Bill Hass on Baseball:Hoppers too flat against Kannapolis

Hoppers too flat against Kannapolis
from Bill Hass with Bill on Baseball(Greensboro Grasshoppers) at

It was a flat Sunday afternoon for the Hoppers.

The offense managed only five hits. Starting pitcher Ryan Lillie never settled into a groove. And the Hoppers were tagged with a 4–2 loss by the Kannapolis Intimidators.

It was Lillie’s first loss since May 7 and the most earned runs he has given up in a game this season. He’s now 6–2.

“He looked flat from start to finish,” said pitching coach Mark DiFelice. “He couldn’t get his fastball down. He may have been fatigued.”

Lillie pitched in Tuesday’s All-Star game in Greensboro just three days after winning a game at Kannapolis. DiFelice said that likely took a toll on his body. Against Kannapolis he gave up three doubles and two solo home runs that accounted for single runs in the second, third, fourth and fifth innings.

The score might have been worse if Lillie and relievers Michael Mertz and Nestor Bautista hadn’t limited the damage. Kannapolis got 13 hits but stranded 10 runners and never parlayed all that into a big inning.

But what they did was enough. Zach Lewis pitched five innings and held the Hoppers to one run and three hits. Reliever Jake Elliott, who was on the All-Star team, slammed the door by retiring all nine batters he faced.

“He had a (split-fingered) changeup that we never figured out,” manager Todd Pratt said of Elliott.

Greensboro’s lone RBI came on a double by newcomer Ricardo Cespedes in his first Hoppers game. The Marlins obtained him in a trade with the Mets last year that sent A.J. Ramos to New York.

The Hoppers made things interesting in the ninth against William Kincanon. He gave up singles to Thomas Jones and Jose Devers, got Micah Brown to fly out, walked Lazaro Alonso to load the bases and threw a wild pitch to score Jones. That cut the lead to 4–2 with one out and two runners in scoring position.

But Kincanon regrouped and retired Marcos Rivera on a strikeout and Isael Soto on a groundout to end the game.

“We were one hit away from tying the game,” Pratt said.

The teams play the second game of the series Monday at 7 p.m.. Dustin Beggs will be the Hoppers’ starting pitcher.

NOTES: Left fielder Jhonny Santos left the game after hitting the wall hard making a catch in the fourth inning … He was replaced by Brown, playing his sixth position of the season … Starting pitcher Taylor Braley was placed on the Disabled List with a shoulder injury that will likely keep him out 4–6 weeks … Left-hander Scott Siebald, a recent addition, will get a turn in the rotation, probably on Wednesday … Other roster newcomers are left-handed pitchers Chris Reed and Gabriel Castellanos and infielder Rodrigo Ayarza … Outfielder Cameron Baranek was promoted to Jupiter, infielder JC Millan moved to Double-A Jacksonville and pitchers Bryce Howe and Manny Rodriguez were sent to Batavia … Rodriguez will convert from a reliever to a starter.