Results tagged ‘ jacob realmuto ’
Oh my goodness, the time slipped away from my completely before I was able to write a good review of Friday’s Greensboro Grasshoppers game against the Hickory Crawdads. Short version: the Hoppers won, giving them the Division Title and moving them to the League Championship series against the Savannah Sand Gnats. That series begins tonight in Greensboro. Game two will be played in Greensboro tomorrow night. Games three, and if necessary, four and five, will be played in Savannah.
The game Friday really was a very enjoyable game to watch, especially since the Hoppers established the lead early and didn’t give it up. Check out Bill on Baseball: Hoppers reaching for the ring for some great quotes from JT Realmuto and Kyle Winters about the Division win and the upcoming Championship series.
And let me leave you with a few pictures from Friday’s game. This first one is of a fan named Beth holding what was the most popular sign for all the Hoppers fans — and team members — at the game:
Here’s Marcell Ozuna swinging. He ended up going 0-5.
Here’s a view of the Hoppers players watching the action on the field while Hickory was pitching.
Here’s the end of the game celebration, as the Hoppers bench empties and they all run on the field to congratulate each other on the win.
Finally, here’s how I had the game scored.
Remember, you can click on any of the pictures in the post to embiggen them. Check out the photo album on Facebook for all the pictures. Join the conversation by leaving a comment — what are you thinking?
The Hoppers were victorious, 9-6. But it took them 10 innings to claim victory, creating a lot of stress and tension among the sizable group of Hoppers fans who were in attendance. You’re free to check out the official box score, game recap, or game story (Kannapolis version or Greensboro version), but none of that conveys the level of tension that was in the ballpark in the eighth inning. Take a look at my scorecard (pictured at the end of this post) to get an idea of what I’m talking about.
The day started out well enough. I was keeping an eye on the weather map to decide if I should make the trip down or not. Reports from Kannapolis indicated it was warm and sunny, so at about 10:30, I jumped in the truck and headed down the road. It was a nice drive, the roads were clear, and the sun was out. I got to the ballpark and immediately saw a couple of my friends from Greensboro. We got inside the park and ran into more people that we knew. It wasn’t long before most of the Hoppers fans found each other and settled into our seats, mostly around the visitor’s dugout.
The game started, and the Hoppers scored two runs in the first inning. Noah Perio had reached on a single and was subsequently driven in when Christian Yelich hit a home run. The Intimidators went three up, three down in the first. In the second, the Hoppers scored two more runs. Wilfredo Giminez doubled and was subsequently driven in when Isaac Galloway doubled. Galloway was driven in when Ryan Fisher doubled. It was like we were having a doubling party, but the Intimidators broke it up by joining with a double play, closing out the half-inning. In the bottom of the second, the Intimidators scored one run. In the top of the third, Marcell Ozuna scored a solo homer. His was the only run on either side in the third. In the fourth, both the Hoppers and the Intimidators went three up, three down. In the In the fifth, the Hoppers were scoreless but the Intimidators scored another run. In the sixth, Danny Black scored for the Hoppers, having reached base on a walk and scoring from first on a double by Wilfredo Giminez. There were no other scoring plays until the bottom of the eighth.
And that’s when the Hoppers fans started getting nervous.
Before talking about the eighth, let’s look at a picture of Christian Yelich coming home after his home run in the first. That’ll put us in a good mood for the nervousness that’s about to ensue.
Going into the bottom of the eighth, the Hoppers had the lead, with the score 6-2. Robert Morey had pitched very well, and after seven innings of work, was relieved by Grant Dayton. Dayton faced five batters. The first flew out to right. The second reached on a double. The third walked. The fourth walked. With the bases loaded, Dayton walked the fifth batter he faced, and a run scored. With the bases still loaded, Dayton was replaced by Chris Shafer. This is aways a tough spot for a pitcher: to inherit a situation where the bases are loaded. Shafer struck out the first batter he faced, but the second batter he faced singled and two more runs scored. Shafer was replaced by Michael Brady, who struck out the only batter he faced in the eighth.
Three pitchers. Three runs. The comfortable lead the Hoppers had maintained throughout the entire game was eliminated. They still maintained a lead, but it was only one run, with the score 6-5.
And now it was raining. It kept raining ’til the end of the game and my entire drive back to Greensboro.
In the ninth, the Hoppers went three up, three down. One run behind, all the Hoppers fans were tense. The Intimidators were about to send the heart of their lineup to the plate. The first batter struck out. *wshew* The second batter grounded out. *wshew* One out was all that was between the Hoppers and a playoff spot. The next batter reached on a single. That’s OK. The next batter reached on a double good enough to push the baserunner in. Great, now the game is tied with the winning run in scoring position. Fortunately, the next batter flew out to center field. Inning over, but now it’s a tie ballgame.
