Bill on Baseball:Lakewood tops Hoppers for third straight game

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

Lakewood tops Hoppers for third straight game

The Hoppers can’t change the scenery so maybe a change of opponents will help.

Lakewood topped Greensboro for the third straight game Sunday, taking a 5-1 win to wrap up the four-game series. It was the Hoppers’ ninth loss in their last 10 games in NewBridge Bank Park.

They have three games left in this home stand. Hagerstown, a team they haven’t seen yet this season, will provide the opposition, starting Monday at 7 p.m. Dejai Oliver, who pitched well in his first start last week against Kannapolis, will be on the mound for the Hoppers. He’ll face a Suns team that leads the Northern Division with a 20-13 record.

“We’re aware of how they’re doing,” manager Jorge Hernandez said of the Suns. “We will have some scouting reports on them — who’s hot and who’s not, how their starting pitcher is doing. We need to concentrate on taking care of our own business and try to win the series.”

The Hoppers couldn’t do that against Lakewood, which had the worst record in the Northern Division when the series began. Greensboro won the opening game 5-4 but couldn’t build any momentum off that and dropped the next three. The Hoppers were pounded in the Friday and Saturday games by a combined score of 19-7.

Although the pitching improved Sunday, it wasn’t good enough and it got no support from the offense, which was limited to seven hits by three BlueClaws pitchers.

“We’ve got to find a way to put pitching and hitting together,” Hernandez said, “and get a good winning streak going.”

Starter Austin Brice gave up three runs, all in the fourth inning with two outs. The big blow was a two-run homer by catcher Justin Dalles, playing in his first game for Lakewood. Dalles is no rookie — he was drafted in the sixth round by the Orioles in 2009 and was in their system for four seasons. He had 15 career home runs before connecting off Brice.

“Brice made one big mistake, leaving a fastball up,” Hernandez said.

It was the BlueClaws’ seventh homer of the series.

Lakewood tacked on two more runs off Jheyson Manzueta in the seventh inning for some breathing room.

The Hoppers’ offense was essentially one and done, scoring in the first inning on Yordy Cabrera’s sacrifice fly. But there were several other opportunities that were wasted. In the second, singles by Matt Juengel and Cody Keefer and a sacrifice by Tony Caldwell put runners on second and third. Juancito Martinez grounded to third baseman Mitch Walding, whose throw home got Juengel sliding in. Yeison Hernandez then flied out to end the inning.

“He was going on contact,” Hernandez said of Juengel breaking for home. “That’s a situation where you want to be aggressive.”

In the sixth, the Hoppers got the first two batters on base but Viosergy Rosa and Jesus Solorzano struck out and Juengel flied out.

Finally, in the ninth inning the Hoppers loaded the bases with two outs but Martinez flied to center to end the game.