Bill on Baseball:Pitching sparkles as Hoppers edge Jackets 2-1

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

Pitching sparkles as Hoppers edge Jackets 2-1

How many times has Hoppers manager Jorge Hernandez had a team that got just three hits in a game — and won?

“Not this year,” he said with a smile Wednesday afternoon after Greensboro topped Augusta 2-1.

Just two weeks ago, the Hoppers likely wouldn’t have won a game like this. But things have changed recently. They have now won nine of their last 11 games, pulling themselves from 10 games below .500 to a 27-30 record.

“Today was about pitching and defense,” Hernandez said. “A few weeks ago, we absolutely would not have won this game. But now everything is clicking.”

The defense played errorless ball behind pitchers Mason Hope, Miguel Fermin and Frankie Reed, making their jobs easier. Hope pitched five innings and gave up three hits, one walk and one run. Fermin followed with two scoreless innings, giving up one hit. Reed pitched the final two innings to earn his fourth save.

It was the third straight win for Hope, who has allowed just one run — a homer by Augusta’s Mitch Delfino in the fourth inning — in his last 15 innings pitched.

“At the beginning of the season I was working on my arm slot,” Hope said. “They (the Marlins) want me to throw from a low three-quarters angle. It has been difficult because I’ve always been a straight over-the-top guy. But they believe I’ll get more movement on the ball with a little less velocity.

“I’m in a groove now. I play catch every day using that angle. I’m trying for more ground balls and not not trying to strike out everyone.”

Hope said he left a pitch too much over the middle of the plate and Delfino put a good swing on it and hit it out. But he quickly regained his composure and retired six of the last seven hitters he faced.

“They’re going to score some runs,” he said. “You just try to hold them to less than they’re used to.”

After Fermin shut down the Greenjackets in the sixth and seventh innings, Reed pitched a 1-2-3 eighth. But the ninth was more adventurous when Delfino led off with a single.

Reed got out of that by getting Joe Rapp to hit into a double play, from shortstop Anthony Gomez to second baseman Yeison Hernandez to first baseman Viosergy Rosa. That was important because Rafael Rodriguez followed with a two-out single. But Reed got Shayne Houck to fly out to end the game.

“It was good to get out there,” said Reed, who hadn’t pitched in several days. “They got two hits on bad sliders. On the double play, I tried to stay low in the zone, got the grounder and the guys turned it for me.”

Pitching coach Blake McGinley said the staff is minimizing walks, getting ahead in the count and finishing hitters off.

“They’ve been pitching smart, and that’s what it takes,” he said. “They’re in a rhythm with good tempo and pounding the bottom of the zone.”

The Hoppers’ offense was completely contained to the second inning. Rosa led off with his 11th homer of the season, a drive well over the fence in right field. Matt Juengel delivered a one-out single and Cody Keefer drove him in with a double off the left field wall that bounced halfway back to the infield. After that, the Hoppers got no hits off of Augusta starter Kendry Flores, who pitched eight innings with seven strikeouts.

“I got a changeup and just tried to stay on it,” Rosa said. “I’ve been working with (hitting coach) Frank Moore on being able to recognize pitches and not miss them.”

The series wraps up Thursday with a game at 7 p.m. Scott Lyman will start for the Hoppers.