In the tenth, the Hoppers do what they’ve done time and time again the past several weeks whenever they find themselves in a tough spot. They dug in, and they delivered. Ryan Fisher grounded out. Noah Perio doubled. Marcell Ozuna singled and advanced to second on the throw while Perio scored. The Intimidators intentionally walked Christian Yelich. I guess his home run in the first inning scared them. Mark Canha flied out to center. JT Realmuto doubled, driving in both Ozuna and Yelich. Finally, Danny Black grounded out. Three big runs for the Hoppers, when they really needed it. In the bottom of the tenth, Jordan Conley replaced Brady. The first batter he faced singled, but the next three struck out.
The game was over.
The Hoppers won.
The Hoppers won!
The Hoppers made it to the playoffs! With this win and Hickory‘s loss today, the Hoppers were tied with Hickory for the second half title. But since Hickory was already in the playoffs, the tiebreaker went to Greensboro. It was a great win, and the Hoppers did it all by themselves. They didn’t end up needing some other team to win or lose in order for them to make it in, they controlled their own destiny right to the end. This has especially been an amazing second half of the season — they’ve won 21 of their last 28 games, 11 of their last 12. This is the first time Greensboro has been to the playoffs since 1999.
The playoff game in Greensboro is Wednesday. Then, in Hickory on Friday. If necessary, a third game will be played in Hickory on Saturday. I’m planning on going to every game in the series. Initially, there was some confusion about when the first game would be played, but Bill on Baseball cleared it all up: Home playoff game Wednesday.
It’s definitely an exciting time to be a Hoppers fan!
Here’s how I had today’s game. You can just see the tension in the bottom of the eighth.
Remember, you can click on any of the pictures in the post to embiggen them. Check out the photo album on Facebook for all the pictures. Join the conversation by leaving a comment — what are you thinking?
Today’s Greensboro Grasshoppers game against the Kannapolis Intimidators resulted in a Hoppers win (5-3), largely due to home runs by Mark Canha and Isaac Galloway. This also puts the Hoppers just a little closer to a playoff spot, or keeps them just a little farther out of being eliminated, depending on how you want to look at it. Since Hickory lost to Greenville tonight, that final playoff spot is still up for grabs between Greensboro and Kannapolis. The good news is that there are more scenarios that have Greensboro capturing the spot than there are having Kannapolis capturing it. The bad news is that it’s by no means a given that the Hoppers will take it.
Let’s see if I can boil down the scenarios correctly. Hickory is going to the playoffs since they won the first half of the season. They are also currently leading the second half of the season (by a measly half game over Kannapolis), so if they end up winning the second half, Greensboro will progress due to winning the wildcard race. Hickory needs to win tomorrow in order to win the 2nd half. If Hickory does not win tomorrow, either Greensboro or Kannapolis will win the second half, and that will be decided by whoever wins the Hoppers-Intimidators game tomorrow. Short version: Greensboro advances if either Greensboro or Hickory wins tomorrow night, Kannapolis advances if both Kannapolis wins and Hickory loses. Also, there’s a bunch of rain scheduled to start coming tomorrow. Who knows what that will do as far as games getting played, and what the baseball math will be as a result of that. I’m not even going to think about that (but I think if everything gets rained out, the Hoppers are going to the playoffs).
Obviously, the easiest way to keep from being confused is for Greensboro to go back to Kannapolis tomorrow, play a solid game, and secure a win. They can do that. They’ve already done that in three of the four games this series. It won’t be easy — Kannapolis is a great team, and I’m sure they’re going to take the field tomorrow determined to win. The good Lord willing and the creek don’t rise (literally), I’ll be down in Kannapolis again tomorrow to cheer the Hoppers on. If you can go down to help, you should — there has been a decent showing of Hoppers fans at all of the games so far, and I think the team appreciates the support.
