But that all came to a screeching halt today as they ran into Matt Palmer and a more focused Fresno club.
A crowd of just over 3,000 came to watch baseball on Jackie Robinson Day at PGE Park and see the electric Beaver offense that had been present in the last two games. But, it was the Fresno Grizzlies who exhibited their offense and imposed their defense. They held the Beavers to four hits to their 11, as they won 6-to-1 on a sunny afternoon in Portland.
A shaky start led to an early deficit for Jack Cassel and the Beavers. Cassel seemed to struggle with hitting his spots, as he exhibited noticeable frustration and at one point a few choice words for the umpire.
With one out in the first inning, Cassel tried to sneak a first pitch fastball by Kevin Frandsen, who turned on the pitch and hammered it down the first base line for a double. It looked like Cassel was going to escape unscathed when he picked Frandsen off the basepaths, Nate Schierholtz hit a comebacker, and then he threw what he thought to be strike three to the next batter, Carlos Santos. But the pitch was called a ball, and Cassel, who was already headed to his dugout, was forced to keep pitching. He walked Santos and gave up back-to-back hits, giving Fresno a 2-0 lead. At which point, he had a few words with the plate umpire.
Cassel was nothing new to Fresno batters, who showed poise at the plate, jumping on the first pitch strikes and working the count in their favor, as they tacked on another two runs and three hits an inning later to extend their lead. Cassel faced the Grizzlies ten days ago and did not fair well then either, giving up seven hits, two home runs and four earned runs in just 4.1 innings.
Tim Stauffer came in relief of Cassel in the fifth and was able to hold the Grizzlies at bay for two innings. Stauffer, however, showed fatigue in his third inning of work. Two walks and a single by William Bergolla plated another two runs for Fresno. Stauffer, typically a starter, has been working in short relief to start the season because he didn’t get many innings in spring training camp to work up arm strength. He had been working one and two inning stints thus far, and simply ran out of gas when he came in to start the seventh.
Pitching coach, Gary Lance, said of Stauffer after his two innings of work on Friday night: “We’re trying to build him up, for instance [in his last appearance], the two innings were very good for him, and the next time he’ll go three innings, and we’ll go on from there. And when he is ready to go five, we’ll insert him in the starting rotation.”
On the other end, Fresno pitcher Matt Palmer, an intimidating sight on the mound, was having his way with Beaver batters. Aside from a leadoff double by Jack Cust in the second inning, Palmer dominated the recently potent Portland offense and did not allow them to continue their hometown ways. Cust’s hit was the only Beaver hit through the first six innings, as Palmer also limited them to three baserunners through that stretch. Royce Huffman’s homerun to left field leading off the seventh finally put the Beavers on the board and showed that Palmer was human.
Palmer left the game after the seventh. He allowed just three hits and one earned run, while striking out four as he picked up his first win of the season. Cassel, the pitcher of record, picked up his second loss of the season, as his earned run average inched up to 8.76 in his three starts.
Adam Shabala, who was a member of the Grizzlies the past three seasons, has not fared well against his old teammates. He has just two hits in 24 plate appearances against Fresno this season.
The Beavers and Grizzlies face off for the final time of the series Monday morning at 11:05. Ryan Ketchner is the scheduled starter for the Beavers and will face Travis Blackley of Fresno.
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