The Houston Astros organization may have missed a prime opportunity last offseason by relocating its Triple-A affiliate to Fresno instead of Albuquerque.
The Astros’ farmhands certainly seem to play well in the Duke City – and anywhere they face Albuquerque teams.
The Fresno Grizzlies improved to 6-1 in Albuquerque this season with a 10-4 victory over the Isotopes on Thursday. It extended a remarkable string of success for Houston’s Triple-A affiliates against the ‘Topes, whom they’ve defeated 20 times in 21 games.
The streak dates back to 2013, when the Astros’ Triple-A club was in Oklahoma City and the Isotopes were affiliated with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Despite extensive Pacific Coast League franchise shuffling, the Isotopes still can’t seem to solve Houston’s minor league mashers.
“There’s a reason they’re in first place,” ‘Topes manager Glenallen Hill said of this season’s Grizzlies, who improved to 70-48 overall this season and 10-1 against Albuquerque. “They’re hitting on all cylinders, playing free and confident. You can’t take anything away from them.”
Houston’s entire farm system is enjoying the benefits of several dismal years by the parent club, which ultimately brought in numerous high draft picks and prospects acquired in trades with other organizations. The young talent is beginning to blossom and sparking success for the Astros and their affiliates.
That hasn’t been good news for the Isotopes, who have been largely overmatched against Fresno this season. In 11 games they’ve been outscored 90-42.
“Every time they hit something off us it seems to find a hole,” Hill said. “It’s been tough.”
Thursday’s game followed the pattern as Fresno scored in six of the first seven innings. Albuquerque pulled even at 3-3 on Jeremy Barfield’s three-run homer in the second, and tied the score again at 4 on Dustin Garneau’s sacrifice fly in the third. But the Grizzlies never let up, scoring twice in the fourth and breaking things open on Matt Duffy’s three-run homer in the fifth.
If there were highlights for the Isotopes, they were Barfield’s 3-for-3 outing and two shutout innings by reliever Jairo Diaz to close out the game.
“It was very nice to see Jairo getting a consistent angle on his fastball,” Hill said. “When he pitches down like that, he’s tough to handle. Other than that, there’s not much to take away from that game.”
The Isotopes and Grizzlies will conclude their four-game series tonight before meeting again for four games in Fresno from Aug. 31 to Sept. 3.
TAKING DAD DEEP: Isotopes pitching coach Darryl Scott spent a little quality time with his visiting sons, Casey and Chris, prior to Thursday’s game, including them in the final round of batting practice. Scott’s family earned-run average took a hit.
Casey, 22, lined a home run over the left-field fence, drawing cheers and high-fives from Isotopes players gathered around the batting cage. Chris, 18, followed with a one-hopper off the left field fence.
ORBIT WINS? Fans saw an extreme rarity between innings when Isotopes mascot Orbit won his nightly base race against a youthful fan.
It had nothing to do with Orbit’s closing kick. As usual the fuzzy orange mascot went out of his way not to prevail, stopping a few feet from home plate to allow his competitor to pass.
The youngster would have none of it, however, shoving Orbit from behind until the mascot shrugged and touched the plate first. It was Orbit’s first win of the season – if not ever.