Bill Hass on Baseball:Silviano, Barrett, Brewster lead Hoppers

Silviano, Barrett, Brewster lead Hoppers
from Bill Hass with Bill on Baseball(Greensboro Grasshoppers) at

John Silviano doesn’t bother with singles.

In the short time he’s been with the Hoppers, he’s cranked out eight doubles, five home runs and just four singles. Putting it another way, 13 of his 17 hits have gone for extra bases. He collected two more doubles Saturday night, one of which drove in the go-ahead run, as the Hoppers beat Augusta 6-5 in the opener of a four-game series at NewBridge Bank Park.

The outcome moved the Hoppers to a 1 1/2 game lead over Hagerstown in the Northern Division of the South Atlantic League. Greensboro is now 18-10 in the second half and the Suns are 17-12. Augusta is 17-12 and leads the Southern Division by 2 1/2 games over Asheville and Rome.

“I know it’s a four-game series, but it’s a big win to take the first one and get on them early,” said Hoppers manager Kevin Randel.

The Hoppers cruised to a 3-0 lead through six innings, thanks to the superb pitching of L.J. Brewster, who allowed just two hits and no walks. But reliever Trent Hill surrendered a grand slam homer in the seventh to put Augusta on top 4-3.

Fortunately, the Hoppers had a quick answer in the bottom of the seventh. Anfernee Seymour was safe on an error, moved to second on a passed ball and to third on Kyle Barrett’s single. Josh Naylor’s single scored Seymour to tie the game and Silviano’s double scored Barrett to push the Hoppers ahead. Aaron Blanton’s sacrifice fly scored Naylor with an insurance run to make it 6-4.

That came in handy because closer C.J. Robinson was tagged for a solo homer in the ninth by Junior Arias, who had hit the grand slam earlier and wound up with all five Augusta RBIs. Robinson still earned his 19th save in 19 chances.

“I was focused on getting the go-ahead run in,” Silviano said of his key at-bat. “I was looking for a fastball and he gave me one.”

Silviano said he doesn’t go to the plate seeking extra-base hits.

“I’m trying to see the ball well and looking for a good pitch to drive,” he said. “Lately I’ve been seeing the ball really well.”

Randel likes what Silviano contributes as the catcher or designated hitter.

“He brings a good bat and has a good idea of what he wants to do at the plate,” Randel said. “He’s a little older (22) and gives us a veteran presence with our youngsters.”

Barrett continued swinging a hot bat with three hits, including a triple, and two RBIs. In his last five games, Barrett is 11-for-19 with six RBIs, pulling his average up to a team-best .303.

Brewster has pitched well since he moved into the rotation, but this was his best effort. In five of his six innings he retired the Greenjackets in order. His only bump came in the third inning, when he gave up a single and double to the first two batters. But he got the next two hitters on called third strikes and got the third out on a groundout to leave the runners stranded.

Augusta batters beat the ball into the ground all night. Brewster retired 14 hitters on groundouts and just one on a fly ball. He forced early contact and threw only 55 pitches in his six innings, retiring the Jackets on five pitches in his last inning of work.

“Since his conversion to a sinkerball pitcher he’s been steadily progressing and tonight he put it all together,” said pitching coach Brendan Sagara. “He took a great step forward.”

Silviano caught Brewster and said “I’ve never seen so many groundouts. He mixed his pitches well but that sinker was the key to his success. It breaks into a right-handed hitter and away from a left-hander. Either way, they swing over the ball and it goes into the ground.”

Unfortunately, Brewster didn’t get anything to show for it, other than the reports turned in by the Hoppers coaches. Hill, who allowed the grand slam that lost the lead, wound up as the winner when the Hoppers rallied to regain the lead in the seventh. Parker Bugg pitched a shutout eighth and Robinson closed out the win.

NOTES: The second game of the series is Sunday at 4 p.m. … Steven Farnworth will start for the Hoppers and Jake McCasland, who threw seven no-hit innings in his previous start, will pitch for Augusta … Isael Soto had two hits and an RBI for the Hoppers and Zach Sullivan scored twice.