Bill on Baseball:Frustrating afternoon for Hoppers

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

Frustrating afternoon for Hoppers

With two possible victories in their grasp Sunday, the Hoppers came up empty.

Kannapolis beat them 2-0 in the completion of Saturday’s suspended game, then took a 3-2 decision in the nine-inning second game. In each game, Greensboro had opportunities and couldn’t deliver.

“The whole day was frustrating,” said manager Jorge Hernandez. “We just couldn’t get the clutch hit with men in scoring position. We had the right people up in those situations, but they need to produce.”

The afternoon began with the resumption of the suspended game with the score 0-0. After Chipper Smith pitched five scoreless innings Saturday, Blake Logan picked up from there and threw three shutout frames.

In the top of the ninth, Jheyson Manzueta gave up a single and a walk sandwiched around two outs. Jacob May, the White Sox’ third-round draft pick this summer, turned on a 1-2 pitch and lined it into the right field corner for a two-run triple.

“It was just a bad pitch,” Hernandez said. “He had the batter set up, but threw a hanging changeup. He wasn’t pitching to his strength.”

It might not have come to that if Hoppers’ hitters could have done something. Colin Moran and Matt Juengel led off the sixth with singles but David Putnam struck out the next three batters.

In the seventh inning, Juancito Martinez reached on an error and stole second base, but with two outs he inexplicably tried to steal third and was thrown out to end the inning. In the eighth, Moran singled and went to third on Viosergy Rosa’s single with two outs, but Blake Barber popped out to end the threat.

Kannapolis manufactured a run to begin the second game when May singled, stole second and third and scored on an infield single by Jason Coats. That held up until the sixth, when the Intimidators added two runs on a single by Kale Kiser.

After going 15 consecutive innings without scoring, the Hoppers broke the ice in the sixth when Moran doubled and Juengel singled him home. Juengel’s hit caromed off the fence perfectly to left fielder Kiser, whose relay to second base was just in time to get a sliding Juengel.

Jesus Solorzano doubled with two outs, then made a terrible baserunning mistake. Reliever Brad Goldberg bounced a pitch to the plate that catcher Michael Marjama fielded cleanly. Solorzano had the play in front of him but tried to make third anyway and was thrown out by 10 feet.

Moran belted a solo home run, his fifth hit in the two games, in the eighth inning to shave the lead to one run, but the last five Hoppers were retired in order to close out the game.

The Hoppers wasted two golden opportunities. In the third, they loaded the bases with two outs but Moran struck out. In the fifth, they had runners on first and second with one out. They advanced when Cameron Flynn grounded out and were stranded when Anthony Gomez did the same.

Dejai Oliver gave up three runs in six innings and Sean Donatello and Ronald Barnes combined to pitch three shutout innings. Kyle Hansen of Kannapolis beat the Hoppers for the third time this season. The 6-8 right-hander has surrendered just two runs in 18 2/3 innings against Greensboro. He’s 3-7 against the rest of the league.

The Hoppers have dropped the first three games of the series, which winds up Monday night.

“We’ve pitched well enough to win all three,” Hernandez said. “We just don’t have any consistency (with the hitters).”

Adding to the frustration is the fact that Juengel is hitting the ball hard every time at bat but the the ball is finding someone’s glove.

“He’s our hottest hitter,” Hernandez said, “and he has nothing to show for it.”

The Hoppers dropped to 13-15 in NewBridge Bank Park in the second half of the season. They are 28-36 at home overall.