Elih Villanueva shut out Fresno on four hits through six innings and became the Zephyrs’ career strikeouts leader on Wednesday night in a 5-1 win at Zephyr Field.
Villanueva (8-3) struck out leadoff hitter Gary Brown to start the game, giving him 263 and breaking a tie with Tom Koehler.
New Orleans (39-34) evened the series against the Grizzilies (37-37) at a game each and held on to the American Southern lead for the fourth consecutive day.
The Z’s took a 1-0 lead in the third on Mark Canha’s two-out single that drove in Juan Diaz from third.
They broke it open in the fifth against starter Mitch Lively (4-4) with a hit batsman, a double by Canha, and RBI groundout by Derek Dietrich and RBI singles by Kyle Jensen, Rob Brantly, Diaz and Villanueva.
WHAT: New Orleans Zephyrs vs. Fresno Grizzlies
WHERE: Zephyr Field, Metairie
WHEN: 7 p.m.
PROBABLE PITCHERS: Zephyrs LH Brad Hand (1-0, 1.50 ERA) vs. Grizzlies LH Edwin Escobar (3-6, 5.26)
BROADCASTS: WMTI 106.1 FM, MiLB.tv
Second baseman Joe Panik leads the Grizzlies in hitting with a .314 batting average and is second in the PCL in hits (88) and runs (49).
However, it was a play during the sixth inning that perhaps showed why he is the parent San Francisco Giants’ second baseman of the future.
With Fresno leading 4-1 and two on and one out in the bottom of the sixth inning, Zephyrs left fielder Kyle Jensen hit what appeared to be a bloop single into short right field. Like a blur, Panik burst toward the ball and made a sliding catch.
“He’s been making plays like that the whole year,” Grizzlies manager Bob Mariano said. “I mean this guy … I call him Mr. Baseball. He’s made outstanding defensive plays. He can turn (double plays) really well.
“His tools don’t stand out, but he just know how to play the game. He gives you quality at-bats; he’s probably our best, solid all-around hitter. He works deep counts, he knows how to hit-and-run, he can bunt.”
Hand is pitching on a rehab assignment from the Miami Marlins. … Escobar is the Giants’ No. 2 prospect, according to Baseball America. … Pitcher Sam Dyson, who was called up to Miami on Sunday, got his first Major League win Tuesday night in the Marlins’ 6-5, 12-inning victory against the Chicago Cubs. However, Dyson was sent back down to the Zephyrs after the game. He’d come back to the Z’s on June 6 from the disabled list after his jaw was broken by a punch from Zephyrs teammate Chris Hatcher on April 29 in Nashville. …. Reliever George Kontos (0-2, 3.80 ERA) was optioned from the Giants to the Grizzlies. … Zephyrs manager Andy Haine s was thrown out of Tuesday’s game at the start of the seventh inning for protesting umpire Nick Bailey’s calling when Mark Canha was thrown out at home plate in the sixth by Fresno right fielder Chris Dominguez. The call appeared to be correct. “I just thought (Canha) was in there,” Haines said. “It was a difference of opinion.”