Bill on Baseball:Martinez makes Suns pay for mistake

Posted by Guest Columnist on July 23, 2013 at 6:12 pm under Professional | Comments are off for this article

from Bill Hass with Bill on Baseball(Greensboro Grasshoppers) at

Martinez makes Suns pay for mistake

When a pitcher makes a mistake, a hitter’s job is to make him pay for it.

Juancito Martinez did just that for the Hoppers Tuesday afternoon, grounding a two-strike pitch into left field to drive in the winning run in a 3-2 victory over Hagerstown.

Martinez came into the game with a .185 average and was hitless in four previous at-bats. With Cameron Flynn on third with two outs, Suns manager Tripp Keister made the percentage play by walking Cody Keefer to get to the light-hitting Martinez.

“I told Juancito ‘you’ve got yourself another at-bat,’” said teammate Viosergy Rosa. “And he did his thing.”

Suns reliever Gilberto Mendez threw two sliders in the dirt that Martinez swung at and missed badly. But Mendez left the 0-and-2 slider up and Martinez hit it solidly between third base and shortstop to score Flynn.

“I looked bad on those two breaking balls,” Martinez said. “Rosa told me, ‘don’t be afraid. See the ball in the strike zone and swing.’ He threw a hanging slider, I made contact and we won the ball game.

“It felt very good. You have to believe in yourself.”

Hitting coach Frank Moore said it was an important at-bat for Martinez.

“He let the ball travel deeper in the zone and put an easy swing on it,” Moore said. “That should boost his confidence and help him get started for the rest of the season.”

The two-run rally in the ninth saved an outstanding pitching performance as three Greensboro pitchers combined to hold the Suns to two hits. Starter Chad James pitched five innings, striking out seven. He had one bad inning, in the fourth, when he hit a batter, gave up three walks and surrendered a double. The other four innings he put zeroes on the board.

“He just couldn’t find the zone that inning,” said pitching coach Blake McGinley. “But overall, it was a good performance.”

Matt Milroy pitched three scoreless innings, allowing no hits and one walk. Beau Wright retired the side in order in the ninth and picked up the win.

“We pitched to our strengths today,” McGinley said. “We didn’t go to deep counts, we stayed ahead in the count and attacked the strike zone.”

On the offensive side, the Hoppers had 11 hits. Matt Juengel singled in a run in the fourth to cut the deficit in half, but the score stayed there until the ninth.

The Hoppers had been held in check by three straight Hagerstown left-handers. Against the third one, Bryan Harper, the left-handed Rosa led off the ninth with his second double, and third hit, of the game. The Suns then brought in the right-handed Mendez.

Blake Barber sacrificed Anthony Gomez, running for Rosa, to third. Flynn, hitting .356 against right-handers this season, ripped a double into the gap to score Gomez and tie the game.

Jose Behar followed with an important at-bat. Even though he flied out, the ball was hit deep enough to move Flynn to third. Keefer then was walked intentionally to set the stage for Martinez.

“It seemed like their whole staff was lefties,” said the left-handed Flynn, “so it was definitely good to see a right-hander. He threw a changeup and I expected something off-speed with a base open.”

The win enabled the Hoppers to split the series with Hagerstown and bounce back from a doubleheader loss Monday. After a day off Wednesday, they begin a four-game series at Charleston on Thursday.

“It was a great win and we needed that,” said manager Jorge Hernandez. “It was huge for Juancito to get that clutch hit. The pitcher hung a slider and he took advantage of it.”

The Hoppers managed only 12 hits in 14 innings Monday, so the 11 they got Tuesday encouraged Moore.

“We put the ball in play today,” he said. “If we can do that and start scoring more runs, it will relax the pitchers and help us make a run at winning the second half.”

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