So how did today’s game go down? For the most part, nicely. Starting for Greensboro was Alex Caldera. For Kannapolis, Matthew Heldenreich. Danny Black scored the first Hoppers run in the second inning, having reached base on a ground-rule double. He was subsequently batted in on a single by James Wooster. There were no more scoring plays on either side until the sixth inning, when the Hoppers put another two on the board. Mark Canha hit a two-run homer, driving in Marcell Ozuna, who had previously reached on a single. In the bottom of the sixth, Kannapolis left fielder Collin Kuhn scored after having reached on a double. Caldera was pitching a shutout to that point, and as soon as Kuhn scored, he was replaced by Brett Zawacki, who pitched the rest of the sixth and the complete seventh. In the top of the seventh, Isaac Galloway hit a two-run homer, bringing JT Realmuto in with him, who had reached on a single. After Galloway’s homer, Jake Wilson replaced Heldenreich on the mound and pitched the rest of the game for Kannapolis. In the bottom of the seventh, Kannapolis responded with two runs of their own: Ross Wilson and Marcus Semien. Grant Dayton replaced Zawacki for the Hoppers in the eighth and ninth, but no other runs were scored by either team.
Here’s a picture of JT Realmuto congratulating Isaac Galloway after Galloway’s homer:
Here’s a shot of Marcell Ozuna about to hit into a fly out to left. If you look close (you might need to click on the picture to see the big version), you can see the ball whizzing towards Ozuna. It’s right at Andy’s chest.
Without the telephoto lens I borrowed yesterday, it was harder to get good pictures of the pitching, but here’s a picture of Alex Caldera throwing it to the plate:
It was an exciting, enjoyable ballgame. Even more so with the right team ending up victorious.
Visiting Kannapolis for Hoppers games is a real treat. As I already mentioned, there were a good deal of familiar faces with other Hoppers fans who came to support the team. The ballpark is generally more quiet than the Greensboro park, and almost everyone at the game seemed to be into the game. The Kannapolis staff is very friendly, even knowing that I’m pulling for their opponents. Today was even more of a treat because Kannapolis is celebrating “Fan Appreciation Weekend,” and as part of that celebration, most of the team was out signing autographs before the game. As a result, I got eleven autographs in the Kannapolis team set:
In addition to all the Intimidators autographs, I found Kyle Winters (thanks for pointing him out to me, Pete!) and got him to autograph a couple of 8.5×11 printouts of photos I took from yesterday’s game, where he got the win. I tried not to bother him too much on his “day off” in the stands, but I told him he looked great out there and he said he felt great, too. I’m psyched to add these photos to the small baseball museum I am establishing in an empty cube at my office. I’m definitely looking forward to watching Kyle’s career once he leaves the Hoppers.
Two things made scoring the game easier at Kannapolis than it is at Greensboro: 1) after every inning, the announcer recaps the runs/hits/errors/lob stats for the inning, and 2) between innings, there is still a scoreboard with the game statistics visible. Here’s how I had the game:
It’s an exciting time to be a Hoppers fan. I think this is the closest we’ve come to a playoff spot since we’ve been in the new stadium. Tomorrow’s going to be a tense day, watching the Hoppers play hard against Kannapolis and watching the scoreboard for the Hickory game. I just hope that when the sun goes down, the Hoppers are going to the playoffs.
Remember, you can click on any of the pictures in the post to embiggen them. Check out the photo album on Facebook for all the pictures. Join the conversation by leaving a comment — what are you thinking?
Tonight’s Greensboro Grasshoppers game against the Delmarva Shorebirds was another shutout, and the Hoppers leave the field with the score 8-0. It was a short game, about two and a half hours, and the Hoppers established command early on and didn’t let it up. Half of our runs came in the seventh inning, where Delmarva pitcher Tim Adleman just kept giving up hits and runs. No complaints here. J T Realmuto hit another homer on Natty’s Hill in the second inning. The Hoppers played good ball tonight, got done what they needed to get done, and kept their wits about them. As always, check out the official box score and game recap for all the details.
Again, I didn’t take many pictures tonight (It was raining for part of the game, and I didn’t want to mess with the camera), but here’s a shot of Realmuto making it home after blasting the ball onto Natty’s Hill.
Winning like this is what we need to keep doing to stay (get) in the race for a playoff spot. I was out of town for the weekend and missed the games, but Bill on Baseball has some excellent write-ups of how things went down. Be sure to check out his blog for details on how the Hoppers are doing what they need to do get to the post-season.
Tonight’s win really helps the Hoppers, especially considering how some of the other games in the league are shaking out tonight. I listened to Andy Durham explain it all on the radio on the way home, and I think I’ve got a good grip on it. Hickory won both of the games against Lakewood in their double-header today and Kannapolis lost to Rome. This moves Hickory into first place in the league, with Kannapolis only a half game behind them. Hoppers are in 3rd place, three and a half games behind Hickory. It’s still mathematically possible for the Hoppers to win the 2nd half outright, but the easier route to the playoffs is going to be with Hickory winning the 2nd half. Since Hickory won the 1st half, if they win the 2nd half, the other playoff spot goes to the team with the best overall record,, where the hoppers have a chance of coming out on top.
