Down three runs entering the bottom of the ninth, the Fresno Grizzlies just wanted a chance to bring the tying run to the plate.
They got that and more, scoring two runs and loading the bases with just one out and one of their top hitters up to bat.
Center fielder Alex Presley doubled and singled earlier in the game and now faced a Las Vegas 51s reliever who had given up three straight hits, followed by a walk and hit batsman.
But of all the things to happen while ready to feast on a fastball down the middle from Las Vegas’ Cody Satterwhite, the No. 7 hitter Presley rolled into a game-ending double play as the Grizzlies fell 8-7 on Sunday.
“Fastball right over the plate, just what I wanted and I didn’t hit it where I wanted to hit it,” said Presley, who finished 2 for 5 in his first game with the Grizzlies after getting designated for assignment earlier in the week by the parent-club Houston Astros.
“I usually don’t hit into double plays almost at all,” Presley added. “That was the last thing on my mind. Sometimes the ball goes into the wrong spot.”
The Grizzlies (2-2), in their first season as an Astros affiliate, settled for a series split with the 51s. The second half of the Grizzlies’ season-opening, eight-game homestand continues at 6:35 p.m. Monday with the Salt Lake Bees (1-3) coming to town.
Even prior to the Grizzlies’ ninth-inning rally, Fresno seemed in position to win Sunday and capture the series before an announced crowd of 5,922 at Chukchansi Park.
The Grizzlies scored three runs in the bottom of the sixth to take a 5-4 lead on Matt Dominguez’s go-ahead, two-run double with two outs.
But in the following inning, the Grizzlies’ lead was wiped away.
Fresno reliever Kevin Chapman committed the cardinal sin and walked the inning’s first batter. Then after giving up back-to-back singles, a run, and hitting a batter, Chapman was removed with the bases loaded.
But Jason Stoffel, 5-4 with a 3.20 ERA last year, struggled, too, walking back-to-back batters as two more runs were charged to Chapman.
“We need to throw more strikes and get the count in our favor,” Grizzlies pitching coach Ace Adams said. “Maybe it was rust, maybe nerves.”
The Grizzlies bullpen Sunday, which included Darin Downs in the sixth and Jordan Jankowski in the ninth, combined to allow five runs off six hits and four walks in the final four innings.
“That’s why they’re here,” Grizzlies manager Tony DeFrancesco said. “Guys are still working on some things.”
Among the Grizzlies’ individual highlights, left-handed hitting Jon Singleton beat the 51s’ defensive shift toward right with a double through the unoccupied third base area in the ninth.
Matt Duffy finished 2 for 4 with four RBIs, including a two-run single in the ninth.
And second baseman Joe Sclafani went 2 for 3 with three runs.