The Fresno Grizzlies might be in a mini funk.
But the parent club is winning plenty with the Houston Astros (18-9) owning the best record in the American League.
And that success in the majors is motivating Grizzlies players further to earn a call-up and be a part of that excitement.
“It just seems like everyone is having fun, getting along,” said Grizzlies outfielder L.J. Hoes, who was the first Grizzlies player to get called up this season following a brief promotion last week. He was sent down after two games.
“Guys are relaxed and everyone wants to win,” Hoes added. “Their confidence is growing and growing. They’re young and exciting. Everyone would like to be up there.”
The Astros’ blazing start has been perhaps the most impressive rebuilding job in recent years after the Houston franchise averaged 108 losses from 2011-2013. The Astros showed some signs of improvement last year after finishing 70-92.
A series of moves this offseason led to upgrades for the Astros. But it also caused the demotion for some Astros regulars from a year ago, with third baseman Matt Dominguez and first baseman Jon Singleton in particular starting this season in Triple-A Fresno.
The Grizzlies (12-12) benefited from the talent infusion, along with the affiliation switch from the San Francisco Giants to the Astros, by jumping out to a 7-2 start.
But they’ve have tailed off of late, losing five of their past six after falling 13-6 to the El Paso Chihuahuas on Monday.
Nonetheless, the Astros’ success has helped Grizzlies players maintain their focus.
Grizzlies players regularly watch Astros games in the clubhouse before games and monitor the big-league club’s results and individual performances.
“They’re fun to watch,” said Grizzlies outfielder Preston Tucker, who belted his 10th home run of the season Monday with a solo shot in the first inning. “They’re an exciting team. They hit a lot of home runs and their pitchers are shutting teams down. When you do that, you’re going to win a lot of ball games.
The breakout start by younger players such as pitcher Dallas Keuchel and outfielder Jake Marisnick, and the recent hot streak of power hitter Evan Gattis all have contributed to the Astros’ hot start.
The hiring of manager A.J. Hinch in the offseason helped changed the clubhouse atmosphere, too, according to a couple of Grizzlies players.
“It’s great chemistry up there,” said pitcher Asher Wojciechowski, who began the season with the Astros before he was optioned to the Grizzlies on May 1. “ Guys just don’t want to give up. It’s just a lot of fun being up there. Just the camaraderie. Those guys are hungry for it.”
Grizzlies manager Tony DeFrancesco believes the Astros winning formula has spread throughout the system. Double-A Corpus Christi (14-10) is first in its Texas League division and Class-A Lancaster (11-13) is last in its Cal League division but only three games out of first.
“I think it’s a great feeling for us as an organization,” DeFrancesco said. “We were the doormats for years. And now we have one of the best records in baseball. We just need it to continue.”