While it’s fun to think of the possibilities, all this depends on the Hoppers doing their part and winning games. They’re on fire right now, with a great winning streak. The best thing they can do is keep it going. The other teams are going to do what the other teams do, and we’ll just have to see what happens. Any way it rolls out, it looks like the final five-game series in Kannapolis is going to play a big part in whether or not there will post-season play for the Hoppers. I’ve actually got tickets for the whole series in Kannapolis, and am going to try to go to all the games down there.
Tomorrow’s the last regular home game of the year. I’m especially looking forward to it because I won a drawing at the ballpark this year where the prize was a party at the ballpark party deck, including dinner, for 40 people! If you’re at the game tomorrow, we’ll be hooting and hollering from the third base side, upstairs, under the “Miller Lite” signs. Big thanks to Sheetz for sponsoring the drawing, at to everyone at the ballpark (I’m especially looking at you, Todd) who is working to make it a special night for my friends and me.
A note to anyone who might be visiting from MLBlogs: welcome! Today, my other baseball blog — Baseball Haiku — was one of the featured blogs on MLBlogs. In addition to pointing out the baseball haiku I write every day, they mentioned the Hoppers Fan blog. Here’s a screenshot:
How cool is that? It’s truly a humbling experience to see my mug up there on the official page for all the MLBlogs, in the company of the other great blogs featured. I would never have imagined seeing my picture next to a picture of John Thorn, MLB’s official historian, for example. It was especially nice of MLBlogs to mention the Hoppers Fan blog while they were featuring the Baseball Haiku blog. Thanks!
Join the conversation by leaving a comment — what are you thinking?
The Greensboro Grasshoppers are back in town for a 9 day homestand: four games against the West Virginia Power and five games against the Delmarva Shorebirds. We pretty much need to sweep the entire homestand in order to set ourselves up for a playoff spot. We got off on the right foot tonight with a 4-3 win, that went all the way to the bottom of the ninth.
Starting for the Hoppers tonight was Kyle Winters, who pitched five innings, and was set up for the win with the Hoppers leading 2-1 at the bottom of the fifth, when he was relieved by James Leverton. Kyle ended up with no decision however, as the score became tied 3-3 in the top of the ninth. Leverton was replaced by Michael Brady, who came away with the win when he Hoppers scored in the bottom of the ninth on a big error by West Virginia.
Here’s how the bottom of the ninth went down. Batting out of the seven-hole, Danny Black singled on a nice hit to right field. J. T. Realmuto followed with a nice sacrifice bunt that pushed Danny to second. Isaac Galloway singled on a ground ball to first base, but the first baseman made a fielding error that allowed Danny to score from 2nd base. And that was the game. The Hoppers had pretty good command of the game, but when West Virginia scored those two runs to tie it in the ninth, it was starting to get tense. When the Hoppers got the win, everyone mobbed the field in celebration.
These are the results we need if we want a shot at post-season play.
Want to see Kyle Winters pitching? I thought so:
How about James Leverton? I thought so, too:
How about Player Of The Game Danny Black hitting a single? Yeah, I’ve got that for you:
Lots more pictures on the Facebook photo album. I actually managed to get some action shots of every Hoppers batting this time. So if you want to see any of them, be sure to check out the full album.
Before the game, Greg Nappo was signing autographs at the autograph table. I got his autograph on one of my baseballs:
And here’s how I had the game, without bothering to do the stats. Look how tense that ninth inning was:
That’s it for me. Tomorrow’s another day, another game. Let’s keep winning.
The Greensboro Grasshoppers beat the Augusta GreenJackets by such a wide margin (13-2) tonight that it’s almost embarrassing to talk about. Except for Danny Black, every Hoppers starting position player scored at least one run. Kyle Winters appeared to have an off night for his latest start after recently coming off the DL (he pitched three and two-thirds innings and didn’t get the win), but James Leverton’s relief pitching was good enough to easily carry throughout the rest of the game. Combined with both poor pitching and poor offense from the GreenJackets, the Hoppers came away from this game with an easy win. Check out the official box score and game recap for the details. There’s also a nice story from the GreenJackets perspective of the game: GreenJackets Held to Five Hits in 13-2 Setback. As of my writing this, Bill Hass hasn’t posted a story about tonight’s game on the Bill on Baseball blog, but I’ve got my fingers crossed that he’ll have some great insight from the players with their thoughts of how the game went down. Update: Bill’s blog entry about the game is up now: How to respond to a buzzing. He focuses on Perio’s two home runs, and includes thoughts from Perio about his performance.
