Free bases lead Grasshoppers past Blue Rocks 7-3

First basemen T.J. White sporting a sparkling set of Oakley's. Friday July 21st, 2023. - Staff Photographer / Tyrese Williams

The Wilmington Blue Rocks’ bats continued to struggle as they dropped game four of their six-game series against the Greensboro Grasshoppers 7-3 on Friday night. 

Things started rough for the Rocks in this one. After a scoreless first, starter Andry Lara would surrender a lead-off solo home run to Ernny Ordonez to make it 1-0. Two batters later, Lara would be removed from the game due to injury and Dannel Diaz would come on in relief. 

“We had to be strategic with who we used,” pitching coach Mark Difelice said. “We knew Diaz was gonna be our long guy if something were to happen…it’s like chess sometimes with really understanding the bullpen and where we can fit guys in and covering ourselves for these games as well.”

Diaz would get out of a jam in the second and would pitch a scoreless third but in the fourth, the avalanche began. After walking the first two batters to start the inning, Diaz was able to retire the next two he faces. With two outs and runners on first and second, Sammy Sianin hit an RBI single to make it a 2-0 game. 

Another RBI single would make it 3-0 and a three-run bomb to center field would deflate the Rocks and make it a 6-0 game.

“We walked eight guys tonight,” Difelice said. “I got on the bullpen the previous games in this series about walks. Walks always come around to score…If we can limit the unforced errors, the walks, instead of seeing a seven or a 10 or a 15 up there [on the scoreboard], it’s gonna be a lot closer game to give our guys chances in the end.”

In the bottom of the fifth, walks came back to help the Rocks. The first three batters of the inning would walk to load the bases with nobody out for Nick Shumpert. Shumpert swung at the first pitch he saw and grounded into a double play, which scored a run but ended the momentum for the Rocks.

In the top of the sixth, Caleb Farmer would come in as a defensive replacement for Israel Pineda, who is down on a rehab assignment, and in the bottom of the seventh, Farmer would lead off with a solo home run to make it a 6-2 game. 

“It felt good,” Farmer said. “Coming off the bench, you gotta be ready for that first pitch fastball and fortunately, I got it and was able to do something with it.”

The Grasshoppers would add one more in the eighth to make it a 7-2 game.

In the bottom half of the eighth, the Rocks seemed to have something going again with bases loaded and only one away. Farmer would hit a sacrifice fly to bring home shortstop Jordy Barley and Will Frizzell would fly out to end the inning.

Both teams would go down quietly in the ninth to end the game and give the Grasshoppers a 3-1 series lead. 

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