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Out-pitched, out-hit and out-fielded.
That summed up things for the Grasshoppers Monday when they dropped a doubleheader to Hagerstown, 6-2 and 7-2 at NewBridge Bank Park.
There really wasn't any mystery about it. The Hoppers got beat by one of the best teams in the South Atlantic League. The Suns, who won the first half pennant in the Northern Division to earn a playoff spot, improved to 19-12 in the second half and popped back into first place ahead of West Virginia and Hickory. Overall, they're 57-41.
The Hoppers dropped to 14-16 in the second half and trail the Suns by 4 1/2 games. They have lost seven of their last nine.
"They're a good club," said manager Jorge Hernandez. "They grind out some good at-bats, they run the bases and they're aggressive.
"We're just not doing things right. Sometimes we look great but we can't keep it going. To click we've got to have everybody going."
Jesus Solorzano, who was injured early in a collision during Saturday's 9-4 victory, missed both games and will not play in the series finale Tuesday at 12:30. Hernandez said Solorzano had an MRI on his wrist and the team is awaiting the results. If things are OK, then Solorzano could return to the lineup Thursday when the Hoppers begin a road trip at Charleston.
"We're a different team when he's not in the lineup," Hernandez said.
There was considerable difference in the hitting for each team. The Suns scored 13 runs on their 14 hits while the Hoppers managed only four runs on 12 hits.
The Hoppers never managed to bunch their hits together to produce a big inning. Their biggest threat came in the first inning of the second game. Juancito Martinez led off with a double and Anthony Gomez got a single when no one covered first base on his bunt. Colin Moran hit a deep sacrifice fly to score Martinez but that's all the Hoppers managed. Matt Juengel singled but was thrown out trying to reach second and Cameron Flynn struck out to end the inning.
"We should have had more runs," Hernandez said. "I thought Moran's ball might go out and that would have been three runs. But we still scored just one run with the middle of the order up."
Hagerstown pitching had a lot to do with the Hoppers' lack of hitting. Lefty Brett Mooneyham cruised through six innings of the opener, giving up a solo home run to Blake Barber and another long sacrifice fly to Moran.
The Suns got a bonus in the second game. Right-hander Ian Dickson, obtained last month in a trade with the Cubs, had terrible numbers on the season (a 6.88 ERA in 12 games with Kane County in the Midwest League and a 6.85 ERA in eight games with the Suns). But after he escaped the first inning, Dickson settled down and allowed just one more hit while striking out seven.
The Hoppers' starters struggled. Neither Ramon Del Orbe in the first game nor Austin Brice in the second made it out of the fifth inning. Both consistently pitched behind in the count, leading to walks or base hits. The Suns had a four-run inning in the first game and a three-run inning in the second game and that was all they needed.
As for fielding, Hoppers errors contributed to an unearned run in each game and a misplayed fly ball by Martinez (he took a bad angle on a line drive that wound up going over his head) resulted in a triple.
Moran wound up 1-for-4, slicing a double in the first game and hitting those long sacrifice flies in each game. He also smoked a line drive up the middle that Dickson caught in self-defense and turned into a double play.