I don’t have a whole lot in the way of pictures from this game, but here’s a shot of the latest GreenJackets pitcher to have the Hello Kitty backpack, Seth Rosin:
One of the autograph-seeking kids asked why he had a pink backpack and Seth’s response was it was because he gave up a homer (to Marcell Ozuna) in last night’s game. I wonder who will be wearing the backpack tomorrow. If they had enough backpacks, I’d make all four of tonight’s pitchers wear one.
Check out the Facebook photo album for the rest of the pictures I took tonight, including some pitching sequences of both Kyle Winters and James Leverton.
Offensively, the Hoppers looked great tonight. Like I mentioned earlier, everyone except Danny Black got to score: Noah Perio (x2), Marcell Ozuna, Christian Yelich (x2), Mark Canha (x2), Jacob Realmuto (x3), Wilfredo Giminez, Ryan Fisher, and Isaac Galloway. Four of those runs were homers — Noah Perio (x2), Mark Canha, and Jacob Realmuto. It was really impressive to watch Noah hit back-to-back homers in the third and fourth innings. I think they awarded him “Player Of The Game” for tonight based on his performance.
The Hoppers were aided in their win tonight by the fact that the GreenJackets just kind of fell apart. Going into the fourth inning, the game was tied 1-1. When Jacob Realmuto came to the plate as the second batter of the inning, the momentum dramatically shifted to the Hoppers’ favor. Realmuto reached base on an an error (charged to the first baseman) and ended up being the first of five runs scored that inning. I’m not even sure how many of those runs count as earned and how many count as unearned. But when that error occurred, I commented to a friend sitting next to me that it might turn out to be an extremely expensive error. I believe that it was. While the GreenJackets were able to score a second run in the sixth, they never really posed much of an offensive or defensive threat after committing that error. There were several times during the game when the Hoppers could have pressed for a greater advantage, but the unwritten rules of baseball kept them playing conservatively.
I’m glad to have the win in our column, but especially after the tense battle of yesterday’s game, it just doesn’t seem right to revel in tonight’s victory too much. We’ll see how tomorrow goes and if we can take the series or end up splitting it with the GreenJackets. This has been a really enjoyable series, and I’d love to see these two teams meet on the diamond again for the SAL championship title. Tonight’s win puts us four and a half games out of first — we gained a game since yesterday. So we’re inching our way up the ladder, staying in contention. If we keep this up, it’s going to go right down to the wire, and make for a very exciting end of the season.
Here’s how I had the game. Check out the impressive bottom of the fourth, and all the runs that were scored.
Tonight’s Greensboro Grasshoppers game against the Lakewood Blueclaws put the nails on the coffin of a clean four-game sweep. As always, check the official box score and game recap for the details. Don’t forget to check out Bill Hass’ “Bill On Baseball” blog, where he wrote a great piece about about tonight’s game, including a description of the at bat you’ll see pictures from later in this blog entry: Zawacki wins battle, Hoppers get the sweep.
It was a great day for a game. The overnight and morning rain cooled things down enough to make it comfortable. Season ticket holders were able to get into the park early today. They didn’t have any special programs for us again, but they let us go stand by the outfield wall and try to catch balls that left the park. The wind was blowing in, so most of the balls were staying in, but I managed to get one ball that made it over.
By the time the game started, I headed over to my adopted new seats by the visitor’s dugout to enjoy the game with my friend Jonathan. We especially had a great time heckling Jim Murphy, who is sporting an awesome mustache. Before the game today, announcer Jim Scott gave a nod to the mustache by introducing him as “Jim ‘Stache’ Murphy.” Jonathan even brought his fake mustache from home to help with the heckling:
Murphy’s been having a tough time in Greensboro. He hit a double yesterday, but that’s the only hit he had in the entire series. I think he ended up being one for fourteen for the series. The only time he made it on base today was via a walk. Remember earlier when I said that Bill Hass’ blog entry describes some pictures you’ll be seeing here? Well here they are — Jim Murphy’s final swing of the evening, striking out. It’s what Bill described as pitcher Greg Nappo’s crossroads:
When the game started, I was concerned that the Hoppers wouldn’t be able to keep their winning streak up. The first Lakewood batter reached base on a single and the second batter knocked him in on a two-run homer. Fortunately, those were the only runs Lakewood scored. Offensively, the Hoppers went to work chipping away at that lead. Marcell Ozuna scored on some very smart baseball in the first inning. He tripled, and when Christian Yelich was out on a dropped third strike, Ozuna was able to run home quicker then Cameron Rupp and Jim Murphy were able to complete a 2-3-2 volley. The fact that Ozuna even attempted to score on the dropped third strike took Lakewood by surprise. They weren’t particularly hustling to get the out recorded, and I’m not sure they even knew Ozuna was running until their dugout started yelling and pointing. It’s also a testament to the great instincts Ozuna has and the fine third base coaching manager Andy Haines provides. The Hoppers’ second run came in the third when Isaac Galloway scored on an Ozuna single, after having reached base on a single himself and advancing to second via either a wild pitch or passed ball. Galloway played the hero by brining in the final two Hoppers runs on a high-over-center-field homer that also drove in Ryan Fisher. Galloway was on fire tonight: 3 at bats, 3 hits (single, double, home run), 2 runs, and 2 RBIs.
