In more ways than one, Danny Worth keeps saving the Fresno Grizzlies early in the season.
He was at it again Monday, going 3 for 3 with a double and a RBI to start the year with a nine-game hit streak. He also has a multiple hits in six of his nine games.
But the most crucial part of his performance Monday came on defense when the shortstop fielded a one-hopper deep in the hole with runners at the corners during the eighth inning, then precisely threw to home for an out that helped the Grizzlies hold on for a 4-3 win before an announced afternoon crowd of 4,101 at Chukchansi Park.
He’s been our most productive player, offense and defense.
Grizzlies manager Tony DeFrancesco on middle infielder Danny Worth
“That’s him making a heads-up play,” Grizzlies manager Tony DeFrancesco said. “That’s not easy. He’s been our most productive player, offense and defense.
“You’ve got some guys struggling right now. He’s the veteran presence keeping it together.”
With a hit in each game he’s played this season (he sat out one), Worth is batting a team-high .472 and is tied with power hitter A.J. Reed for the team lead with three home runs.
Reed hit a two-run homer to right during the first inning and finished with three RBIs, adding a sacrifice fly with the bases loaded in the seventh.
Grizzlies starting pitcher Mike Hauschild got the win, striking out seven and scattering five hits and one walk for a run over seven innings.
He got into trouble early while leaving his fastball up in the zone and Las Vegas took advantage with soft singles that eventually pushed across one run in the second.
But Hauschild adjusted, going with his offspeed pitches more to retire 17 of his final 18 batters, including 10 straight to end his day.
“Kind of had to stop feeding them fastballs early, especially after the first couple of innings because they were being aggressive,” Hauschild said. “So I went to my changeup and slider more to get ahead (in the count) and put them away with the split (finger).”
Mike Hauschild became the first Grizzlies pitcher this season to make it through seven innings. And he needed just 83 pitchers (60 for strikes) to do it.
With 60 of 83 pitches thrown for strikes, Hauschild became the Grizzlies’ first pitcher to last seven innings this season.
Pitch count for Grizzlies starters currently is set at around 90, which prevented Hauschild from coming back out in the eighth.
It almost proved costly and nearly prevented Hauschild from getting the win.
With the Grizzlies up 4-1 going into the eighth, left-handed reliever Edwar Cabrera walked three of the next four batters to load the bases with one out. Then he gave up a two-run single against left-handed hitter Roger Bernadina as Las Vegas cut Fresno’s lead to one run.
“You’ve got to give a guy a chance to get out of the inning and out of his jam,” DeFrancesco said of keeping Cabrera in the game. “We’re counting on him in the late innings to get the lefties out and be a matchup guy. He was able to get only one out.”
DeFrancesco then turned to last year’s setup man, Jordan Jankowski, to preserve the lead.
With runners at second and third and one out in the eighth, Gavin Cecchini hit a bouncer deep to Worth, who fielded the ball cleanly.
1.42 ERA of Grizzlies reliever Jordan Jankowski, who recorded his first save Monday after tossing 1 2/3 innings.
Then instead of firing off a lazer throw to the plate, Worth took his time and made an accurate throw home to allow catcher Roberto Pena to tag out the 51s’ Travis Taijeron.
Jankowski pitched 1.2 innings to record his first save of the year.
“It was the perfect play, perfect hit,” Worth said. “The runner on third was trying to read it, make sure I didn’t catch it. I threw it and tried to get him.
“I kind of knew the distance, was trying to make a good throw and not try to bounce it. It feels good. Glad to be contributing. Just working every day and just trying to keep it going.”
SALT LAKE BEES AT FRESNO GRIZZLIES
- Series: 6:35 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, 7:05 p.m. Thursday and Friday
- Records: Grizzlies 5-5, Bees 10-2
- Radio: KYNO (AM 1430)
- Of note: Salt Lake manager Keith Johnson is a Hanford native who played 12 years professionally before getting into coaching.