Bill Hass on Baseball:Hoppers prepare for stretch drive

Hoppers prepare for stretch drive
from Bill Hass with Bill on Baseball at

While the number of games hasn’t dwindled to a precious few quite yet, time is growing shorter for the Hoppers.

They open a crucial three-game series with Hagerstown at First National Bank Field Tuesday night. The Hoppers (30–25) trail the first-place Suns (33–23) by 2 1/2 games in the SAL Northern Division. Lakewood (32–25) is sandwiched between the two in second place, 1 1/2 games behind Hagerstown and one game ahead of the Hoppers. The Northern and Southern division first-half winners qualify for the playoffs.

Thirteen games remain in the first-half schedule and the Hoppers have nine of them at home. This is the only shot they have at the Suns, providing a chance to gain ground without help from anyone else.

At the least, the Hoppers need to win two of three, which would pull them within 1 1/2 games. A sweep would put them one-half game ahead of Hagerstown. Losing two of three would put Greensboro 3 1/2 games back with just 10 to play. And being swept would put them 5 1/2 down and virtually out of the running.

Following this series, the Hoppers play four games at West Virginia, then return home for three against Hickory and three more against Delmarva.

The Hoppers have had two days off?—?one scheduled by the SAL and one when Sunday’s game at Kannapolis was rained out. That’s a lost game, since it can’t be made up in the first half.

L.J. Brewster, who was scheduled to start Sunday, should be Tuesday’s starter, followed by Michael King on Wednesday. Thursday’s starter is to be determined, with Jordan Holloway on the disabled list and not eligible to come off until June 10. Braxton Garrett (sore elbow) is not on the roster at the moment and is being checked at the Marlins’ minor-league facility in Jupiter.

Three Greensboro hitters are hot heading into the series, especially James Nelson. The third baseman has hit in 20 straight games, 30 of his last 31 and 34 of the 39 games in which he has played. He’s hitting .385 in his last 10 games, with 11 RBIs. Nelson’s .353 average is second in the league, behind Colton Welker of Asheville at .357.

First baseman Colby Lusignan has shaken off a slump that had reached eight straight hitless games. In his last eight games, Lusignan is 10-for 31 (.323) and raised his average from .231 to .246.

Shortstop Luis Pintor, who has spent most of the season well under .200, is hitting .323 in his last 10 games. Pintor has two hits in each of his last three games and is up to .205.

NOTES: The Hoppers added pitcher Kolton Mahoney to the roster … The Marlins signed him three days after he was released by the Yankees … New York drafted him in the 16th round out of Brigham Young in 2015 … The 25-year-old has appeared in 36 career games (18 starts) with a record of 8–8 and a 2.45 ERA … This season Mahoney appeared strictly in relief with the Charleston RiverDogs with a 1–2 record, a 1.85 ERA and one save in four chances.