As impressive as our offensive was, once again, the game came down to pitching. Of the 11 strikeouts recorded by Greensboro’s three pitchers (Greg Nappo (W, 4-0), Brett Zawacki (H, 1), and Michael Brady (S, 16)), a full 7 of them were called third strikes looking. Our pitchers simply displayed stuff that was difficult to hit and threw pitches that Lakewood didn’t want to swing at.
Here’s some pictures of tonight’s three pitchers: Nappo, Zawicki, and Brady.
I didn’t sketch out my scorecard in time for the game today, so I kept score in the program. Here’s how I had it:
With tonight’s win, the Hoppers pull themselves even with Lakewood in the 2nd half. We’re chipping away at that playoff spot. Tomorrow starts a four game series against the Augusta GreenJackets. They’re currently doing very well and could present a stumbling block for the Hoppers. But with the momentum the team has established, and the great pitching we’ve been seeing lately, the team’s got a good shot if they can keep doing what they’re doing. We’ll see how it goes.
Remember, you can click on any of the pictures in the post to embiggen them. I’ve been playing with a new camera, so some of them don’t embiggen well since I had bad settings on it. Check out the photo album on Facebook for all the pictures. Join the conversation by leaving a comment — what are you thinking?
Last night’s Greensboro Grasshoppers game against the Lakewood Blueclaws was another great success. Although the Blueclaws outhit the Hoppers 6-3, two of those Hoppers hits were solo homers, and the only runs of the game. Final score: 2-0 Hoppers. Check out the official box score and game recap for the official details. We’re still five and a half games out of first, but these wins against Lakewood have closed the gap some. That graphic to the right came from the official Hoppers website and shows exactly what the Hoppers need to overcome in order to get on top. A win against Lakewood tonight (if there’s a game, it’s currently raining pretty steadily) will bring us even with Lakewood, and one step closer to the top.
The day started out pretty slow. I got to BP about the same time my friend Jonathan did, and we noticed that the wind was blowing into the park. We figured that would keep most of the balls inside. A couple of minutes later, Kenyon and Josh joined us and the three of them headed across the street for a game of catch while I watched BP from the fence. Our theory about it being a slow day for BP balls turned out to be right, as only three left the park. We gave two away to a couple of kids who had come to watch through the fence, too, standing on their bikes in order to see over the outfield wall. They were very appreciative and seemed thrilled to be able to go home with a souvenir. Another reason it was a light day for BP balls is that the Blueclaws didn’t even take BP. The Hoppers started later than usual, and I guess there simply wasn’t enough time for Lakewood to have a turn. Or maybe that was the plan from the beginning. With BP over and a few minutes before the gates were going to be open, we all just kinda wandered around doing our own thing.
Shortly before the gates opened up, the sky opened up and it started raining. Hard. Most everyone took shelter under the concourse on Bellemeade street. When the gates opened, it was still raining, and the tarp was on the field:
There was plenty of room to stay dry inside the park and everyone seemed to know that the storm would pass quickly enough and we’d get a game on. In the mean time, pitcher Miguel Mejia was at the autograph table signing autographs. I got his signature on a ball:
Sure enough, the rain soon ended, the tarp was removed, and the field became playable. The game started after about an hour delay, and moved very quickly — total time was 2:11. For the Hoppers, Alex Caldera made the start (and got the win). He pitched 7 innings, gave up 5 hits, and issued 1 walk. He was replaced by Grant Dayton in the 8th, who pitched 2 innings, gave up 1 hit, didn’t issue any walks, and picked up the save. The word of the day for pitching was “strikeout,” as Caldera recorded 9 and Dayton recorded 3. They were about to run out of places in the K-Zone to hang the Ks. Offensively, the Hoppers didn’t look spectacular, but they certainly got the job done. The only Hoppers hits came from Marcell Oznua (who homered in the first), Danny Black (who singled in the fifth), and Jacob Realmuto (who homered in the seventh). If 2/3 of the hits are going to be homers, I’m not going to complain.
