Hitters still hot but pitchers take step back
from Bill Hass with Bill on Baseball(Greensboro Grasshoppers) at www.gsohoppers.com
Just as the offensively-challenged Hoppers have started to swing the bats well, the pitching staff has taken a step back.
Hagerstown pummeled Greensboro 11–4 Thursday night, taking two games out of three in the series. The Suns were struggling when they arrived, fielding a lineup with no one hitting above .219. Against the Hoppers they scored 27 runs and rapped out 41 hits, including eight home runs.
“We ran into a cold team that got hot,” manager Todd Pratt said.
Hagerstown made short work of the Hoppers in this one, scoring four runs in the first inning. They finished it off by adding five runs in the ninth. Nick Banks led the way with a homer and five RBIs.
“This looks like a completely different staff than the first month of the season,” said pitching coach Mark DiFelice. “Professional hitters are going to figure it out at any level and their whole team seemed to figure it out.
“Failure is essential to learning and we got taught a lesson. Now you seen how you rebound and respond.”
Starter Taylor Braley, after his rocky start, came back with four shutout innings before giving up a homer in the sixth. DiFelice said Braley didn’t pitch to the game plan in the first inning, but stuck to it after that. Pratt said Braley “gutted it up and showed his toughness.”
Offensively, the two newest Hoppers continued their hot starts and produced all the scoring Thursday. Thomas Jones hit solo homers his first two times up, giving him three in his two games. Jones is now 4-for-8 with three homers, a double and five RBIs.
And Lazaro Alonso continued on his tear. The left-handed hitter struck out his first two trips against Hagerstown lefty Jackson Stoeckinger, got an infield hit in his third at-bat off right-hnder Kyle Johnson, then tagged Johnson for a two-run homer to the opposite field in his final trip.
This was the first game in which Alonso didn’t have three hits. But through five games he’s now 14-for-23 for a gaudy .609 average (it dropped from .632) with three homers and eight RBIs.
Overall, the Hoppers had 20 runs on 33 hits with nine homers against the Suns.
The Hoppers, now 14–11, open a four-game series with Greenville Friday night. Edward Cabrera will start and try to get the pitchers back on track.
The Drive will limp in with the SAL’s worst record at 5–22, but if the Hoppers learned anything from the Hagerstown series, it’s that records don’t matter.
“We can’t take them lightly,” Pratt said. “Hagerstown was struggling when they came in, too.”