Bill on Baseball:Hoppers snap losing streak with 8-7 win

from Bill Hass with Bill on Baseball at….

Hoppers snap losing streak with 8-7 win

As cruel a game as baseball can be, it can also offer redemption.

And the Greensboro Grasshoppers took advantage of that Tuesday night at NewBridge Bank Park, beating the Hagerstown Suns 8-7 to snap a four-game losing streak.

“Hallelujah,” exclaimed manager Jorge Hernandez, as much in relief as in jubilation.

The body bumps and celebration on the field were fun for everyone, but particularly sweet for three players.

Matt Juengel had a wretched game Monday, twice making the third out with the bases loaded and also hitting into a double play. Hernandez moved him from No. 3 in the order to No. 5 and he responded with a two-run homer in his first at-bat and later drew two walks.

“Last year (at Jamestown) I would have a bad game and take it to the next day, then the next and the next,” Juengel said. “I’ve learned to leave it at the field.

“The home run felt great. Last night I tried to do too much, so tonight I just wanted to put the ball in play with two strikes. I got a pitch I could handle and it went out.”

Viosergy Rosa had been in a slump that reached 1-for-15 in this home stand, leaving numerous runners on base, before he had two hits Monday. In his first at-bat against Dixon Anderson, the Suns’ top starter, he singled to drive in a run in the first inning and singled again in the second. In the fourth, after Hagerstown had rallied from a 5-0 deficit to tie the game, Rosa hit a leadoff homer to regain the lead for good. It was his ninth of the season.

“Nobody likes to leave runners on base,” he said. “But that’s baseball. You can’t look back at those at-bats; just keep working every day. That home run, I was just looking to hit the ball hard. I broke my bat but it had enough on it to go over the fence.”

The third bit of redemption came for reliever Chipper Smith. On Friday against Lakewood, he entered the game in a bases-loaded situation and promptly gave up a grand slam to turn a 4-3 deficit into 8-3. He went on to pitch four innings, giving up one additional run, but the damage had been done. This time, entering with the Hoppers ahead 6-5, he pitched two shutout innings to keep the score where it was.

“He made one mistake in his last outing,” said pitching coach Blake McGinley. “It was a costly mistake and that’s part of the game. Tonight he did a good job mixing his pitches and he used his curve effectively.”

Position players have the advantage of being able to come back the next day. A bullpen guy may wait three or four days for another chance.

“You better get your mind right because every day is a new day,” McGinley said. “If you’re not strong mentally, you’re going to struggle. You learn from your mistakes, make adjustments and keep the runs limited.”

There were other key contributions. Cameron Flynn had a double, two walks and two runs scored. Tony Caldwell doubled in a run and scored twice. In the seventh inning, Cody Keefer singled in a run and Anthony Gomez had a sacrifice fly. Those two add-on runs proved huge when the Suns scored twice in the top of the eighth to cut the lead back to one run.

Blake Logan made sure there were no more rallies for the Suns, retiring them in order in the ninth inning for his eighth save.

Perhaps the biggest play of the game came in the top of the fifth. Starter Mason Hope, who had surrendered five runs in the previous inning, gave up a single and a walk to start things. With the next batter up, he suddenly whirled and fired to shortstop Gomez, who had moved in behind the runner at second base. The pickoff move was successful for the first out, and Hope then got a groundout and a strikeout to end the inning.

Hernandez called the play from the dugout.

“I was thinking they were going to do a double steal,” he said, “and that’s exactly what they were going to try. We gambled and it paid off. It couldn’t have worked any better.”

The series and the home stand wrap up Wednesday with a game starting at 10:45 a.m.