Bill Hass on Baseball:Hoppers can’t overcome costly early error

Hoppers can’t overcome costly early error
from Bill Hass with Bill on Baseball at

One thing a team that’s struggling can’t afford is to dig itself in a hole to start a game at home.

On Sunday, the Hoppers did just that. In the top of the first, Tyler Kolek gave up a single in between two outs. He got Savannah’s Eudor Garcia to hit a routine grounder to second base that should have ended the inning. But Rony Cabrera booted the ball, leaving two men on base. Michael Katz then belted a long three-run homer — it hit the concourse in back of Natty’s Hill — to put the Sand Gnats up 3-0. And the Hoppers never really recovered.

“A two-out error cost us three runs and the game,” manager Kevin Randel summed up after the Hoppers eventually lost 6-5.

Pitching coach Jeremy Powell said Kolek “left a slider over the middle of the plate and that’s what happens.”

The runs were unearned, but Kolek wasn’t sharp. He couldn’t finish the fourth inning, leaving after 84 pitches but only 44 for strikes. He gave up five runs and four walks, unable to follow up on his strong one-hit, six-inning outing in his last start.

“He’s been inconsistent the whole year,” Powell said. “That’s the difference outing to outing, a good one and then a bad one.”

The Hoppers got an outstanding relief effort from Kelvin Rivas, who faced eight batters, gave up one hit, got one groundout and struck out the other six hitters. Powell said Rivas has “an explosive delivery” with good secondary pitches to complement his fastball.

“That’s the best we’ve seen him throw all year,” Randel said.

Jose Velez pitched two shutout innings, the eighth straight appearance in which he has allowed no runs.

Patrick Biondi and John Mora had RBI doubles in the fourth for the Gnats and Katz added his fourth RBI on a single in the seventh.

Greensboro got one run back in the first an RBI groundout by Arturo Rodriguez after Cabrera’s double. Zach Sullivan had a sacrifice fly in the sixth, Brian Schales doubled and scored on a wild pitch in the seventh and K.J. Woods belted a two-run homer in the ninth off Savannah closer Jimmy Duff.

But the homer came with two outs and left the bases empty. Schales jumped on the next pitch by Duff and lined it right at left fielder Vicento Lupo to end the game.

It was not a well-played game by the Hoppers. In addition to Cabrera’s miscue, Kolek threw away a pickoff attempt. And a ball dropped between center fielder Sullivan and left fielder Mason Davis for a single that ultimately cost the Hoppers a run in the seventh.

“Neither one looked like they wanted the ball,” Randel said. “(Sullivan) didn’t take charge.”

NOTES: The third game of the series will be played at 7 tonight with Michael Mader starting for the Hoppers … Rodriguez had three hits and Schales, Woods and Cabrera had two apiece, but the Hoppers couldn’t bunch enough hits together for a big inning … They stranded nine runners and were 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position.