There’s a championship feel about this year’s Fresno Grizzlies roster.
Probably because it’s strikingly similar to the one that last season won Pacific Coast League and Triple-A national titles.
There’s Matt Duffy, the reigning PCL MVP, hitting cleanup. Right behind him is left-handed slugger Jon Singleton.
Tony Kemp remains atop the order. And Tyler Heineman and Nolan Fontana are in the No. 8 and 9 holes – just like in the PCL title game.
But among the new faces, no one has made as big of an impact as Danny Worth.
And no newcomer is quite as big as the 6-foot-4, 275-pound A.J. Reed.
They proved to be the difference in the home opener Friday as Worth broke up a scoreless game with a solo homer and Reed provided the go-ahead score with a solo blast of his own in a 2-1 win against the Las Vegas 51s.
An announced crowd of 13,415 – Fresno’s first home-opening sellout crowd since 2010 – came out to watch the Grizzlies’ first game at Chukchansi Park since they won last year’s championships.
Today was a special day for the front office and the city of Fresno. They really did it right.
Grizzlies manager Tony DeFrancesco
“Today was a special day for the front office and the city of Fresno,” Grizzlies manager Tony DeFrancesco said. “They really did it right. The sellout, flag ceremony. We got the win. It was great.”
Signed to a minor-league contract with the parent club Houston Astros during the offseason, Worth has registered a hit in each of the first seven games.
Worth, 30, is hitting .419. Just as impressive as that average is his sudden long-ball hitting ability as Worth leads the Grizzlies with three home runs to go with seven RBIs.
7 Hitting streak by Grizzlies newcomer Danny Worth to start the 2016 Pacific Coast League season.
He finished 3 for 4 on Friday.
During his 10-year minor-league career, Worth has never hit more than eight home runs in a season. He batted .314 with six homers and 47 RBIs and six steals for the Reno Aces last season.
Worth has batted second and fourth in the lineup this season, splitting time between second base and shortstop.
“You know, they have their thing going from last year and I can just step right into it and help anyway I can. It’s been awesome,” Worth said. “Not really a home run hitter. But I’m always tinkering with the swing, trying to make improvements.
“The way it’s started, what more could you ask for?”
Reed, meanwhile, seems to be finding his power stroke, having homered for the second straight night.
The 22-year-old Reed is considered the top first base prospect in all of minor-league baseball. He led the minors last season with 34 homers and 127 RBIs.
Reed, who has batted third in the Grizzlies order, is hitting .310 after going 2 for 4 Friday.
Grizzlies pitchers Brad Peacock, Jandel Gustave, Kevin Chapman and James Hoyt combined to amass a season-high 11 strikeouts.
The Grizzlies weren’t too shabby on the mound, either, as the pitching train of Brad Peacock, Jandel Gustave, Kevin Chapman and James Hoyt combined for a team season-high 11 strikeouts.
Peacock, the starter, had six strikeouts in five scoreless innings. He didn’t give up a hit until the fifth.
Hoyt, last year’s closer, picked up his second save with a perfect ninth.
“It felt great out there,” Worth said. “The crowd was going nuts. During the game, they were into it with every pitch.
“I hope it’s like this throughout the year.”