FRESNO- The Grizzlies were in need of a spark to snap out of a funk that found them 15 games out of first place entering play on Thursday. They got it from Major League rehabber Barry Zito and an energized crowd of nearly 10,000 fans, as Fresno avoided a sweep with an 8-4 victory over Tacoma at Chukchansi Park.
Zito (1-0) joined the club for his first ever start as a Grizzly after making two appearances for High-A San Jose. He was welcomed warmly by the Fresno crowd, and delivered a solid, if unspectacular performance en route to the victory. The southpaw allowed four runs on five hits and a pair of walks, striking out six over 6.0 innings of work and left with the Grizzlies well ahead.
The fanfare over Zito overshadowed a milestone achievement by another Grizzly on Thursday night. Tyler Graham reached base after being hit by a pitch in the first inning, and on a 1-0 pitch to Edgar Gonzalez, he took off for second, easily stealing the base. That made the speedster the all-time stolen bases leader in Grizzlies history with 72 for his Fresno career.
The Grizzlies head north to take on their Highway 99 rivals, the Sacramento River Cats in a four-game set beginning on Friday at Raley Field. Fresno sends lefty Matt Yourkin (4-4) against River Cats righty Willie Eyre (3-2) at 7:05pm.