Bill on Baseball: Playoff Hopes Dim for Hoppers
by Bill Hass
There are still seven games to play in the South Atlantic League season, and Hoppers manager Miguel Perez expects his team to compete hard in every one.
"We want to finish on a positive note," he said, after his club dropped a 1-0 game to Rome Monday night. "Whatever happens with the playoffs happens."
As far as the playoffs go, the Hoppers still have a mathematical pulse. In the second half race in the Northern Division, Hickory and Delmarva are tied for first at 38-24 while the Hoppers are 31-31. So they're seven games out of first with seven to play, on the verge of being eliminated.
Their only realistic chance is for Delmarva, which won the first half, to also win the second half. The team with the next best overall record earns the second playoff spot. In that case, the Hoppers could make it by catching Hickory. But the Crawdads, at 79-49, are 5 1/2 games ahead of the Hoppers (75-56) with seven left. In essence, the only chance Greensboro has is to win out and Hickory to lose out.
This is the first full season for most players on the roster and they have played the most games of their young careers. Pushing through fatigue is not easy in late August.
"You have to look at the big picture," Perez said. "The goal is to reach the major leagues, and there they still have another 40 games to go."
Monday night the Hoppers pitched well enough to win almost any other game. Will Kobos, Cristofer Melendez and Yerry De Los Santos combined to allow just three hits and strike out 16 Braves batters.
Kobos, who struck out 10, also walked four, including two in the second inning. After giving up a leadoff single, the two walks loaded the bases and a sacrifice fly by Brendan Venter scored the only run of the game.
What cost the Hoppers was lack of situational hitting. Three Rome pitchers gave up six hits, walked six and hit a batter. But none of the 13 baserunners came around to score and 10 were left on base. Of the other three, one was thrown out at home, one was picked off at first and one was out on a baserunning mistake.
With two outs in the bottom of the third, Jonah Davis singled and Kyle Mottice walked. Ji-Hwan Bae singled to right field and Perez, who has been putting pressure on defenses all season, waved Davis around third. This time, Michael Harris fielded the ball cleanly and made a good throw to catcher Shea Langeliers to get Davis at the plate.
Steven Jennings will get the start in the second game of the series Tuesday night.
NOTES: Bae had two hits to raise his average to .326 ... The top five hitters in the Hoppers lineup went 6-for-17 but the bottom four were 0-for-13 ... De Los Santos fanned all three hitters he faced and lowered his ERA to 1.47 ... Fabricio Macias made an excellent diving catch while running to his right to spear a line drive in the eighth inning.
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