Bill on Baseball: No Dramatics, But Hoppers Find a Way
by Bill Hass
The Hoppers may have run out of electrifying, heart-stopping moments Monday afternoon, but they didn't run out of wins.
Greensboro edged Lakewood 2-1 to complete a rare five-game sweep. The victory pushed their record to 29-14 and was their 22nd win in 28 games. It also wrapped up a homestand in which they played nine games in seven days and came out with a 6-3 record.
There was no inside-the-park homer like the one Lolo Sanchez hit Saturday and no walk-off homer like Mason Martin did in both ends of Sunday's doubleheader. Just a solid effort by the pitching staff, excellent defense after making seven errors Sunday, and just enough offense to squeeze out two runs.
"I wish I could know what their plan is," said manager Miguel Perez with a chuckle about his players. "They're the guys doing it and they're creating something special, on and off the field. It's not just pitchers with pitchers or position players with position players. It's all around."
Catcher Grant Koch tried to explain it from a player's perspective.
"It's just a good bunch of guys who enjoying coming to the park and hanging out," Koch said. "We pull for each other. When Mason came up yesterday in the second game in the same situation, everyone in the dugout knew he would do it again. It's just a belief in each other."
The Hoppers managed to win despite getting just three hits. Fabricio Macias singled in Sanchez for a run in the third inning and Koch hit an opposite-field homer to right in the fourth inning.
"I was expecting something off-speed," Koch said of his third homer this season. "I had to adjust to a fastball and I took it the other way. That's what I usually try to do, go up the middle or go the other way."
Hoppers pitching made the two runs stand up. Osvaldo Bido picked up his sixth win by going six innings and giving up one run on three hits. The bullpen was strong again, with Joe Jacques pitching two scoreless innings with four strikeouts and John O'Reilly picking up his first save with a one-two-three ninth.
"They have very different styles and pitch to their strengths," Koch said. "They threw first-pitch strikes and gave the hitters no hope."
Koch said Bido, who had been roughed up his last two outings, worked at a faster pace, which allowed him to get the ball and pitch without thinking too much. Jacques kept the BlueClaws off balance with his left-handed sidearm delivery. O'Reilly, an undrafted free agent last summer, showed excellent poise.
"That's what the guys in the bullpen are expected to do," Jacques said of the way Lakewood was shut down.
Jacques said he converted to a sidearm delivery at the suggestion of his college coach at Manhattan.
"It changed my career," he said. "I can paint the inside corner with my fastball and from my arm slot, it's tough to pick up."
Pitching coach Stan Kyles said it was a big outing for Bido, who "got back down to pitching and not overthrowing."
The Hoppers may be a bit weary, but there's no rest in sight. They begin a four-game series in West Virginia Tuesday, followed by four in Hickory before there's a day off on May 29.
NOTES: Starting pitcher Nick Economos was promoted to Bradenton, so Colin Selby joins the rotation full-time and will pitch the opener against the Power ... Selby pitched four innings of the second game of a doubleheader against Delmarva and gave up one run ... It will be an interesting "homecoming" for several Hoppers who played with the Power last season, including Mason, Sanchez and Rodolfo Castro ... The Pirates, of course, changed their low Class A affiliation to Greensboro this season.
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