Following suit, the Beavers dropped their season opening series to Fresno with a 5-4 loss Sunday afternoon.
Coming into Sunday's game, Portland was hitting .154 with runners in scoring position and just one player (Craig Stansberry) had hit safely in each of the first three games.
Cesar Carrillo looked shaky in his first start of the 2007 season but showed no sign of injury, which, on the grand scheme of things, is much more important. Carrillo was uncharacteristically wild early on, as he was unable to locate his curve and let his fastballs catch too much of the plate. Over five innings of work, Carrillo gave up four walks, which is high in comparison to his 2006 numbers of just 18 walks in 53.1 innings. Fresno took an early 2-0 lead in the first inning as Carrillo surrendered three singles and a walk. Their lead was extended to 3-0 when Justin Leone singled to drive in Justin Knoedler from third.
One of those three singles came off the bat of Nate Schierholtz who continued bullying Beavers pitchers by driving in Chad Santos from second base. Schierholtz had at least one hit and one RBI in every game of the series. He also hit a homerun in each of the first three games.
Getting the start for Fresno was Erick Threets, a big (6-foot-5, 240-pounds), hard throwing (95 MPH) lefty who served as Fresno's top left-hander out of the bullpen all of last year. Of the 165 games Threets has thrown professionally, Sunday was just his fifteenth start. Threets threw four-plus innings, striking out one while issuing seven walks, and left the bases loaded in the top of the fifth when sinkerball specialist Scott Munter relieved him. Munter allowed three runners to score in the frame to tie the game at 3-3 on a sacrifice fly by Pete Laforest and back-to-back singles by Luke Carlin and Vince Sinisi. Two runs were to the credit of Erick Threets.
Portland took a one run lead in the sixth inning as Stansberry laced a double to right field, which scored pinch-hitter Josh Howard from second. That lead was quickly wiped away in the seventh when Leone answered back with a monster solo home run to centerfield, evening the score at 4-4.
Fresno took their final lead in the eighth when Tomas De La Rosa singled to left field, advanced to second on a botched double play ball, swiped third base uncontested, and was driven home on a single off the bat of pinch-hitter Scott McClain. The Beavers threatened again in the ninth as Royce Huffman led off the inning with a double down the right field line. Portland, however, was unable to capitalize, stranding two runners to close out the game.
Portland played three players out of their positional comfort zones in Sunday's game:
Laforest started at first base. Laforest served limited time at first in 2005 with Triple-A Durham and, other than playing third base at rookie ball and Low-A, has little experience anywhere other than catcher. Before the game, Portland manager Rick Renteria hit fly balls to outfielders with Laforest practicing the crucial role of cut-off man.
Brett Dowdy started in centerfield for the Beavers. Predominantly a third baseman, Dowdy did spend 19 games in the outfield last season, most of them with Double-A Mobile.
Huffman was put in left field. Huffman is in his ninth professional season and has played 19 games in the outfield over that span.
Carrillo is the only player on the Beavers roster who did not make an appearance in a Padres Major League spring training game this year.
Threets walked Carrillo twice, the second of which came on four straight pitches.
Luis Cruz has looked promising on defense while making his Triple-A debut this year. Portland fans can expect to see flashy defensive plays out of Cruz reminiscent of the gems they saw Khalil Greene turn in 2003.