Bill on Baseball:Hoppers lose tough one on close play at home plate

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

Hoppers lose tough one on close play at home plate

When a team is in a slump, nothing goes its way.

Friday night the Hoppers trailed Delmarva 4-3 in the bottom of the ninth but had the bases loaded with one out. Yeison Hernandez hit a high chopper to first baseman Nik Balog, who threw home to catcher Wynston Sawyer. Matt Juengel, who was on third base, broke for home on contact. No tag was needed since the play was a force out. It was close, and home plate umpire Jacob Wilburn signaled Juengel was out.

Juengel, usually an even-keel player, voiced his displeasure and then added some more on his way to the dugout. Manager Jorge Hernandez came out to argue. Naturally, the call stood. That was the second out and the bases remained loaded. Michael Main then hit into a fielder’s choice to end the game.

“I clearly beat the throw,” Juengel said. “I thought it was an easy call. I slid past the (plate) and then I heard the ball hit the glove. The umpire thought about it, looked like he was going to call me safe, then he punched me out.”

It was a tough loss for the Hoppers, who have now lost 10 of their last 13 games.

“(The umpire) had a better view of it,” Hernandez said of his discussion. “We’re just not getting the breaks we need to get out of this slump.”

Hernandez agreed his team shouldn’t have been in that position to begin with. After being held to no runs and two hits through six innings by Shorebirds starter Brady Wager, the Hoppers scratched out two runs in the bottom of the seventh against reliever Miguel Chalas. Juengel singled in one run and Cameron Flynn’s sacrifice fly brought in another to provide a 2-1 lead.

Frankie Reed retired Delmarva in the eighth inning and closer Blake Logan took over in the ninth. But he walked the leadoff hitter, almost always a bad sign. Then third baseman Juengel and shortstop Hernandez collided going after a foul ball and it hit the ground. Given an extended at-bat, Torsten Boss singled, another bad sign. Joel Hutter singled to load the bases with no outs.

Logan got a popout, but Greg Lorenzo, the No. 9 hitter, singled in a run to tie the game. Hernandez pulled Logan and brought in Miguel Fermin, who promptly fanned Lucas Herbst for the second out. But Roderick Bernadina singled to drive in two runs to make it 4-2. In the bottom of the ninth, Mike Vaughn’s infield single drove in a run to slice the lead to 4-3 and set up the disputed play at the plate.

Logan was charged with his fifth blown save as well as taking the loss.

“You give the ball to the closer with the lead and you have to be able to close out the game,” Hernandez said. “He’s struggling right now and we’ve got to get him right because we need him.”

A lot of good things went wasted for the Hoppers. Starter Dejai Oliver gave up three hits and one run in five solid innings. Dane Stone pitched two shutout innings in relief. Main made a nice diving catch for the third out in the top of the fifth inning. Jesus Solarzano’s superb throw from right field got a runner at the plate for the third out in the sixth inning.

“I saw a different team,” Hernandez said. “We had energy and enthusiasm in the dugout and from the people in the field. We just came up a little short.”

The Hoppers dropped to 18-28 on the season.

“We can’t catch a break,” Juengel said. “But the tide will turn eventually. The whole season can’t go like this.”