Bill Hass has written a great blog entry about Caldera’s start, describing the history of how Caldera came to be pitching for the Hoppers and including some quotes from both Caldera and manager Andy Haines about the seven-inning shutout performance. Be sure to check it out: Caldera makes most of fresh start.
It was a great game, and like I said in my last entry, it’s a great time to be a Hoppers fan.
I took more pictures, but neglected to dump them from the camera before my wife took the camera to a youth retreat this weekend. So the pictures I do have are from my phone. Oops. Poor planning on my part. I should have the rest of the pictures Monday.
Here’s how I had the game. With the threat of rain being what it was, I almost didn’t score it. But it turned out to be a great night for a ballgame and a great night to score it.
Tonight is the last of the season ticket holder Saturday events where they let us into the park an hour early. We’ll see how that works out with the steady rain we’ve been getting so far this morning. It’s still 9 hours until game time, so it can definitely get dry by then.
Tonight’s Greensboro Grasshoppers game against the Lakewood Blueclaws was the perfect example of what makes baseball exciting. The Hoppers struggled almost all night, falling behind from the very start, and unable to take the lead until the eighth inning. But when they took the lead, they took the lead. Going into the eighth, the Hoppers were behind 2-1. Then they scored 5 runs. The Blueclaws scored a solo home run in the ninth, but it wasn’t enough to overpower the successful rally and the Hoppers took the 2nd game in this series, 6-3. Check out the official box score and recap for the details.
The highlight of the night for me was winning the bidding on Kyle Winters‘ game-used tropical jersey!
Every year, they have “Tropical Jersey” night. The players wear special “tropical” jerseys and the team auctions them off throughout the game. This year, I had decided that I wanted to win Kyle’s jersey if I could. The bidding went right up to my limit, but in the end, I had the highest bid. I was thrilled! After the game, all the winners went on the field and the players came out and gave them the jerseys, literally off their back.
It was great to get to chat with Kyle a little more. I saw him before the game and told him I was bidding on his jersey and he wished me luck. At the end of the night, he seemed happy to see that I had won it and we had a great chat on the field.
Here’s a couple of pictures of him pitching tonight:
Since he’s newly off the DL, they only had him pitch four innings. The first inning was really rough — the first three batters reached base on singles, the first batter eventually making it home. Thankfully, the inning ended with a strikeout then a beautiful unassisted double play by Mark Canha. The first batter Kyle faced in the second inning hit the ball hard over the left field wall. I’m not sure if the ball has landed yet. After that, Kyle kept getting better. Of the remaining 11 batters he faced, he got one more strikeout, didn’t allow any more runs, only one more hit, and issued only one walk. Especially for a rehab start, I’d call it a success. I’m looking forward to seeing how his next several starts go.
The eighth inning was the exciting inning. Jay Johnson was pitching (and got changed with both a blown save and the loss) for the Blueclaws. All nine Hoppers batters got to bat. It started with Noah Perio, who singled. Marcell Ozuna struck out. Christian Yelich walked and Perio went to second. Mark Canha singled and made it to second on the throw as Perio scored and Yelich advanced to third. Wilfredo Giminez pinch hit for Aaron Dudley, singling and driving in both Yelich and Canha. Jacob Realmuto flied out. Danny Black singled and Giminez made it to third. While Ryan Fisher was at bat, Black stole second. Then, both Giminez and Black scored on a throwing error by Blueclaws catcher Cameron Rupp. It was a really funny play — Giminez had a bit of a lead off third and Rupp tried to pick him off. His throw was about three feet over the third baseman’s head and went into left field. Giminez jogged in, apparently not realizing that Black was flying behind him like a freight train. Giminez barely got out of the way for Black to touch home, just before the ball came in to try to tag him out. Fisher went on to single. The Blueclaws finally had enough of Johnson, and they replaced him with Tyler Knigge, who struck out Isaac Galloway to end the inning. The turn around was spectacular. The fans were on their feet. There was energy in the ballpark again. The top of the ninth was quick, the only excitement coming from a great home run from Bill Rice. It wasn’t enough, though, and the game ended with the Hoppers on top, 6-3. Five of those six runs came in the eighth inning. That’s how baseball works, it turns around quickly.
