Bill Hass on Baseball:Hoppers stifled by Braves pitching again

Hoppers stifled by Braves pitching again
Courtesy of Bill Hass with Bill on Baseball(Greensboro Grasshoppers) at

For Hoppers manager Kevin Randel, it’s not about the players missing from his lineup, it’s about those who are there playing better.

The Hoppers dropped their second straight game to Rome Friday night, 6-2. It was the first time they have suffered consecutive losses since May 11-12 against Delmarva. It also snapped their streak of winning seven straight series, since the best they can do now is split against the Braves.

The team is missing four regulars — outfielder Isael Soto (on DL, oblique strain), catcher Roy Morales (on DL, concussion), outfielder Stone Garrett (on DL, thumb laceration) and first baseman Josh Naylor (suspended for his part in the “prank” that injured Garrett).

“It impacts us,” Randel said of the absentees, “but you’ve got to keep moving. What we need is to put better at-bats together. We’re swinging at too many balls outside the strike zone and taking too many fastballs in the strike zone.”

After fanning 12 times in Thursday’s 4-2 loss, the Hoppers struck out 10 more times Friday, many of them looking.

“You’ve got to swing the bat and give yourself a chance with two strikes,” Randel said.

A trio of Rome pitchers held the Hoppers to five hits, three by Zach Sullivan. The only scoring came on a sacrifice fly by Angel Reyes in the sixth inning and a solo homer by Aaron Blanton in the eighth.

The third inning was the one that did the Hoppers in. Rome had picked up a run on Luke Dykstra’s RBI single. Then, with two outs, shortstop Anfernee Seymour couldn’t handle a routine grounder that would have been the third out. A run scored on that play and Justin Ellison followed with a double that scored two more. That made it 4-0, with three runs unearned, and the Hoppers never dug out of the hole.

Cody Poteet was tagged with the loss, the victim of the unearned runs. He struck out seven in his six innings and Randel thought he pitched well enough to give the team a chance. Newcomer Jordan Hillyer, in his Hoppers debut, gave up a home run to the first batter he faced and surrendered a second run in his one inning. Andy Beltre tossed two scoreless innings to finish.

Rome got a strong six innings from left-hander Max Fried, who allowed an unearned run on four hits while striking out nine. Fried was a first-round draft pick out of high school by San Diego in 2012, missed three months of the 2014 season and didn’t pitch last year. The Braves picked him up in a trade in December of 2014.

The teams play the third game of the series Saturday at 7 p.m. in NewBridge Bank Park. Chuck Weaver will start for the Hoppers.