of 2010 between Fresno and Albuquerque are still on the Grizzlies’ active roster today: Brock Bond, Jackson Williams and Eric Hacker.
Todd Linden is coming off an impressive four-game series at Round Rock. The switch hitter went 12-for-18 (.667) with three doubles, two home runs, nine RBIs and nine runs scored. Linden has driven in a run in five consecutive games, giving him 35 RBIs on the season. He has also scored three runs in each of his last three games and recorded multiple hits in the last four contests.
Fresno Grizzlies (27-13) at Round Rock Express (18-23)
5:05 PM PDT at The Dell Diamond
Radio: 105.5 FM “The Truth”
With a win, the Fresno Grizzlies will maintain the best road record in the PCL. They are 12-4 (.750) on the road, slightly better than Sacramento and their 12-5 (.706) road record. Fresno, Sacramento and the Reno Aces are the only three teams in the PCL with winning records on the road this season.
Tonight the Grizzlies will face a left-handed starter for the seventh time in their last 10 games. Fresno is 2-4 in the last six games against left-handed starting pitchers entering tonight. For the season, the Grizzlies are batting .277 against left-handed pitchers, compared to .310 against right-handed pitchers.
Brock Bond has a hit in 13 of his last 14 games and is batting .565 (26-for-46) in the month of May. Bond leads all of Minor League Baseball with his .565 batting average and .615 on-base percentage during May.
By: Josh Jackson
Anybody who is involved in Minor League Baseball knows that there is a certain theme affiliated with the sport. It does not matter if you are a player, a coach, a front office employee, or a lowly intern such as myself. Everyone is trying to push themselves to the next level, however possible. This concept especially pertains to me, as a recent college graduate currently seeking full-time employment, as the competition in the industry doesn’t exclusively take place on the baseball diamond. Of course, this is what I expected when I started my internship back in February, but I did not get to fully experience the fluidity of the industry until taking a trip with the team to Sacramento.
The June 17th game against the Sacramento River Cats marked the beginning of the 2011 edition of what is known as the Highway 99 showdown series. It also represented my first experience on the road with a professional baseball team. I sat in the press box during the game and really tried to take everything in. It was a beautiful day at Raley Field, and I was admiring the performance of Grizzlies starter Matt Yourkin, who was having another solid outing. At a certain point during the game, River Cats Media Relations Director Rebecca Brutlag peered through her binoculars as she saw an unfamiliar figure warming up in the Sacramento bullpen. “Who the heck is that warming up in our bullpen?” she asked to the press box at large. I turned to my boss, Director of Media Relations with the Grizzlies, and he jokingly replied, “It’s probably Doug Mathis.”
Doug Mathis had opted out of his contract with the Fresno Grizzlies just two days prior. Despite six quality starts in 13 appearances as a Grizzly, Mathis was never able to find the win column for a variety of reasons. Anyone who paid any attention to the season that Doug Mathis was having in Fresno would be understanding of his frustration and the decision he made. Mathis needed a new start in order to get to where he wanted to be.
So as it turns out, we looked through the binoculars and confirmed that the right-hander warming up in the home bullpen was none other than Mathis himself. We eventually found out that Mathis had been signed by the Oakland A’s and was set to be placed on the Sacramento roster. Mathis made no appearance that day, but the sighting of one of our best pitchers in a rival uniform served as a wake-up call. It showed me just how quickly things could change on a day-to-day basis.
The situation became even more of a reality when we were down in the River Cats clubhouse the next day. As I waited for my boss to finish an interview with Major League rehabber Mark Ellis, I stood just a few feet away from Mathis, who was wearing a Sacramento River Cats warm-up shirt. He sat there quietly as he ate the food provided to the players. Guys were coming up to him and introducing themselves, which drove home the fact that Mathis was still a stranger in the clubhouse. None of it seemed out of the ordinary, though. It was evident that scenarios like this are played out on a constant basis.
After the near no-hit performance put on by the Grizzlies pitching staff that day, we headed back to the hotel in downtown Sacramento. As we walked into a lounge area near the lobby, we noticed a few of the Grizzlies players and coaches sitting at a table, sharing food and cocktails. It took me a second to realize it, but Mathis had joined the group. This was not shocking to me by any means, however being a witness to the scene reminded me of my recent college experiences.
The baseball world is just like one big fraternity- everyone seems to be connected to each other in one way or another. In fact, we ran into Grizzlies reliever Geno Espineli and River Cats reliever Joe Bateman at a local Irish Pub later on that night. The two pitchers had played together at Double-A Connecticut when Bateman was still with the Giants organization. We sat and talked about baseball in general and what it was like to work in the sport from each of our own perspectives.
At one point in the conversation, Espineli made a statement that I felt was really representative of what playing at the minor league level is all about. “It’s crazy how much players move around. Everywhere I go, I’ll run into people I used to play with and I’ll be like, ‘Wow, you’re playing here now?’ It’s just crazy how often it happens.”
Bateman was also venting his frustration that comes with the strenuous environment of the minors. After a couple of drinks, it was hard for an athlete like himself to conceal his competitive nature. “I just feel like I deserve a shot. I should at least get the chance,” he explained. Bateman got off to a good start in the beginning of the year, but has struggled as of late. He did, however, strike out four Grizzly batters over two innings the previous day. Bateman seemed overly eager throughout the conversation, and at one point he had inquired to see if we had heard his name get brought up in any trade rumors. We laughed and joked about it even though his request was somewhat serious. The conversation eventually ended and I returned back to the hotel having gained a new perspective on the world of baseball.
In business school, we always talked about the importance of developing good contacts and maintaining healthy professional relationships along the way. I saw over that weekend that this is not a foreign concept in professional sports, regardless of how you are affiliated with the industry. What I learned and experienced could not necessarily be achieved in a classroom setting, I had to see it for myself. I don’t know if there is any real conclusion to a baseball story, but I am excited to say that my story is just beginning.