******Due to inclement weather, today’s game (April 23) has been cancelled. Tickets from the April 23 game can be exchanged at the Hoppers Box Office and are good for any remaining 2017 regular season Hoppers home game, based on availability.*****
Nelson’s HR carries Hoppers in 4–1 win
from Bill Hass with Bill on Baseball at www.gsohoppers.com
If the wind, rain and cold bothered James Nelson Saturday night, it didn’t show up in his play.
In just his second game as a Hopper, Nelson slugged a two-run homer, added a single and turned in a nifty defensive play at third base. Greensboro came away with a 4–1 win over Augusta in a game that was halted for rain and then called after a 35-minute delay in the bottom of the sixth inning.
The home run was the big blow, coming off Augusta starter Caleb Baragar, who had shut out the Hoppers for four innings. The GreenJackets had taken a one-run lead in the top of the fifth inning on a night when it looked like that might be enough to win. The temperature dropped steadily from the 60s to the 50s, the wind was consistently strong and the rain began about the fifth inning.
In the bottom of the fifth, Garvis Lara doubled, stole third base and scored on a chopper into center field by Mason Davis. That tied the game and Nelson followed with a homer to right center.
“I felt I got all of it,” Nelson said. “It was either going to be off the wall or over the wall.”
Nelson hit just one home run last season playing in the Gulf Coast League, where the parks are used for spring training and have major league dimensions. Saturday, the wind in First National Bank Field was blowing straight in from left and center fields and it knocked down at least three fly balls that looked like sure homers.
But Nelson picked the right spot in the park to hit one out, where the wind wasn’t providing quite as much resistance. That followed his performance Friday, when he knocked in the go-ahead run with a single late in the game to spark the Hoppers to a 7–2 win. So what does he do next?
“Just keep playing baseball,” he said. “Don’t get too high or too low, which is easier said than done. I love the feel of this park when I take batting practice.”
Nelson’s nice defensive play came in the top of the first inning when he backhanded a sharply-hit ball on the short hop and made a long throw from third base to get the out.
The Hoppers added a run in the sixth inning when Boo Vazquez scored on a wild pitch. The game was called before the inning was complete, but the run counted.
Jordan Holloway started the game and only gave up one run before he reached his pitch count at 85. Although he allowed just one hit, Holloway walked five. He was helped in the top of the fourth when, after he gave up a double and a walk, the wind held up consecutive long balls by Frandy De La Rosa and Jacob Heyward that were caught for outs.
“I always look for positives,” said pitching coach Mark DiFelice, “and today it was that he battled. When he needed to make pitches, he made them.”
Alex Mateo took over with two outs in the fifth and struck out his first batter to retire the side. He set down the Jackets in order in the sixth inning. It was his first appearance since being sent from the rotation to the bullpen.
“He can be a little more aggressive out of the pen,” DiFelice said. “It’s a different mentality and he may have a little chip on his shoulder, which he can use for motivation.”
The win pushed the Hoppers back over the .500 mark at 9–8 and was their second win after losing five straight.
“I didn’t think there was anything wrong,” said manager Todd Pratt. “It was just something that happens in 140 games. We weren’t playing bad; the opponents were just playing a little better.”
Weather permitting, the teams will wrap up the four-game series with a 4 o’clock game Sunday. That will be followed by a road trip to Greenville for three games and Asheville for three.
NOTES: Lara was also victimized by the wind, which robbed him of a two-run homer in the third inning … Vazquez had two hits to go along with Nelson’s pair … Augusta’s hitting coach is Eddie Taubensee, who was a catcher with the Greensboro Hornets, then a Cincinnati farm club, in 1988. He eventually went on to play 11 seasons in the major leagues, finishing with a .273 average, 94 homers and 419 RBIs. He had been out of baseball for 15 years before being hired by the Giants this season.