FRESNO, Calif. — While El Paso added two more homers to their minors-leading total, the offense otherwise limped through Saturday night’s contest against the Nationals’ top affiliate, dropping the series opener 5-2.
The Chihuahuas put one man on in each of the first four frames, but unlike so much of the season, didn’t come through with a big hit.
“Our offense isn’t the same as it was two weeks ago,” said manager Edwin Rodriguez. “Yesterday we only had five hits, today we only had four. So we have to find a way to start manufacturing runs.”
Just as he did in late April, soft-tossing righty Paulo Espino kept the Chihuahuas off balance through his seven innings of work.
“We’ve got to try to make adjustments,” said Rodriguez. “We already faced him the last time we were here, and he’s pretty much the same guy – nothing overpowering and he pitches backward. But I think we did okay against him, we were in the game, 3-2 when he left.”
Jerry Keel wasn’t at his best, but largely held things together. He walked a pair with two outs in the first to load the bases, but escaped without damage when Boog Powell made a nice sliding play coming on a sinking liner to right-center.
While the Grizzlies put up one run in the third, the key sequence of the game came one frame later. After getting ahead 1-2 on the leadoff batter, Keel gave up a single. Jake Noll followed by jumping a full-count fastball, blasting to left-center to put Fresno up 3-0.
“Jerry did a great job for five innings, keeping us in the game,” said Rodriguez. “There was that one bad pitch, that high went for the homer. Jerry, Dillon Overton, Kyle McGrath, they’ve been able to step up and give us good innings to keep us going.”
El Paso got two back in the top of the fifth when Jacob Scavuzzo launched a moonshot to left for his team-best 15th homer of the year. After Jerry Keel struck out, Powell lined a first-pitch fastball off the batters’ eye in dead center.
Powell, 26, has been aggressive since joining the club early this month, and it’s showing with a slugging percentage almost 300 points above his career mark. The left-handed hitting outfielder, whose calling card has always been on-base percentage and strong outfield defense, also drew a walk on the night.
Luis Urías was the only other Chihuahuas hitter to reach base twice, collecting a bloop single and another walk. He was rung up on strikes on a questionable check-swing call by the home plate umpire in his third trip to the plate and finished 1-for-3.
Defensively, Urías had two tough plays at shortstop in the seventh inning when Fresno tacked on a pair of runs. He stayed back on a slow chopper by Wilmer Difo. Later in the frame, he made a sliding attempt on a ball going up the middle that got under both his glove and leg to plate a run.
Those plays and a bit of other bad ball-in-play luck cost Robert Stock a pair of runs, both of which were scored as earned. For the hard-throwing righty, it snapped a stretch of 10 straight scoreless outings. While he popped several 99s on guns behind home plate, he worked mostly off his slider, getting multiple awkward swings and two strikeouts with it.