It was a good day for ball snagging and autographs, too. I made it out to the park early again and had a very successful day snagging balls during batting practice, ending up with an even ten. I gave a few away throughout the night. During a bit of a break in BP, I played catch with fellow snaggers Josh and Jonathan. I can’t throw worth a hill of beans, and my catching was pretty off tonight, too, but thy put up with me. We played until I had to quit because of my back pain. That worked out fine, though, ’cause BP was picking back up and there were a few more balls to be snagged.
I got Robert Morey’s autograph on one one of the BP balls before the game. You might remember Morey from the complete game shut-out he pitched a few weeks ago. I also got his autograph on his baseball card. With his autograph, that leaves me with only 3 more Hoppers players still on the roster that I don’t have autographs for. In addition to Morey’s autograph, I also got Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna on their SAL All-Star cards.
The Hoppers need to keep winning like this. We’re still five and a half games out of first for the second half title. It will be hard, but there’s still a shot of making it to the playoffs. Bill Hass describes the scenarios in his blog — go check it out: Hoppers begin crucial home stretch. Oh, look — as I was looking up that blog entry, I noticed that Bill has posted another entry about tonight’s game. Go check it out, too: Hoppers seize the moment and the game. Bill gives his own take on the beautiful eighth inning, peppered with some great insider commentary from the players and managers. If you’re not already following the Bill on Baseball blog, you need to start now.
It’s an exciting time to be a Hoppers fan.
Here’s how I had the game scored. Check out that bottom of the eighth. It’s just beautiful.
I was thrilled for the boys to be back in town after a long stretch away. I even made it out to batting practice before they had set the batting cage up.
Batting practice was great today. I got there a few minutes before my friend Jonathan arrived and snagged 2 balls. The first ball cleared the nets and bounced in the middle of Eugene Street before hitting a truck that was driving down the road. It didn’t appear to do any damage, and rolled down the block to the Greek restaurant. I jogged over to retrieve it, and another ball left the park while I was getting it. It was resting against the fence and I picked it up on the way back. It was a beautiful ball that looked barely used. Once in the park, I got Marcell Ozuna to autograph it.
After Jonathan arrived for BP, the balls kept coming out of the park. Between the two of us, we must have gone home with at least a dozen. And we got to watch a tow truck run out of gas. Each of the folks in the tow truck managed to snag a ball while waiting for gas to arrive. Lots of fun.
When I got in the park, I saw all sorts of folks I knew. Several families that I know from church were there. I also saw lots of the regular fans I tend to see at most of the games. It was a great time. I spent the time before the game working on completing my autograph collection. I added Zach Neal and Willie Glen from the Hoppers to my collection. I also got Lakewood’s Domingo Santana’s autograph on the SAL Prospect card. He accidentally signed the Jesse Biddle card I had, too. Pretty funny — so now might the Biddle card be interesting to someone as a “misprint”? Santana was very apologetic about it. I told him not to worry. It really was my fault as much as anything — I didn’t point out the card I wanted signed, and both of the Blueclaws cards I had were right next to each other.
I also got a chance to chat with my favorite pitcher, Kyle Winters, who is finally off the DL. He’s scheduled to start tomorrow, so I’m really looking forward to seeing him on the mound again.
Then it was time to settle in for the game. And what a great game it was. For the Hoppers, there were three home runs, a triple, and a double. Noah Perio hit the triple on his very first at bat and Marcell Ozuna knocked him in on a ground out. The second inning saw two home runs: Aaron Dudley and Ryan Fisher. Danny Black scored on Fisher’s home run, too, after having expertly stole second base while Fisher was batting. The third inning saw a 2-run homer by Jacob Realmuto (which won me a Red Mango gift card). Ryan Fisher scored again in the fourth inning, having reached base on a single. The fifth through seventh innings were quiet for the Hoppers offense. In the eighth, Ryan Fisher put another run on the board after having reached base on a double. With three at bats (on four plate appearances, having been walked in the fifth), Fisher was batting 1.000 — a homer, a single, and a double. He was awarded player of the game at the end of the contest. Defensively, pitcher Rhett Varner had a nice looking no-no through the first three innings, but allowed a single in the fourth to break it up. He kept them to no runs until the sixth inning, where he allowed the only two runs Lakewood scored. He was relieved by Jordan Conley for the final two innings. Conley only allowed one hit, in the ninth. The game moved very quickly (official time was 2:25), and a big part of that was the efficiency both Hoppers pitchers displayed. Conley, especially, kept the game moving at a quick pace as he retired batters and didn’t take much time between pitches.
The Hoppers are struggling in the second half of the season. It’s still possible for them to make the playoffs, but it’s going to be difficult. If they can keep playing — and winning — like they did tonight, they have a chance at making it. I’ve got my fingers crossed.
Here’s how I had the game: