The Fresno Grizzlies are undeniably the best team in Triple-A.
The Pacific Coast League champion Grizzlies showcased their superiority over the International League champ Columbus Clippers from the get-go en route to a 7-0 victory in the Gildan Triple-A National Championship on Tuesday at Southwest University Park in El Paso, Texas.
Grizzlies starting pitcher Chris Devenski, who spent all of the regular season in Double-A, fired off arguably one of the best Triple-A debuts ever – tossing a perfect game through five innings before finishing with seven scoreless innings with just one hit allowed, no walks and nine strikeouts. He was named the game MVP.
In addition, the Grizzlies erupted for three runs in the first inning and finished the game with 13 hits in a final dominant display by a Fresno club that led all of Triple-A in four major offensive categories this season (runs, RBIs, walks and on-base percentage).
“It was one of the cleanest games I’ve ever been around,” Grizzlies manager Tony DeFrancesco said. “We did everything right. A total domination.
“I used to say the perfect game doesn’t exist. Well, here it is: A perfect game Sept. 22 in the championship.”
The Triple-A championship, which has been around since 2006, culminates the most successful season in the Grizzlies’ 18-year history and was accomplished in Fresno’s first season as a Houston Astros affiliate.
The Grizzlies set several franchise marks along the way this season, including the best record in club history at 91-62 (includes playoffs), a return to the PCL postseason for the first time since the inaugural season in 1998 and the first ever PCL title.
Then the Grizzlies went out and achieved the ultimate prize thanks largely to the 24-year-old Devenski, who was thrust into the starting role after scheduled starter and Fresno ace Dan Straily was called up by the Astros on Sunday and the remaining Grizzlies starters had not received a full five days of rest.
Devenski, who joined the Grizzlies last week before the start of the PCL championship series and made two appearances out of the bullpen, was nearly unhittable.
Mixing a fastball that registered in the low to mid 90s mph with a timely curveball and a knockout change-up he’s dubbed “the circle of death,” Devenski retired the first 15 batters faced. It wasn’t until the start of the sixth that Devenski gave up a hit with a single to right by Columbus’ Audy Ciriaco.
Devenski got the next three batters out then capped his night by striking out the side in the seventh.
“The guys here put in a lot of hard work before I got here. I had to put the work in tonight and I’m so glad I could contribute,” the 24-year-old Devenski said. “It’s absolutely amazing.
“My mentality was just trying to make each pitch better than the last pitch. I had everything work for me stuff wise, had a good feel for my pitches.”
Fresno’s top two relievers Jordan Jankowski and James Hoyt then provided the finishing touches with a scoreless eighth and ninth as the Grizzlies threw the first shutout in Triple-A championship history, which dates to 2006.
All but one starter recorded at least one hit with right fielder Alex Presley leading the barrage, going 3 for 5 with a double and two runs and an RBI.
Third baseman Tyler White, center fielder Andrew Aplin and shortstop Jio Mier added two hits each.
Mier, who spent all of the regular season in Double-A, was inserted in the starting lineup in place of Nolan Fontana. The Grizzlies usual starting shortstop during the postseason was injured from by a foul ball to the shin during Sunday’s PCL championship.
The Grizzlies’ offensive onslaught started with a single from Presley in the first, followed by a hit White down the left-field line to place runners and second and third. Then cleanup hitter Jon Singleton drove in the game’s first run with an RBI sacrifice fly.
A throwing error by Clippers shortstop Erik Gonzalez brought in another run and allowed L.J. Hoes to reach base. Then back-to-back infield singles by Aplin then Robbie Grossman positioned Hoes to come up as the Grizzlies immediately rang up a 3-0 lead.
The Grizzlies mounted a 6-0 lead through three innings and with Devenski dealing, the Clippers (the Cleveland Indians affiliate) never had a chance to get back in it.
“This kid Devenski came in and dominated the game,” DeFrancesco said. “It was pretty incredible and he was doing it in probably the biggest game and the biggest stage of his life. And we were swinging the bats. Tyler White is one of the best clutch hitters I’ve been around. And it just kept rolling.
“These guys fought right until the end. It’s a great accomplishment. A great reward for a great team all around.”