Weaver wins 7th straight start for Hoppers
from Bill Hass with Bill on Baseball(Greensboro Grasshoppers) at www.gsohoppers.com
Chuck Weaver says his job as a starting pitcher is simple.
“I try to put us in a position to win,” the Hoppers’ right-hander said.
Lately, no one has done that better than Weaver. Tuesday night he pitched six innings, giving up two hits and one run, and the Hoppers made that stand up for a 2-1 win over West Virginia at NewBridge Bank Park.
Weaver was the winning pitcher for his seventh straight start, improving his record to 9-4 with an ERA of 2.37. It was also the sixth straight game he has gone six innings and the third straight game he has given up just one earned run.
The effort resulted in the Hoppers’ sixth straight win and improved their record in the second half to 10-3, good for a two-game lead in the SAL’s North Division.
“It’s a blast,” Weaver said of the way the club has been winning. “Music is blaring in the locker room, everyone clicks together and the chemistry shows on the field.”
Weaver doesn’t blow anyone away on the mound. But at age 25, with three seasons of independent league experience, he knows what he’s doing. He changes speeds and keeps batters guessing, rarely giving them anything good to hit.
He’s deliberate in the way he walks to the mound to start an inning and back to the dugout to finish one. He doesn’t waste energy pacing around the mound between pitches. When he gets the sign, he goes into an easy windup that has no excess motion. He’s not afraid to let batters hit the ball and have his defense make plays behind him.
And he keeps the same demeanor. Whether he’s ahead, behind or the game is tied, you can’t read anything in his face or body language.
“I was always taught never to show my emotions on the mound,” he said. “I try to keep an even keel so the momentum doesn’t shift. I like to work quickly so the defense won’t fall asleep behind me. A quick tempo is good for me and the team.”
Weaver retired the first nine Power hitters, then ran into his only trouble of the night in the fourth inning. He had a couple of conferences with catcher John Silviano, who was catching him for the first time.
“We weren’t on the same page with the signs,” Weaver said. “He doesn’t know where I like to throw the ball in certain situations. I got out of rhythm, but we were able to figure it out and get out of it.”
Weaver gave up two singles and a walk to load the bases with one out. A sacrifice fly scored a run to tie the game 1-1, but another fly ball retired the side, limiting the damage.
With that hiccup behind him, Weaver got through the fifth and sixth innings with no problem.
“He knows his strengths and doesn’t get away from them very often,” said pitching coach Brendan Sagara. “He avoids big innings. And by controlling his emotions, he controls the way he pitches.”
Meanwhile, the Hoppers’ offense scored a run in the first when Anfernee Seymour singled, stole second and scored on Josh Naylor’s single. When the Power tied the game in the fourth, the Hoppers answered immediately in the bottom of the inning. Justin Twine was hit by a pitch and scored on Aaron Blanton’s double for a 2-1 lead.
It was the second straight game Blanton drove in the winning run. The other was more dramatic — a walkoff homer in a 5-2 win Monday night.
Neither team scored after that — in fact, neither team got a hit after that. The Hoppers finished with four hits and West Virginia with two.
There was one other troublesome inning for the Hoppers. Reliever Jeff Kinley entered in the seventh and, after a one-out walk, a stolen base and a throwing error by Silviano, the Power had a real threat going with man on third.
With a 3-and-2 count, Tyler Filliben kept fouling off pitch after pitch. Finally, on the 11th pitch of the at-bat, Kinley threw a changeup and got Filliben to pop out to Blanton at third base. John Bormann popped out to Twine at second base to end the inning and leave the runner stranded.
Kinley then had a 1-2-3 eighth inning and closer C.J. Robinson disposed of the Power on six pitches in the ninth to earn his 15th save in 15 chances.
“It was a nice, clean game other than the throwing error,” Randel said. “We made all the routine plays, got a couple of clutch hits and the pitching held it up. It was a good solid outing from Weaver. He knows how to keep the game moving.”
The teams wrap up the three-game series with a 12:30 game Wednesday. L.J. Brewster will start for the Hoppers.