Bill on Baseball: Hoppers Pitching Stymies Asheville
by Bill Hass
There's nothing quite like a low-scoring, one-run baseball game.
Tension. Drama. No room for mistakes, especially late.
"It's fun to have those kinds of games," said Hoppers manager Miguel Perez.
Even more fun when you win, which the Hoppers did by 2-1 over Asheville Friday night.
It was a big turnaround from Thursday's game, which the Hoppers dropped 7-2. Their offense (13 runners stranded), defense (three errors) and relief pitching (six runs allowed in four innings) were all deficient in that one.
This time, pitching set the tone from the outset and never let up. The only run allowed was on an error in the third inning. The defense tightened up after that and played without an error.
The offense managed two early runs, both on RBI singles by Fabricio Macias, and didn't get a hit after the third inning. But the pitching made it stand up.
Will Kobos got his first win as a Hopper, allowing three hits and two walks in five innings. Cody Smith shut out the Tourists for 2 2/3 innings and Cam Alldred earned his third save by retiring all four batters he faced.
"Asheville is aggressive and runs the bases well," Perez said. "Tonight we controlled the running game and the pitchers executed.'
Kobos had an anxious moment in the top of the fourth inning when Asheville's Grant Lavigne, a first-round draft pick by Colorado in 2018, lined a shot up the middle. It ricocheted off the shin of Kobos and went into foul territory. Kobos instinctively pursued the ball as Lavigne legged it out for a hit.
Then Kobos fell to the ground and remained there for several moments. Perez and trainer Jorge Islas stayed with him until Kobos was able to sit up, then rise and walk back to the mound. After a practice pitch, he continued in the game.
"I thought he was out of the game," Perez said. "But he bounced back and was able to give us two more innings. At times his pitches got away from the strike zone, but he was always able to come back to it."
Smith came on in the sixth and retired the side in order. He worked around a pair of hits in the seventh and struck out Will Golson to end the threat. He got two outs sandwiched around a single in the eighth to bring up Lavigne, a left-handed power hitter. Perez chose to bring in lefty Alldred to face him.
"I really didn't know anything about him," Alldred said. "I just wanted to get ahead in the count, keep the ball low in the zone and get a ground ball."
It worked to perfection. Lavigne grounded Alldred's first pitch to Kyle Mottice, the second baseman playing in short right field as part of a defensive shift. His long throw got Lavigne to end the inning.
In the ninth, Alldred retired the side in order. Yerry De Los Santos, who leads the Hoppers with 10 saves, was warming up but wasn't needed.
Alldred has been a steady presence in the bullpen all season, one of just two pitchers (starter Alex Manasa is the other) who remain on the roster from opening day.
"I've been trying different mentalities, finding out which one would work best for me in a game," Alldred said. "I was uncomfortable early, too worried about my mechanics instead of just going out and competing. Now I'm comfortable."
Alldred said he doesn't worry about whether or not he'll be promoted in the remainder of this season.
"I'm just worried about my next pitch," he said.
NOTES: Ji-Hwan Bae stole his 25th base of the season ... The two RBIs by Macias raised his total to 64 ... The Hoppers are now 25-21 in the second half, trailing Delmarva by four games in the Northern Division ... But Hickory is just 1 1/2 games behind the Shorebirds ... In the overall standings, which come into play if Delmarva wins the second half, Greensboro trails Hickory by one game.
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