Paddack leads way in one-hit shutout for Hoppers
from Bill Hass wit Bill on Baseball(Greensboro Grasshoppers) at www.gsohoppers.com
Pitching in daylight doesn’t bother Chris Paddack and pitching in heat and humidity doesn’t bother him, either.
And Sunday afternoon, the Rome Braves didn’t bother him a bit.
Paddack dominated the Braves in his five-inning stint, and two relievers followed up to complete a one-hit shutout as the Hoppers cruised to a 7-0 win in NewBridge Bank Park.
The 20-year-old right-hander, in just his fourth start of the season, allowed only one baserunner — that came on a walk in the second inning — and struck out 11. He retired 15 of the 16 hitters he faced and only four batters put the ball in play. He registered at least two strikeouts in every inning in a dominant effort.
“I felt great today,” Paddack said. “I feel I have an advantage in day games because that’s all you pitch in the Gulf Coast League and in extended spring training. And I’m used to the heat and humidity. I pitched in it in Texas all the time (in high school). I like it because it keeps my arm warm.”
The Braves must have thought his arm was a volcano. He had excellent command of his fastball, moving it in and out, and tossed in his changeup and an occasional curve to keep the hitters off balance. Rome’s baatters never figured out what was coming, and five of them took called third strikes.
“I pounded the (strike) zone with the fastball,” Paddack said, “and mixed in the change and the curve to show I could throw them for strikes. If something’s working, then I won’t change it.”
Paddack is on a five-inning limit, so Justin Jacome followed and pitched two perfect innings, striking out three to run the total to 14 whiffs and keeping the no-hitter alive. The left-hander, who was the Hoppers’ opening day starter, was making his second appearance out of the bullpen since coming off a month-long stint on the DL with biceps tendinitis.
“I haven’t pitched in relief since high school,” Jacome said, “but I’ll do my part. When I came in I really wasn’t thinking about the no-hitter. I wanted to get as many outs as I could as quickly as I could. Pitching in relief, you can’t be laid back when you come in.”
Right-hander Kyle Keller entered in the top of the eighth. The suspense was building, but it ended quickly when Rome’s Lucas Herbert hit Keller’s first pitch for a single to left field. It wasn’t a line drive, but Herbert got enough of an inside fastball to lift a soft fly that fell well in front of Kris Goodman.
“I wish I had that pitch back,” Keller said. “That’s how it goes in baseball. Sometimes the bloops fall in and the line drives are caught.”
Keller came right back to get a double play, then a groundout to end the inning. He walked a batter in the ninth but escaped with no further damage.
“Every time Paddack goes out there, he’s dynamite,” Keller said. “He gave us five great innings today.”
Pitching coach Brendan Sagara said Paddack exudes confidence, has a great work ethic and an outstanding attitude.
“He takes what we give him into his next outing,” Sagara said. “That’s rare for a 20-year-old. He adapts quickly and is extremely focused. He threw 69 pitches in five innings, and that’s not very many for all those strikeouts. He wasn’t messing around out there.”
Sagara also credited catcher Arturo Rodriguez with an excellent game.
“He handled three different kinds of pitchers today, and he had never caught any of them before,” Sagara said. “Paddack is kind of a classic starter, Jacome is a crafty lefty and Keller is a power right-hander.”
Paddack earned his second win and now, in 18 1/3 innings, has an ERA of 1.47 with 31 strikeouts, nine hits allowed and just two walks.
“I’m never satisfied with my last outing,” he said. “I’m excited about the numbers I put up today, but I’ve got to go right back out there the next time. There are always things I can get better at.”
The Hoppers’ offense, held to four runs in the first two games of the series, responded with 17 runs the next two. On Sunday, they tagged 18-year-old Braves starter Kolby Allard for four runs in the first inning and tacked on single runs in the third, sixth and eighth innings. A chewing out by manager Kevin Randel after Friday’s 6-2 loss provided the incentive.
“We came out flat and played tired (Friday),” Randel said. “We came out expecting to win rather than going out and getting a win. I told them to be aggressive. Focus is the key for young kids in these day-to-day routines.”
Kyle Barrett had three hits, drove in a run and scored twice to lead the way. Justin Twine had two hits and three RBIs, and Zach Sullivan and Angel Reyes each had two hits and an RBI.
The Hoppers earned a split in the series and moved their record to 33-30 with seven games remaining in the first half. They have won 21 of their last 27 games. They open a three-game series at home against Asheville Monday night with Steven Farnworth starting.
It will only take one more win by Hagerstown or one more loss by the Hoppers to eliminate Greensboro from the first-half race in the Northern Division, but that’s not what is on the players’ minds.
“Right now this team wants to win,” Paddack said. “We may not make the playoffs in the first half, but no one better go to sleep on us in the second half.”
NOTES: The game was just the second shutout of the season in NewBridge, where there has never been a no-hitter in 12 years … Hickory blanked the Hoppers here 5-0 on April 11 … It was the second shutout for the pitching staff; the first game at Delmarva, 1-0 on May 14 … Pitcher Gabriel Castellanos went on the disabled list with a sore elbow and reliever C.J. Robinson was activated.