Congratulations are in order to the Fresno Grizzlies on winning the Triple-A Championship. For more information about their 7-0 win in the single-contest championship game, please see Subber10's excellent write-up of it here.
This was, in the words of those baseball people who were present, a textbook win for the Grizzlies. Contributions flew in from every part of the roster. But one man's contribution rose just slightly higher than the rest. That man's name is Chris Devenski.
After finishing the Double-A playoffs with Corpus Christi, previously the highest level the 24 year old Devenski had ever pitched at, he joined the Triple-A Fresno club in time for their playoff series against the Round Rock Express, affiliate of the Texas Rangers. He pitched two innings total in two games in that series, striking out three hitters and allowing just two hits and touching 96 miles per hour on the radar gun. And those two innings were the entirety of his Triple-A experience entering Tuesday night's game.
He's known as "Devo" to his friends, and "The Dragon" to his teammates - according to second baseman/outfielder Tony Kemp, anyway.
"We call him the dragon," Kemp told MiLB.com of Devenski. "We call him that nickname because every time he goes out there, he's fearless and believes in himself. And when you have a pitcher like that, that has a beast in him like that, all you have to do is just play easy defense."
Never was a nickname more apropos than it was Tuesday night.
Before he even hit the mound, the Dragon was staked to a three run lead, the beginnings of Fresno's prolific night at the plate. Devenski wasted no time with the niceties of introductions, and simply mowed down the first three hitters he faced - inducing a weak pop out from the leadoff hitter for the Columbus Clippers, Tyler Holt, before toasting Erik Gonzalez and Jesus Aguilar for his first two strikeouts of the game. Extra crispy.
After two more runs were plated by the hot hitting Grizzlies in the top of the second, Devenski returned to the mound and again chewed up the opposition, chain mail and all. He fairly flew to first base to receive the flip from Jon Singleton and retire Adam Moore for the first out of the inning before retiring Yandy Diaz on a line drive to center fielder Andrew Aplin and Michael Choice on a ground out to third baseman Tyler White.
The Clippers changed pitchers twice in the top of the third inning but still allowed the sixth run of the game to cross home, and yet there was the Dragon. Still circling. Still hungry. Audy Ciriaco flied out to center field, James Ramsey was unable to put out the flames by waving his bat at the ball for strike three, and Anthony Gallas hit a nubber back to Devenski, who devoured it whole and flipped the remains to Jon Singleton to record the third out of the inning - having still not allowed a single base runner.
The second time through the order was also unkind to the Clippers.
To begin the bottom of the fourth inning, Tyler Holt got burned with his bat on his shoulder for strike three. Erik Gonzalez popped out weakly back to the pitcher's mound. The Dragon laughed at the human's puny projectiles. Jesus Aguilar grounded out to shortstop to end the frame...with Chris Devenski's perfect game still intact.
In the bottom of the fifth, Adam Moore grounded out to Jon Singleton again. Chris Devenski covered first base and received the flip to record the out...again. Yandy Diaz made some of the best contact of the game to that point against Devenski with a line drive to second base, but Tony Kemp was there to play some easy defense behind his Dragon. And Michael Choice struck out to end the frame. Just like that, Chris Devenski was perfect through five innings...in his first ever Triple-A start. In the Championship game.
In the sixth inning, Columbus would finally land a volley - Audy Ciriaco slapped an 0-1 offering from Devenski to right field for a single to end the perfect game bid. But Dragons are renowned for their incredibly thick-plated skin. Devenski shrugged it off and retired the next three hitters he faced, one in the air, one via strikeout ("Burn it black, Garçon!") and the third via another ground ball out.
Then, just for good measure, Devenski would return for the seventh inning and smite every hitter who came to the plate.
Erik Gonzalez? Fried.
Jesus Aguilar? Toasted.
Adam Moore? Well done.
All told, Chris "The Dragon" Devenski would match a career high by fanning nine hitters - and allow just a single hit with no walks - in his very first Triple-A start. He sat down the first eighteen hitters he faced, and only faced twenty-two hitters (one over the minimum) in his seven innings of work. Oh, and he got the win. In the Triple-A Championship Game. And, lest we forget, he was named the Championship MVP for his extraordinary efforts.
Characteristically humble and unassuming, Devenski was quick to tweet a simple acknowledgement:
There's more work to be done!!— Chris Devenski (@ddddeevvvoooo) September 23, 2015
On the twittersphere, he is fun and thoughtful, strong in his faith and long on positive thinking.
Talk less, Grind more— Chris Devenski (@ddddeevvvoooo) May 26, 2015
And he is always happy to engage the community:
The little things like signing autographs, fills me up with the biggest joy! pic.twitter.com/FsbrTdsWXU— Chris Devenski (@ddddeevvvoooo) May 26, 2015
Blessed to be able to spend some time at the children's hospital today. Wish everyone a speedy recovery. pic.twitter.com/Mf2z8PUkPH— Chris Devenski (@ddddeevvvoooo) May 20, 2015
He is, simply put, the kind of player you want to root for. His confidence and competitive nature shows through in his tweets from time to time, but he is first and foremost humble and quick to praise his teammates. However, the MiLB twitter account was happy to spread some love his direction after his MVP award.
Some Astros fans might be asking, "Who is this guy? Where did he come from?"
Those fans could easily be forgiven, especially if they don't follow the Astros minor league system closely - the system has what could easily by termed "an embarrassment of riches" when it comes to quality arms. Even one as dominant as Devenski has been this season could be missed, if said fan were too busy following an exciting season from the parent club to follow the minor leagues assiduously. But make no mistake: the rest of the baseball world is sitting up, and paying closer attention. The Dragon has entered, and there is no missing him anymore.