Hoppers hit well but come up short
from Bill Hass with Bill on Baseball(Greensboro Grasshoppers) at www.gsohoppers.com
Five runs on 12 hits will win a lot of baseball games.
Just not Saturday night.
The Hoppers played from behind early on and never could catch Lakewood, absorbing a 6–5 loss.
It was an odd game from the standpoint that all 11 runs were scored in the first four innings, when it appeared both teams might be on their way to double digits. But both pitching staffs clamped down and no runs were scored over the final five innings.
The game could wind up being very costly for the Hoppers. First baseman Lazaro Alonso and second baseman Samuel Castro both left the game early with injuries. Alonso injured a rib cage muscle and Castro took a pitch off his thumb on a bunt attempt. Both were out of the game by the third inning.
Coach Angel Espada, filling in as manager while Todd Pratt is away, said both were being examined after the game and their status would be more clear Sunday.
The injuries caused considerable lineup shuffling. After Alonso left, Micah Brown moved from right field to first base and Isael Soto came off the bench to play right. When Castro left, Brown shifted to second base (his third position of the game), catcher Will Allen moved to first and Michael Hernandez came in to catch.
The BlueClaws jumped on Hoppers starter Brandon Miller for six runs in the first three innings, including a pair of home runs. After that, Miller settled down and pitched four scoreless innings.
There was a 20-minute rain delay before the game began and pitching coach Mark DiFelice said that seemed to bother Miller.
“He’s very routine-oriented and the delay threw him off,” DiFelice said. “He came out flat and didn’t find his rhythm until the fourth inning. He’s got to learn to fight through that when things don’t go like they normally should.
“He still was able to give us seven innings. He changed speeds well and got his fastball down after elevating it in the early innings.”
The Hoppers were able to get single runs in the first and second innings and jumped on reliever Connor Brogdon for three runs in the fourth inning to slice the deficit to 6–5. But Brogdon and Kyle Doty shut things down after that, striking out eight batters over the final five innings. All told, the Hoppers whiffed 15 times.
“You’ve got young hitters learning the ropes and sometimes they get over-aggressive and try to do too much,” Espada said. “Lakewood leads the league in pitching. You can’t expand the strike zone against a team like that. They will exploit your weaknesses.”
The Hoppers had some nice offensive numbers to show for the night. Thomas Jones homered, singled in another run and scored twice. Jose Devers had three hits, including a two-run double. Jhonny Santos had three more hits. Allen belted a solo homer and a double and scored twice.
But in the end, it wasn’t quite enough.
The teams wrap up the series Sunday with a game at 2 o’clock. Edward Cabrera will start for the Hoppers.
NOTES: Saturday was the first time Alonso qualified for the SAL batting lead and he took a .358 average, tops in the league, into the game … Devers is 6-for-8 with four RBIs in the series … Marcus Rivera struck out three times, giving him seven strikeouts in two games … Colton Hock and Bryce Howe pitched a scoreless inning apiece.