Jordan Jankowski has built one of the more impressive streaks among his Fresno Grizzlies teammates, but not a word of it can be discussed in the clubhouse.
Jankowski, to quote fellow pitcher Dan Straily, “is very superstitious.”
As the 26-year-old right-hander sat quietly in front of his locker tucked away in a corner of Chukchansi Park, he knew what everyone else was thinking. It was the elephant in the room as a reporter caught up with him ahead of a game against the Round Rock Express.
Jankowski hasn’t given up a home run all season. He is the only Grizzlies pitcher to do that, and the only reliever in the Pacific Coast League with such a streak to have pitched more than 50 innings or made at least 40 appearances this season.
Sept. 1, 2014The last time Jordan Jankowski gave up a home run. It was hit by San Antonio’s Hunter Renfroe in Jankowski’s final start of the 2014 season with Double-A Corpus Christi.
But don’t mention it to Jankowski. Typical of ballplayers, pitchers in particular, he doesn’t like to talk about streaks, and his teammates are there to give you fair warning.
Straily, a starter who sits two lockers down, called out to the reporter, even before the question could be asked.
“Whatever you do,” Straily cautioned, “don’t ask him about it. Don’t even bring it up.”
Message received and, after all, the numbers speak for themselves.
Jankowski’s impressive run, however, is just one of many bright points of late in the Fresno bullpen.
We have a good team. We’re winning, so the atmosphere is great and then everyone is still working, just as they have been from day one, and everyone’s just trying to finish strong. That’s what we’re doing.
Grizzlies reliever Tyson Perez
Just ask Grizzlies pitching coach Ace Adams, whose staff has been a big reason the Grizzlies have won 19 of their past 20 games entering Saturday, including 11 in a row, and built a 14 1/2-game lead in the PCL’s Pacific Northern Division. They continue to close in on the team’s first postseason berth since the franchise’s inaugural season in 1998.
“It’s been outstanding,” said Adams, a 63-year-old baseball veteran who also knows when to leave well enough alone. “I’ve been trying to not say anything to ’em.”
The only reminder Adams gives is to finish strong.
“We’ve talked a lot about finishing strong,” Adams said. “How you finish is real important to the organization, the front office. … At the end of the season, we don’t talk about what happened in April. We talk about how we finish, mentally and physically.
“It’s a great trait to finish strong as a player.”
8 Consecutive games (72/3 innings pitched) without allowing an earned run for Grizzlies RH Tyson Perez.
The bullpen has helped make it a familial thing for the Grizzlies. Entering Saturday, the bullpen had allowed just 19 earned runs over 592/3 innings in August for an ERA of 2.87. Fresno relievers are 7-0 with eight saves this month, boasting a 4.6 strikeout-to-walk ratio (60-13).
I think they realize that this is towards the end of the season and every outing is important to them. Their mental preparation is a lot better. They’re all starting to pitch with confidence and it’s just blossomed.
Grizzlies pitching coach Ace Adams on the bullpen
Right-hander Tyson Perez says the foundation is laid by a dominant starting rotation.
“It all starts with our starters,” Perez said. “And our starting pitchers have been outstanding.”
Straily, Mark Appel, Asher Wojciechowski, Brett Oberholtzer, Mike Hauschild and Brady Rodgers have turned in a combined 12 quality starts in August to give them 42 overall.
And with big bats such as Tyler White and Matt Duffy in the middle of the league’s highest-scoring offense, there’s usually a bit of a cushion on the scoreboard when the relievers are called into action.
“It gives you the confidence to go in there and do whatever job that you have to get done,” Perez said.
Perez hasn’t given up a run in eight games, has allowed only three hits over his previous seven appearances, and boasts a 2.68 ERA in 432/3 innings overall. Jankowski is 8-3 with a 3.56 ERA.
Others may not have the glossy full-season numbers but have been just as tough down the stretch.
Right-hander James Hoyt has a 4.07 ERA this season but has allowed only six earned runs in 27 games for a 1.86 ERA since mid-May. Fellow righty Jake Buchanan is 2-0 with a 1.46 ERA, two saves and nine strikeouts across six relief appearances this month as he whittles down an ERA that stands at 4.35 for the year.
Hoyt and Kevin Chapman share the team lead with eight saves, compared with El Paso right-hander Jon Edwards’ PCL-leading 20, but five other Grizzlies have at least two.
Jankowski, aware of what’s on the line individually and collectively, doesn’t overthink it. He just wants to help the Grizzlies continue to close in on the division crown.
“Whenever our names are called, we’re ready to go,” he said. “We’re just trying to go out there and compete every time we get a chance to help our team win.”