Young D-backs' winning ways prove future is bright

October 2nd, 2022

SAN FRANCISCO -- When Triple-A Reno beat El Paso in Las Vegas on Friday night to win the Pacific Coast League championship game, eight players who had a hand in the Aces’ successful season were not present.

They had a good excuse.

All were in San Francisco as part of the D-backs’ big league roster. Six of them played in Saturday’s 8-4 victory against the Giants at Oracle Park, including two who had a big hand in a win that formally ended San Francisco’s meager playoff hopes.

Starter Drey Jameson continued his eye-opening debut month, holding a hot Giants lineup to two runs in six innings. That gives him a 1.48 ERA through his first four games, a number that might have been even lower if not for a bad hop on a LaMonte Wade Jr. grounder that turned into an infield single and set up a Thairo Estrada RBI groundout.

Center fielder Corbin Carroll, a late-season call-up like Jameson, contributed a pair of doubles, including one in Arizona's three-run fourth.

Carroll -- ranked by MLB Pipeline as Arizona's No. 1 prospect -- is one of five D-backs position players who had at least 100 at-bats for Reno in 2022. The others are Jake McCarthy, Stone Garrett, Cooper Hummel and Buddy Kennedy, who was supposed to play in Friday’s PCL title game before a last-minute callup when Ketel Marte went on the injured list.

Jameson (No. 9) was one of three Aces pitchers who started at least 20 games. The others were Tommy Henry and Ryne Nelson, who were promoted to the Majors as well (with Nelson now on the IL).

Despite losing such a huge chunk of its roster, Reno won nine of its final 10 regular-season games before taking the PCL title game, with a shot to win the Triple-A crown on Sunday when it meets the winner of Saturday night’s International League championship between Nashville and Durham.

If that doesn’t speak to the D-backs’ organizational depth, what else will?

“We have a deep Minor League system,” Jameson said. “There’s a lot of talent in the system and I think there are going to be a lot of guys and a lot of faces you’re going to see in the next couple of years from those groups. We’re just trickling up little by little.”

Carroll said Friday’s PCL title win was “fun to watch” and something he would have liked to be part of.

“I got to experience that in 2019, winning the championship in the Northwest League. It’s one of my favorite memories playing baseball," Carroll said, although he was quick to add there are “no parallels” to playing in the Majors.

Jameson improved to 3-0 in his final start of the year despite not having his best stuff, by manager Torey Lovullo’s estimation.

Jameson’s most potent inning was the fourth, when he struck out J.D. Davis, Jason Vosler and David Villar in order after the D-backs took a 3-1 lead in the top half of the frame. That came after he struck out Mike Yastrzemski to end the third inning after the Giants scored their first run, stranding two runners in scoring position.

Jameson was not shy about his abilities when asked about that strikeout.

“When I’m on the mound, I tell myself I’m made for this, for situations like that,” he said. “Baseball is not easy, and it’s not going to be easy every inning, so you just have to bear down and make competitive pitches, get quick outs and limit the damage.”

The offense contributed 12 hits, three each from Jordan Luplow and Christian Walker. Walker tripled in the fourth inning, singled in the fifth and doubled in the seventh, which meant he had a shot in the eighth to end a 10-year drought of D-backs hitting for the cycle. He grounded out sharply to short, and said after the game he did not even know about the potential cycle.

Arizona improved to 10-8 against the Giants to secure the season series after the Giants beat them 17 times in 19 games last year.

At the same hour the D-backs start their final game against San Francisco on Sunday, Reno will begin its quest for the Triple-A title.

Asked if he might sneak into the clubhouse to watch the livestream, Jameson said no.

“That’d probably get me in trouble,” he said. “But I’ll definitely rewatch it after the end of our game.”