Pintor, bullpen push Hoppers toward 1st
(from Bill Hass with Bill on Baseball at www.gsohoppers.com)
It’s a given that Luis Pintor is going to bring good defense every time he takes the field.
Saturday night he also added some crucial offense, knocking in three runs to help the Hoppers beat Delmarva 7–2.
The win was Greensboro’s 12th in its last 15 games and raised its record to 24–17. The Hoppers moved to within one game of first-place Hagerstown in the SAL’s Northern Division.
Pintor started the season as a utility infielder but took over as the full-time shortstop when Garvis Lara went on the disabled list on April 28. While his glove has been excellent, his hitting has been a struggle. Even with two hits Saturday, his average stood at .165.
“I come to the park with a positive attitude every day,” said Pintor, with teammate Eric Gutierrez translating. “I bring good defense all the time, no matter what. When I can help the team on offense, that’s a plus. My swing feels good. It’s on time and I’m starting to get pitches to hit.”
His first offensive contribution came in the bottom of the fifth when he came up with two outs and runners on second and third. He laced a double to left field to drive in two runs and push the lead to 5–1. In the bottom of the eighth, he lifted a sacrifice fly to center field for an additional insurance run.
“I was looking for a pitch that I could elevate,” Pintor said. “The count got to 3-and-2 and I was battling and I got the pitch I wanted up in the zone.”
On defense, Pintor twice started double plays that ended innings by fielding grounders up the middle, stepping on second base and relaying to first baseman Colby Lusignan.
Marlins roving instructor Gary Cathcart, filling in for manager Todd Pratt, said Pintor is working on his approach at the plate.
“His swing gets a little big and he doesn’t need to be that kind of player,” Cathcart said. “We tell hitters don’t try to be somebody you’re not.”
Pintor, who also scored twice, was the only Hopper with two hits. Aaron Knapp and Corey Bird each had an RBI double and James Nelson added an RBI single.
Braxton Garrett, the Marlins’ first draft pick in 2016, made his third start of the season. The smooth lefty allowed one unearned run in four innings, giving up four hits and two walks, but struggled through two long innings. He threw 65 pitches but was lifted because he showed signs of fatigue.
Garrett got a strikeout to get out of a messy second inning. In the fourth, three singles loaded the bases and an error by third baseman James Nelson let in one run. But Garret regrouped and got a double play to end the inning.
“He didn’t have his best stuff,” pitching coach Mark DiFelice said, “but he made pitches when he needed to. He didn’t panic and he stayed composed, and that’s usually something you see with pitchers in the upper levels.”
Ben Meyer, throwing fastballs that reached 94 mph, gave up one run in two innings, Michael Mertz pitched two scoreless innings and Marcus Crescentini was flawless in the ninth. In five innings of work, the three relievers combined for 11 strikeouts, five by Meyer and three each by Mertz and Crescentini.
Mertz won the battle of the game’s biggest at-bat in the top of the eighth inning. With runners on second and third and two outs, he faced Preston Palmeiro, who had homered off Meyer. A base hit there would have cut the lead to 6–4 and swung momentum to the Shorebirds. The count ran to 3-and-2 and Mertz threw a changeup that Palmeiro swung over and missed.
“Our relievers are attacking the strike zone,” DiFelice said, “and one thing that has impressed me is that they aren’t walking anyone. We had no walks tonight.”
Pratt, who attended his son’s high school graduation, returns to the team for Sunday’s 4 p.m. game as the Hoppers look for the sweep. Cathcart and another rover, Jorge Hernandez, will take to the road.
“I said to Jorge, ‘we better leave town before we mess anything up,’” Cathcart quipped.
NOTES: Michael King will start Sunday’s game for the Hoppers … Meyer picked up his second win of the season … Preston Palmeiro is the son of long-time major-leaguer Rafael Palmeiro … The Hoppers played a shift against the left-handed hitter, putting three infielders on the right side of the diamond.