Before coming to Fresno for the 2015 season when the franchise first affiliated with the Houston Astros, Tony DeFrancesco had managed far more winning than losing clubs in the Pacific Coast League in Sacramento and Oklahoma City dating back to 2003, and has four championship rings and 10 PCL division titles to prove it. “Tony D” reached his latest milestone Sunday afternoon at Chukchansi Park, achieving his 1,000th career Triple-A victory by beating the Reno Aces 5-3, Fresno’s third consecutive win (3-1).
The Grizzlies jumped all over Reno starter Keyvius Sampson (0-1), mauling him for four runs in the first inning. The first six Fresno batters reached base safely, the second time in four games the Grizz lineup has accomplished that. A Derek Fisher double between walks to Tony Kemp and Teoscar Hernandez loaded the bases, before A.J. Reed lifted a two-run double to the opposite field corner in left. It was 4-0 Grizzlies after Colin Moran and Preston Tucker followed with a a pair of RBI singles. Sampson could only get one out before being lifted from the game.
Still ahead 4-0 in the third, Reed led the inning with his second double of the day, pulling this one into the right field corner. He later scored on a two-out RBI knock to right by Reid Brignac. Kemp ended the day with three walks and a single, and has been on-base 11 times already in just four games (7-for-15/.467, 4 BB). Brignac, Fisher, Kemp, and Moran have all hit safely in the first four games of 2017.
A Christian Walker two-run double in the fifth opened the scoring for Reno. After cruising through four scoreless innings, Fresno starter Edison Frias’ day ended abruptly, with a line of six hits, two runs both earned with two walks and four strikeouts over four and a third innings.
Zach Borenstein and Carlos Rivera led off the eighth with back-to-back doubles for another Reno run, but Fresno’s Aaron West responded by striking out the side to keep it a 5-3 game.
With closer James Hoyt unavailable after working the previous two nights, Central Valley native Tyson Perez entered in the top of the ninth in search of his first save since the 2015 season (Tommy John surgery). Perez worked a 1-2-3 inning to sew it up, his sixth career save in a Fresno uniform, and the game ended on a diving catch in right field courtesy of Hernandez. Southpaw Ashur Tolliver (1-0) picked up the win in 1.2 innings of scoreless, hitless relief, after replacing Frias (official scorer decision).
Following the game, DeFrancesco downplayed his accomplishment some to focus on the players, in a brief word to fans at the behest of the on-field MC: “We have a great club this year, so come out and watch us some more,” DeFrancesco said. “There’ll be a lot more wins thanks to these guys.”
For his minor league managerial career at all levels, DeFrancesco is 1,613-1,459 overall, and is 462-402 as manager of the Houston Astros Triple-A affiliate at Fresno and Oklahoma City, dating back to 2011. He guided the Sacramento River Cats (Oakland Athletics) to the PCL Championship in 2003, 2004 and 2007, before winning it all upon his arrival in Fresno in 2015.
The finale of this season-opening, five-game series at Chukchansi Park in Downtown Fresno is Monday, at 6:35 p.m. RHP Frank Duncan will make his season debut for Reno, opposite consensus number one overall Houston Astros prospect RHP Francis Martes, who will do the same for the Grizzlies.