Barring a colossal collapse, the Fresno Grizzlies are headed to the playoffs.
It’s a destination they haven’t been to since their inaugural season in 1998.
With the Grizzlies (75-48) owning the best record in Triple A along with the largest divisional lead in pro baseball (14 1/2 games) during their first season as a Houston Astros affiliate, Fresno’s front office is wasting no time making its own postseason push.
With 18 regular-season games remaining, the Grizzlies will begin selling playoff tickets Friday at 9 a.m.
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“We’re really fortunate to have such a big lead; it gives us time to get out postseason tickets,” general manager Derek Franks said. “It’s exciting. Playoff baseball.
“It’s something we have never experienced downtown at Chukchansi Park.”
Divisional champs still must be determined, but dates and when division winners will host games during the Pacific Coast League playoffs are set.
Grizzlies are in line to host first two games of a best-of-five divisional series Sept. 9-10 at Chukchansi Park.
As the likely winner of the PCL’s Pacific Northern Division, the Grizzlies are scheduled to face the Pacific Southern champ. Las Vegas (68-56) and El Paso (66-57) are involved in the PCL’s closest race, separated by 1 1/2 games.
The PCL already has announced that the Pacific Northern champ will host the first two games of a best-of-five series.
That means as long as Fresno wins its division – and its magic number was seven going into Wednesday – the Grizzlies will play Sept. 9-10 at Chukchansi Park. Then they’d hit the road to play the next three games as needed.
Should the Grizzlies advance, they’d face the American Conference survivor in the PCL championship series.
Oklahoma City (74-49) and Round Rock (68-56) lead the American Northern and Southern divisions by five or more games.
The first two games of the PCL championship series will be hosted by the American champ. The Grizzlies, should they advance, would host the next three, as necessary, Sept. 18-20.
The Triple-A final, matching the PCL winner and the International League champ, is a one-game showdown Sept. 22 in El Paso, Texas.
Let’s see where we can take this.
Grizzlies reliever and Hanford native Tyson Perez
“Everyone was telling (Fresno fans) that the Astros have a great farm system,” Grizzlies reliever and Hanford native Tyson Perez said. “The team was going to be good. And that’s what we’ve brought. Let’s see where we can take this.”
Perhaps the biggest hurdle will come from their major-league parent club. Houston will look for stretch-drive help when major-league rosters expand Sept. 1.
If the Astros made call-ups based solely on their 40-man roster, Fresno would be without 11 players for its postseason run.
11 Grizzlies on Houston’s 40-man roster. The Astros can call up others but would have to remove a player from the 40-man.
Fresno manager Tony DeFrancesco, who won three PCL titles when he was with Sacramento as the Oakland A’s Triple-A manager, said he isn’t sure how many players the Astros are considering recalling. But he suspects it will not be as many as in past seasons, with the Astros vying for a playoff spot as opposed to being out of contention and looking to showcase younger players.
“The Astros are going to take whatever they need, however much they need and whatever the positions,” DeFrancesco said. “From there, we just have to go with it. Win with whomever is here.”
How do Grizzlies players feel about where they’d like to be come September? Especially if the choices are playing for the Grizzlies in a postseason series or being in the majors but mostly watching from the dugout as the Astros try to lock up a playoff spot.
“It’s kind of a split decision,” said slugging designated hitter/first baseman Jon Singleton, who spent the last half of 2014 with the out-of-contention Astros and five weeks this season in Houston. “Of course, you want to be in the playoffs. We’ve been part of helping this team get to the playoffs. But if our big-league team also is in the playoffs, I’m sure a lot of people would rather be up there than down here.
“But wherever we are, we’re going to play hard and give it all we got.”
Triple-A postseason dates
- Divisional round (best-of-five): Sept. 9-13; Grizzlies would host Sept. 9-10
- Pacific Coast League championship (best-of-five): Sept. 15-16, 18-20; Grizzlies would host Sept. 18-20 as needed
- Triple-A championship: Sept. 22 in El Paso, Texas; one game vs. International League champ on neutral field