Bill on Baseball:Hoppers stifled by Greenville pitching

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

Hoppers stifled by Greenville pitching

If you ever wondered why the South Atlantic League splits its season into two halves, the Greenville Drive provided a good answer Monday night.

The Drive finished the first half with a league-worst record of 22-47. But after Monday’s 3-1 win over the Hoppers they improved to 19-16 in the second half. They now stand three games behind Lexington in the Southern Division’s second-half pennant race.

The Hoppers dropped to 17-19 in the second half and now stand five games behind first-place Hagerstown in the Northern Division. Clearly, they need to get hot — and quickly.

On Monday, they managed just four hits off three Drive pitchers. Justin Haley gave up three hits and one run in six innings, Raynel Velette followed with two scoreless innings and Gerardo Olivares worked around a one-out triple by Colin Moran to record the save. Matt Juengel struck out swinging and Viosery Rosa struck out looking to strand Moran in the ninth.

“Some nights we show up hitting and some nights we don’t,” said manager Jorge Hernandez. “We couldn’t bunch any hits together and we had Moran on third base with less than two outs and couldn’t get him in.”

The Hoppers had some hard-hit balls that were caught. The most costly came in the bottom of the fourth with the Hoppers down 2-1. Rosa singled and Jesus Solorzano followed with a line drive that appeared headed into the right field corner. But Aneury Tavarez made a diving, slide-on-his-stomach catch to end the inning.

“That might have been the game right there,” Hernandez said. “He got a great jump on the ball and made a great catch. The game would have been tied and Solorzano would have been on second or third.”

Hoppers starter Chad James struggled before being lifted after throwing 79 pitches in three innings. He gave up four hits and walked two — they both came around to score — but went deep in the count to most hitters. James also hurt himself with a wild pickoff throw that allowed a run to score.

“Instead of over-throwing, he needs to just relax and let his stuff work,” said pitching coach Blake McGinley. “He’s trying to make each pitch be better than it needs to be.”

Relievers Beau Wright and Sean Donatello kept the Hoppers in the game. Wright allowed one unearned run in four innings and Donatello pitched two scoreless innings.

NOTES: The Hoppers are down a pitcher for the moment. Starter Scott Lyman was promoted to Jupiter and he will join the Hammerheads’ rotation. That opening was created when Andrew Heaney, who won two playoff games for Greensboro last year, was promoted to Double-A Jacksonville … Catcher Sharif Othman has rejoined the team after a rehab stint and Mike Vaughan was sent to Batavia in the New York-Penn League.