Hernandez homer ends deja vu feeling
from Bill Hass with Bill on Baseball(Greensboro Grasshoppers) at www.gsohoppers.com
Deja vu made showed up in the sixth inning at First National Bank Field Wednesday, but Michael Hernandez made sure it didn’t stay through the ninth.
Hernandez cracked a two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth to lift the Hoppers to a 10–8 win over the Hagerstown Suns.
His first homer of the season carried just over the fence in left-center field, much to his surprise.
“I didn’t think it was going out,” Hernandez said. “It was a curve ball that I saw up in the zone. I was just looking for a good at-bat to move the runner (Thomas Jones). I didn’t want to leave him at first base in the bottom of the ninth.”
Fly balls were carrying out of the park all afternoon. Hernandez’s homer was the seventh of the day and the fourth by the Hoppers.
“If it was 355 feet (to the fence), then he hit it 356,” said manager Todd Pratt with a chuckle.
The game followed the same pattern as the one Tuesday night. The Hoppers built a 6–0 lead through five innings, then saw Hagerstown rally with big innings in the sixth and eighth. Tuesday night that was enough to carry the Suns to an 8–6 win.
But the Hoppers’ offense, which died in final four innings Tuesday, responded much better this time. After the Suns cut the lead to 6–5, Greensboro scored twice in the seventh to push the lead back to three runs. Hagerstown rallied to tie it in the eighth, which set up the dramatic finish.
“This team does a good job of clearing its mind and moving on to the next game,” Hernandez said of the response to Tuesday’s tough loss.
For the second straight game, the Hoppers put up some good offensive numbers. Hernandez was joined in the home run column by Thomas Jones, Johnny Santos and Lazaro Alonso. The ?6 hitter, Jones, had three RBIs and the ?7 hitter, Hernandez, had four.
“You get seven RBIs from your sixth and seventh hitters, you should win,” Pratt said.
Jones, in his first game as a Hopper, made an impressive debut. He tagged a three-run homer his first time up and doubled his next time. He also reached base on an outfield error and led off the 10th being hit by a pitch. He scored both those times to give him four runs for the day.
“It was awesome just to play in front of fans in a game that means something,” said Jones, who had been in extended spring training. “Down there, you get up in the mornings and play games with no fans. You just have to keep an open mind and concentrate on making yourself a better player.”
In his first at-bat, in the second inning, Jones came up with runners on first and second and no one out.
“I was looking to put something on the ground and move the runners,” he said, “and I just happened to hit it over the wall. It was a big day but it won’t happen every day, so I want to try and be consistent.”
Jones, who is 20, played center field and will join Jhonny Santos and Zach Sullivan in rotating between there and left field. Isael Soto is the right fielder.
“He had a tremendous first game here,” Pratt said of Jones. “He’s an impressive athlete and he’ll play.”
The other newcomer, Alonso, continued his early success. He has three hits in each of the four games he’s played. He is now 12-for-19 for a robust batting average of .632, an impossible pace to maintain much longer.
“It’s a tremendous start and we’ll ride the horse while he’s hot,” Pratt said.
The teams wrap up the series Thursday night. Taylor Braley (1–2) draws the start for the Hoppers.
NOTES: Hernandez said it was his first walk-off home run since he was in college at Nova Southeastern … Starter Ryan Lillie put up five shutout innings before faltering in the sixth, being charged with five runs (three earned) … Dustin Beggs, a stalwart in last season’s rotation, came out of the bullpen and pitched the final 3 2/3 innings to get the win … Beggs survived a rocky eighth when he surrendered three runs on a pair of homers … He recovered to retire the Suns in the ninth to set up the homer by Hernandez.