Lakewood pitching stifles Hoppers
from Bill Hass with Bill on Baseball(Greensboro Grasshoppers) at www.gsohoppers.com
Too much good pitching.
That’s what the Hoppers ran into Sunday afternoon, managing just five hits off three Lakewood pitchers in a 2–0 loss.
“We didn’t make our adjustments,” said coach Angel Espada, filling in for Todd Pratt for the second straight game. “You have to tip your hat to their pitching staff. It’s the best in the league, no doubt about that.”
The BlueClaws wound up taking two of the three games in the series, which felt more one-sided because of the way it ended?—?14 consecutive scoreless innings by Lakewood pitchers. Almost forgotten are the Hoppers’ 7–2 win Friday and the five runs they scored in the first four innings Saturday.
The Hoppers did manage some threats Sunday, getting four runners to third base. But none of them scored, continuing a drought that began with the first game and continued in the second. The Hoppers are desperately looking for someone to drive in a runner from third base.
“Sometimes it just takes one big hit and things get contagious,” Espada said.
The best threat was short-circuited by some poor baserunning. In the fourth inning, JC Millan walked and reached second on a wild pitch. Cameron Baranek sliced a double into the left field corner but Millan couldn’t take advantage of it and had to be held at third.
“He had a tough read and a late break,” Espada said. “I had to hold him.”
Marcos Rivera struck out and Isael Soto grounded out to end the threat.
Strikeouts continued to plague the Hoppers?—?they followed up Saturday’s 15 whiffs with 14 more Sunday. Every batter in the lineup except Jose Devers struck out at least once Sunday.
Even when the Hoppers hit a ball hard, Lakewood made the play. Micah Brown hit a line drive into the right-center field gap in seventh inning, only to see Kevin Markham take at least a double away with a diving, sliding catch on his stomach.
“That’s the way things were going today,” Espada said.
David Parkinson pitched the first five innings to pick up the win and run his record to 5–1. Zach Warren followed with 2 1/3 innings and Addison Russ closed it with his 12th save in 12 tries.
Lakewood improved its record to 36–26 and remained two games behind Kannapolis in the first-half race in the Northern Division.
Greensboro pitchers did well to keep the game close, stranding 13 Lakewood runners. The biggest thorn in their side was Jhailyn Ortiz, who reached first on Edward Cabrera’s throwing error in the first inning and scored on Jake Scheiner’s double. Ortiz accounted for the second run with a solo homer off Cabrera in the fifth.
Cabrera wasn’t at his best, giving up eight hits, walking two, committing two throwing errors and hitting a batter. But he kept the Hoppers in it.
“He pitched himself out of some jams,” said pitching coach Mark DiFelice. “I wanted him to attack the strike zone more with his fastball. He needs to be the aggressor.”
Lazaro Alonso and Samuel Castro, both injured in Saturday’s game, sat out Sunday’s contest. Espada said Alonso has a strained oblique muscle and is “day to day.” He said the team is awaiting results of a scan that will determine if Castro has fractured finger on his right hand.
Pratt will return to the Hoppers’ helm Monday. He spent the past two days at a reunion of the Philadelphia Phillies’ 1993 team.
The Hoppers will play six games in four days against Hickory, starting with Monday’s contest at 7 o’clock. Doubleheaders will follow Tuesday evening and Wednesday afternoon and the series winds up with a single game Thursday.
NOTES: Gabriel Castellanos, who hasn’t pitched since he was with the Hoppers in 2016, will be added to the roster and pitch out of the bullpen … Trevor Rogers, the 20-year-old first draft pick from last season, will skip his next turn in the rotation.