WINSTON-SALEM ― Will Matthiessen hit a three-run home run, and winning pitcher Grant Ford struck out eight in six strong innings, leading the Greensboro Grasshoppers to a 5-4 victory over the Winston-Salem Dash as the final series of the season in "The Battle of I-40" opened Tuesday night at Truist
WINSTON-SALEM ― Will Matthiessen hit a three-run home run, and winning pitcher Grant Ford struck out eight in six strong innings, leading the Greensboro Grasshoppers to a 5-4 victory over the Winston-Salem Dash as the final series of the season in "The Battle of I-40" opened Tuesday night at Truist Stadium.
Right-hander Will Kobos struck out the side in the bottom of the ninth inning on just 11 pitches for his third save of the season.
The Hoppers (53-32) improved to 12-7 against the Dash (33-52) in the renewed rivalry, and they clinched no worse than a tie in the 24-game season series. This is the first summer since 1968 that teams from Greensboro and Winston-Salem have played in the same league in the minors.
The Dash won the first three games in May, but the Hoppers are 12-4 since then.
Ford (7-2, 4.76 ERA) allowed two runs on five hits and a walk in his 19th appearance of the season. In six starts since moving into the rotation July 2 because of injuries to prized prospects Carmen Mlodzinki, Michael Burrows and Braxton Ashcraft, Ford has been terrific. Ford is 4-1 with a 3.82 ERA since then, with eight walks and 40 strikeouts in 30.2 innings.
After a badly-needed day off Monday, the Hoppers retooled their roster and hit the ground running in the top of the first inning, scoring four runs off losing pitcher Dan Metzdorf (3-4, 5.93 ERA).
Jonah Davis drew a lead-off walk, and Nick Gonzales and Jared Triolo followed with back-to-back singles to load the bases. Lolo Sanchez hit a one-out sacrifice fly to drive in the first run, and Matthiessen followed with his sixth home run of the season, a line drive over the fence in left-center field.
Andres Alvarez's two-out single drove home Matthiessen with an insurance run in the top of the seventh as Greensboro took a 5-2 lead and hung on for the victory.
Greensboro has coped with a rash of injuries the last few days.
The Hoppers put outfielders Matt Gorski (left leg) and Chase Murray (left arm) on the 7-day injured list Tuesday. Both were hurt during last week's series against Hickory. Gorski, who left Friday's game after hurting his leg in a rundown, is on a nine-game hitting streak, going 11-for-30 (.367) with three home runs, three doubles and eight runs scored during the streak.
And while Triolo returned to the lineup Tuesday, shortstop Liover Peguero (heat illness) left Sunday's game in the fifth inning and sat out the series opener in Winston-Salem.
Greensboro added two players to its roster Tuesday.
Right-hander Emmanuel Mejia (4-1, 8 saves, 0.00 ERA in 21 relief appearances) and infielder/outfielder Yoyner Fajardo (.309, seven extra-base hits in 31 games) were promoted from the Class-A Bradenton Marauders.
Meanwhile, catcher Grant Koch and right-handed reliever Alex Manasa were promoted from Greensboro to the Class-AA Altoona Curve.
- Greensboro remains in second place, 6.5 games behind Bowling Green (59-25) in the High-A East's South Division. The top two teams in the league ― regardless of division ― qualify for the championship series. The Grasshoppers trail North Division leader Hudson Valley (54-31) by one game in the playoff chase. The Hoppers and Renegades play 12 head-to-head games in the final 20 days of the season.
- Greensboro has won 12 of its last 17 games and is 25-10 since July 1. The Hoppers have won or split all 14 of their six-game series this season.
- Hoppers third baseman Jared Triolo returned to the lineup after leaving Sunday's game in the first inning with back spasms. Triolo went 1-for-4 and has hit safely in 28 of his last 30 games, batting .357 (45-for-126) with seven doubles, five home runs, 28 RBIs and 12 stolen bases in that span. He ranks fourth in the High-A East with 59 RBIs, and he has raised his batting average from .237 on June 1 to .301 through Aug. 10, third-best in the league among players with enough plate appearances to qualify.
- Lefty-hitting catcher Blake Sabol went 0-for-4 but has hit safely in 15 of his last 19 games, going 24-for-69 (.348) with five home runs, five doubles and a triple during that span.
- Nick Gonzales, who was the seventh overall pick in the 2020 draft and rated by MLB Pipeline as Pittsburgh's top prospect, has batted .324 (22-for-68) with four home runs and four doubles in his last 16 games, raising his season batting average to .270.
In his career at the News & Record, journalist Jeff Mills won 10 national and 12 state writing awards from the Associated Press Sports Editors, the Society for Features Journalism, and the N.C. Press Association.