GREENSBORO—The Greensboro Grasshoppers returned home Wednesday after dropping two of three games during a weekend excursion to Lexington, Kentucky.
The Hoppers were greeted at home by their Interstate-85 rival Kannapolis Intimidators. Both clubs are mid-table in the Sally League North, a few back of the top-shelf Delmarva Shorebirds.
Wednesday: Kannapolis 2, Greensboro 6
Another strong outing from Edward Cabrera and some offense from both ends of the batting order buoyed the Hoppers as they took the first game of the series.
Cabrera set up shop in the mid-nineties and was once again adept at using his breaking ball to put hitters away, racking up seven strikeouts over five frames. The Grasshoppers’ big hurler surrendered a two-run shot to Tate Blackman in the first and a pair of hits to open the second inning, before slamming the door shut and letting Greensboro’s bats to get to work.
The Hoppers tied the ballgame in the third, eighth-place hitter Michael Hernandez doubling and scoring on a single by José Devers, who came around himself on a two-out knock by Isael Soto.
Greensboro took the lead in the fourth inning on an error by third baseman Johan Cruz and knocked out Intimidators starter Zach Lewis with one down in the fifth. The home team padded their lead with two off Kevin Escorcia in the sixth, Soto parlaying singles by nine-hole hitter Garvis Lara and leadoff man Thomas Jones into runs with another two-out sencillo. One more came in the seventh off Andrew Perez on another Jones single. Ryan McKay, Gabriel Castellanos, and Jeremy Ovalle combined for four scoreless out of the pen.
Thursday: Kannapolis 2, Greensboro 1
Greensboro’s lefthanded starter Trevor Rogers was solid on Thursday, but it wasn’t enough to get over with another southpaw, Drew Harrington, spinning a gem for the visitors.
Rogers K’d six over four frames, at times painting the corner with mid-nineties heat and getting his breaking ball over and at other times struggling to put hitters away with two-strike counts.
His one allowance came in his final inning of work, a two-out walk coming back to bite when Tyler Frost and Carlos Pérez singled. The leadoff walk struck Michael Mertz in the ninth after three shutout innings from Nestor Bautista, singles by Michael Hickman and Anthony Villa bringing in a necessary insurance run.
Pitching for the Intimidators, Harrington’s fastball sat in the high-eighties, but he used his breaker to great effect, especially coming inside on right-handers. Harrington, the former Braves draft pick, struck out seven over seven innings, allowing just four hits and walking two.
Will Kincanon tossed a shutout eighth but became troubled in the ninth, giving up a homer to Will Allen and putting two on before José Nin was summoned to earn a two-out save.
Friday: Kannapolis 4, Greensboro 5
The Grasshoppers got down early and looked anemic for the first seven innings, shut down over six by Jhoan Quijada as Scott Sebald allowed the visitors to score three times over his five innings. Unexpectedly, the offense burst to life with an eighth-inning rally and forced extras, wherein the wackiness of the new rules took hold.
Kannapolis scored in the second with a two-out walk, a wild pitch, and an RBI single by Justin Yurchak. Two more were plated in the fourth on a single by Michael Hickman, an RBI double by Johan Cruz, another single from Yurchak and a sac fly by Evan Skoug. Sean Guenther held the Intimidators in check until the tenth, eventually earning the win.
After scoring just one off Quijada on fifth-inning singles by Harrison DiNicola and Rodrigo Ayarza, the Greensboro bats got to Joe Mockbee in the eighth, Thomas Jones leading off with a bloop to left and moving up on a José Devers liner sent careening off the third baseman’s glove. Tristan Pompey launched a double to straightaway center to bring the Hoppers within one, a sac fly by Will Allen knotting it up. Aron McRee put out the fire and, like Guenther, was not touched until the tenth.
When teams are spotted a runner in scoring position to begin an inning, the sacrifice bunt is suddenly back in vogue. Kannapolis pushed their runner to third and scored him on a Luis Curbelo single, but things got complicated in the bottom half. Thomas Jones laid down his bunt, picked ‘em up and put ‘em down to first and the catcher Hickman airmailed the throw. The tying run scored and Jones advanced to second, eventually taking third on a sac by Devers. Allen’s chopper to second handcuffed a drawn-in infield and the rest, as they say, is history.
The Hoppers ran roughshod on the bases Wednesday night, stealing six bases off Kannapolis catcher Evan Skoug. José Devers, Isael Soto, Garvis Lara and Tristan Pompey each stole a base, and Ricardo Céspedes snagged two. Greensboro is an athletic team that takes an aggressive approach under manager Todd Pratt, with Devers, Lara, Thomas Jones, Micah Brown, and recently promoted Jhonny Santos all close to or exceeding ten bags on the season.