from Bill Hass with Bill on Baseball(Greensboro Grasshoppers) at www.gsohoppers.com.…
Gomez provides walk-off magic this time
They had to wait until the early morning hours, but the Hoppers showed their walk-off magic once again.
Rain delayed the start of Friday’s game against Lakewood for more than two hours. After the tarp was pulled and the field prepared, the first pitch was thrown at 9:14. The game ended when Yefri Perez crossed the plate, courtesy of a single by Anthony Gomez, at 12:09 a.m., to give the Hoppers a 7-6 win. Everyone poured out of the dugout and converged in a happy, writhing knot in the infield.
It was the second walk-off win in as many nights. Blake Barber’s home run in the bottom of the ninth gave the Hoppers a 4-2 win over the BlueClaws Thursday.
“You take a win any way you can get one,” Gomez said, “but one like this gets everyone excited.”
Barber didn’t get the game-winning hit this time, but he got the rally started with a one-out single in the bottom of the ninth with the Hoppers down 6-5. Things looked dire when Jose Behar struck out for the second out. But Perez doubled into the left field corner to score Barber and tie the game.
“I wasn’t thinking too much,” Perez said, “just hit the ball and put it in play.”
Lakewood changed pitchers, from left-handed Chris O’Hare to side-arming right-hander Zach Cooper, to face Gomez.
“I figured on seeing something off-speed,” Gomez said. “He threw me two fastballs and I took those, then he threw a slider. I was looking for something up and he hung one.”
The fly ball found the gap in right center and the speedy Perez scored easily from second base to win it.
After Viosergy Rosa’s two-run homer in the first inning gave the Hoppers a 2-1 lead, they were stymied through the fifth inning, falling behind 5-2. But starting in the sixth inning, they chipped away at the deficit.
Jesus Solorzano drove in a run with a fielder’s choice in the sixth, Matt Juengel hit a solo home run in the seventh and, after Lakewood added a run in the top of the eighth, Rosa’s sacrifice fly cut it to 6-5 in the bottom of the inning.
Meanwhile, pitchers Austin Brice and Dejai Oliver surrendered 15 hits, including four by Angelo Mora, but managed to limit the damage to six runs. It could have been worse, with runners on first and third and one out in the top of the eighth. But Oliver got Willie Carmona to hit one back to him as the runner broke for home and tossed to Behar, who applied the tag.
The Hoppers then brought in left-handed Frankie Reed to face lefty Art Charles, who swung at the first pitch and grounded into a force play from shortstop Gomez to second baseman Barber to end the inning.
“That was nice,” Reed said. “I gave him a slider outside and that (out) made things easier. I’d rather be in with a lead, trying to save the game, but in this situation my job was to hold the score where it was to give us a chance.”
In the ninth Reed quickly got two outs, gave up an infield hit, then got a grounder right back to him for the third out. That set up the drama in the bottom of the ninth, which turned him into the winning pitcher, his fifth without a loss.
“Most of our games are close so we’re never out of it,” said manager Jorge Hernandez. “Tonight we battled back. It was a crazy game. The ball Perez hit wasn’t hard but he got a double out of it and then Gomez did what he’s been doing all year.”
Rosa, who lifted his totals to 18 home runs and 53 RBIs, said the club is experiencing “all positive energy, on and off the field right now. Barber has been amazing and we’re all competitive so we’re trying to out-do him. And it seems like Gomez always comes through with runners in scoring position.”
Hitting coach Frank Moore couldn’t explain the team’s ability to get clutch hits late in a game.
“Right now we’re going good so we’re going to ride the wave until it won’t go any higher,” he said.
The teams continue the series with a game Saturday at 7 p.m.