Before the Fresno Grizzlies kicked off their longest homestand of the season last weekend, manager Tony DeFrancesco and pitching coach Ace Adams held a pitchers and catchers meeting.
The Grizzlies ended July having lost 5 of 6, with pitching a prime source of their problems.
“We just wanted to let them know the traits of being a good pitcher, remind them,” Adams said. “Pitch-to-pitch concentration. Being in shape. Not getting consumed by bad play or umpiring. No 2-0 counts or two-out runs.
“Those things don’t take any talent. You can be excellent at it.”
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The rotation responded with arguably the best string of starts in franchise history and the relievers have helped close it out in a season-high seven-game winning streak entering the penultimate game of the homestand Saturday night against Sacramento.
Starters have combined to go 4-0 with a 1.20 ERA.
In August, the rotation is 4-0 with a 1.20 ERA through seven starts.
“They came home aggressive,” DeFrancesco said. “Our starters are giving us a chance to win. With this club, we’re almost always going to hit. When we get good pitching, I really like what we’re capable of doing.”
During the hot streak:
▪ Left-handed Brett Oberholtzer, an eighth-round pick by Atlanta in 2008, has emerged as a potential ace, going 2-0 while allowing one run and striking out 11 in 14.1 innings.
▪ Mark Appel, the No. 1 overall pick by major league parent club Houston in 2013, got the month started by matching a career-high with 10 strikeouts while allowing one run in seven innings before turning in one of the rare clunkers — giving up four runs (three earned) in 4.2 innings in front of the largest crowd in Chukchansi Park history as part of Thursday’s Taco Truck Throwdown promotion.
▪ Mike Hauschild, a 33rd-round pick in 2012, enjoyed a career night Monday, pitching eight shutout innings for the first time. He also struck out five and didn’t walk a batter.
▪ Brady Rodgers, a 2012 third-round pick, came off the seven-day disabled list and threw seven scoreless innings Tuesday.
▪ Lefty Luis Cruz, a ninth-round pick from 2008, made an emergency start Wednesday and kept the damage to just one run in four innings while overcoming five walks.
Combined through 45 innings, Grizzlies starters have struck out 41 and walked 12. They’ve allowed six earned runs (seven total) and 37 hits.
It’s likely no coincidence this successful stretch occurred right after the major league non-waiver trade deadline expired, with Houston acquiring proven big league arms in Scott Kazmir and Mike Fiers. Those spots could have gone to Grizzlies pitchers, but at least the uncertainty was lifted.
“I think their minds are clear of all of that,” Adams said. “They’re in a good place mentally. They know they’re going to be here for a while. So they’re probably thinking ‘Let’s put together a string of outings and see what happens.’”
I think their minds are clear of all of that. They’re in a good place mentally.
Grizzlies pitching coach Ace Adams on the uncertainty lifted off players with the passing of the trade deadline
Oberholtzer has been the model for how to handle the trade deadline and other roster movement. At 26, he is the oldest member of the rotation pending the return of Dan Straily after he cleared waivers following his demotion by the Astros.
“It is what it is; you can’t get too caught up in it,” Oberholtzer said. “Guys want to be up there. But you have to pitch well here first if you’re to go back up.
“I'm a big believer that the starting pitcher should do what he does best first to get hitters out and then adjust to whatever his hitter’s weakness is. That’s what I’ve been doing.”
The schedule has played a part, too, with the Grizzlies facing a couple of teams ranked midpack offensively in the Pacific Coast League.
Albuquerque was seventh out of 16 teams in runs and eighth in batting average entering Saturday. Sacramento is 12th in runs and ninth in average.
The Grizzlies, 66-47 while building an 11.5-game lead on Tacoma in the Pacific Northern Division, have outscored opponents 42-15 in August. With 30 to go, they’ve won more games through the first 113 than any previous team in franchise history.
“I just think they’re feeling it right now,” DeFrancescco said. “They’re not peaking. There’s never any peaking in baseball. It can turn around as quickly as you get it going.
“But do we got a good thing going right now. Hopefully we can lock things up.”