Bill Hass on Baseball:Paddack continues streak but Hoppers fall in 10

Paddack continues streak but Hoppers fall in 10
from Bill Hass with Bill on Baseball(Greensboro Grasshoppers) at

The Hoppers have pulled out some dramatic victories in the last few weeks, but Saturday night things went the other way and they lost a game they probably should have won.

Despite another outstanding effort from starter Chris Paddack, who extended his streak of hitless innings to 15, the Hoppers couldn’t hold a one-run lead and fell to the Hickory Crawdads 3-1 in 10 innings at NewBridge Bank Park.

For the third straight start, Paddack stymied opposing hitters and didn’t allow a hit in five innings, which is his limit. He struck out nine, didn’t walk anyone and the only blemishes on his slate were a pair of hit batters (and one of those barely grazed the hitter’s jersey).

“I’m aware of the streak,” he said. “I just go out and compete for my five innings and try to execute all my pitches. I’m sure when I give up a hit I’ll shake it off and try to get the next batter, but I don’t want to think about it until it happens.”

Paddack said his curve ball, something he has been working on lately, was particularly effective. He said it gives him a third pitch that he can control to go with his fastball and changeup. Hickory never hit a ball to the outfield against him.

But the Crawdads’ Pedro Payano kept the Hoppers off the scoreboard until newcomer John Silviano cracked a home run to right field in the sixth inning. That 1-0 lead held up until the top of the ninth inning.

Reliever Ben Meyer walked the leadoff hitter, who was sacrificed to second. A grounder to short netted the second out, with runner Josh Altman moving to third. Dylan Moore hit a hard, high chopper to third base that skipped past Giovanny Alfonzo for an error as Altman scored the tying run.

“He just misplayed it,” Randel siad. “He should have charged it or blocked it.”

When the Hoppers couldn’t do anything in the bottom of the ninth, Meyer came out for his third inning of work in the 10th and was nicked for a pair of runs that made the difference.

If the Hopppers’ offense could have gotten one clutch hit (they were 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position), the game wouldn’t have come down to Alfonzo’s error. One opportunity was wasted in the second inning when Roy Morales was stranded after a leadoff double. In the eighth, Alfonzo reached on an error and was sacrificed to second by Anfernee Seymour. But Silviano struck out and Josh Naylor lined out and an important insurance run was left on base.

The biggest missed opportunity was in the fifth when the Hoppers loaded the bases with no outs. But Casey Soltis took a called third strike and Alfonzo grounded into a double play to end that threat.

“We’ve been doing that lately but overcoming it,” Randel said. “We could have used those RBIs.”

Greensboro’s bright spot was Paddack. The young right-hander not only pitched well, but made two standout defensive plays. In the first inning, he raced off the mound toward third base, laid out in a dive and snagged a bunted line drive. In the second, he threw up his glove and caught a scorching liner headed for his body.

“The first ball was in no-man’s land and my long body (he’s 6-foot-4) helped,” he said. “If I can make the catch, I’m going to make the catch. The second one was a reaction play. I was trying to save my face and my glove was right where the ball was.”

The Hoppers’ staff didn’t have any problem with Paddack risking his body on the first catch.
Randel said “I loved it.” Pitching coach Brendan Sagara also applauded the effort.

“He was being an athlete,” Sagara said. “If you’re a pitcher, you don’t want to stand there and watch everybody else have fun.”

Paddack said he understands the decision to cap him at five innings.

“I want to go out every start and show them I can go five,” he said. “I respect what they’re doing because I’m young (20 years old) and they want to keep me healthy.”

It’s an organizational decision by the Marlins. They usually limit young pitchers, particularly those drafted out of high school like Paddack, to five innings for at least the first half of the season. Since Paddack was held back in extended spring training and missed about two-thirds of the beginning of the Hoppers’ season, he’s still on that schedule.

Other factors are considered. Although he has a long body, Paddack isn’t as physically developed as pitchers two and three years older. In high school he pitched once a week compared to going out every five days as a pro. And this early in his career, he hasn’t logged many innings.

“We’re managing his innings and his pitch counts,” Sagara said. “This is his first full season and he only pitched 45 innings last year in the Gulf Coast League. He’s getting acclimated to pitching every fifth day. There has to be a long-term goal of making it to the big leagues. We’re building him up for a long career in Miami.

“He’ll go five tough innings or five good innings and learn something every time out. That’s where he’ll be until we hear otherwise.”

NOTES: The fourth game of the series will be played Sunday at 4 p.m. with Steven Farnworth starting for the Hoppers … Paddack, Jeff Kinley and Meyer allowed just three hits and struck out 13 … Kinley gave up the Crawdads’ first hit, a double by Moore that was hooked down the left field line in the seventh inning … Catcher Roy Morales threw out two baserunners and Kinley picked off a runner … The Hoppers are 2-1 in the second half and 40-33 overall.