EL PASO, Texas — The Chihuahuas dropped the opener against the Fresno Grizzlies on Saturday night 9-4 despite two home runs by catcher Austin Allen as even the El Paso offense couldn’t erase four errors in the field.
“We have to cut back more,” said Edwin Rodriguez, the Chihuahuas manager. “Tomorrow they are just going to show up and hit in the cage and that’s it because it has been a long season – and remember many of these guys have been playing since the middle of February. Now the heat is coming, it’s important to keep fresh mentally.”
The bright spot of the night was Allen, who hit his seventh and eighth home runs of the year; the first a two-run shot over left field in the sixth inning and a solo one in the eighth to right. He now has three home runs in the last three games.
While Allen’s bat has always propelled him up the prospect rankings, his ability to stay behind the plate has long been a question. Rodriguez believes his backstop has emphatically answered it.
“I have been talking about his improvement for a long time since I saw him in Spring Training this year,” said Rodrguez, who was Allen’s manager in 2017 with the High-A Lake Elsinore Storm.
“Blocking balls, framing and calling a game has really picked up. Tonight he was taking care of everything behind the plate. And that left-handed bat is for real, it has always been real.”
Right-handed pitcher Miguel Diaz started the game and exited after two innings when he appeared to turn his ankle attempting to beat out a swinging bunt while batting in the bottom of the second inning. Left-hander Jerry Keel followed Diaz and threw the next five innings.
After Allen’s solo home run in the eighth, El Paso loaded the bases down 7-4, but center fielder Michael Gettys struck out to end the inning. Fresno tacked on two more runs in the top of the ninth as the Chihuahuas went down in order to end the game.
A highlight of the past two days has been watching the improvement defensively of Luis Urías at shortstop. Urías has always been considered a plus defender at second base but previously was not seen as someone who could play shortstop on a regular basis at the big league level.
Things have changed.
“I had never seen him play shortstop on a regular basis before this year because he was in Lake Elsinore the year before I was,” said Rodriguez, who was an infielder with the New York Yankees and San Diego Padres during his playing days in the 1980s.
“After watching him play this season, he’s the best shortstop in the league defensively, period. He can make all the plays; there is nothing he cannot get to or a throw he cannot make.
“It has been a pleasant surprise watching him play because I had thought he was going to be a second baseman trying to play short, but he is a shortstop. “There is a lot of value there. He is an offensive middle infielder.”