July 26, 2007 - South Atlantic League (SAL) - Greensboro Grasshoppers
GREENSBORO, N.C. - The Greensboro Grasshoppers continue to follow an age-old baseball formula.
"Pitching and defense, that\'s the name of the game," said manager Edwin Rodriguez Thursday night after the Hoppers beat Delmarva 4-1 for their eighth straight win.
The Hoppers mixed another strong pitching effort with continued good defense and, on offense, a little small ball and a little long ball to win before 6,742 fans at First Horizon Park.
During the winning streak, Hoppers pitchers have given up just 11 runs. Pitching coach John Duffy said the staff is getting ahead in the count, minimizing walks, pitching to contact and making better pitches, especially with men on base and two out.
"We had a stretch there in the middle of the season when we were giving up line drives," Duffy said. "Now we\'re getting ground balls and double plays. We\'ve been preaching all year that the starters have to keep us in the game and give us a chance. Everything is falling into place from the starter to the next guy to the next guy."
Cristhian Martinez (5-3) pitched six shutout innings and was followed by Chris Leroux, Rodolfo Encarnacion and Avi Rasowsky. The only run scored was an unearned one off Encarnacion.
With closer Blake Jones unavailable after pitching three consecutive days, Rasowsky earned his first save of the season. He gave up two broken-bat singles in the ninth inning, but struck out Pedro Florimon and got Danny Figueroa to ground out to end the game.
Offensively, the small ball came in the third inning. Daniel Garcia broke an 0-for-17 slump with a leadoff double, was sacrificed to third by Greg Burns and scored on John Raynor\'s sacrifice fly.
The long ball came in the form of a two-run homer by Raynor in the fifth inning, giving him three RBIs for the game, and Logan Morrison\'s 20th homer of the year in the sixth inning.
As for defense, right fielder Scott Cousins robbed Delmarva\'s Billy Rowell of a home run in the fourth inning, jumping to bring the ball back from over the fence in right field. Wednesday night, Cousins threw out runners at second base and third base.
"The starting pitchers have been doing a phenomenal job of putting the defense in a rhythm," Cousins said. "They throw the ball, get it back and they\'re ready to pitch again. That keeps a defense on its toes, and we\'re responding."
Rodriguez said the winning streak has bred confidence in the players, and Cousins agreed.
"Everybody is real loose and having fun," Cousins said. "We\'re able to separate yesterday\'s game from today\'s game and today\'s game from tomorrow\'s game."
The teams play the third game of the series Friday at 7 p.m. at First Horizon.