Series Preview: Hickory at Greensboro July 4-7

The Hickory Crawdads (48-29 overall, 4-5 second half) make their second of three trips this season to NewBridge Bank to take on the Greensboro Grasshoppers (31-47, 2-7) in a four-game series.

Probables (Hickory/ Greensboro):

Saturday: Yohander Mendez (LH, 0-1, 1.03) vs. Tyler Kolek (RH, 4-4, 4.65)

Sunday: Collin Wiles (RH, 8-3, 2.36) vs. Luis Castillo (RH, 3-3, 3.04)

Monday: Austin Pettibone (RH, 1-1, 3.86) vs. Michael Mader (LH, 3-7, 5.43)

Tuesday: Nick Gardewine (RH, 4-5, 4.20) vs. Ben Holmes (LH, 2-5, 5.25)

Recent Series History:

The Crawdads are 5-1 against Greensboro in 2015, including a 2-1 series win at NewBridge Bank Park. Since the Hickory Crawdads – Texas Rangers affiliation began in 2009, the Grasshoppers (Miami Marlins affiliate) hold a 49-45 advantage. Greensboro is 47-31 against the Crawdads since NewBridge Bank Park opened in 2005.

Entering the Series:

The Crawdads finished a disappointing 4-5 home stand by dropping the final two games to Greenville. The lineup continues to mount inconsistent run-production. During the last 77 innings of the home stand, the Crawdads scored in just 12 of them. The bullpen is still sorting itself out in the wake of promotions and the insertion of two members into the rotation. After opening the season 42-0 when leading or tied after seven innings, Hickory dropped two such games last week, including its first when leading after eight.

Greensboro (18-16 at home) lost the first six straight of the second half before taking two of the last three at Hagerstown (Md.). The Grasshoppers have struggled to score runs, posting 23 in nine games. However in an offensive-friendly ballpark, the Grasshoppers have a .272/.321/.409 slash (.223/.294/.302 road) at NewBridge Park as well as 30 of their team’s 44 homers. For the season, the Grasshoppers have been shut out a South Atlantic League-high 11 times.

Players to watch- Hickory:

SP Yohander Mendez: Gave up his first earned runs of the year in his last start (2 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 3 ER vs. Lakewood) before a benches-clearing incident abbreviated his turn. Has made only two starts with a high of three innings. Mendez has 40 strikeouts and seven walks in 26.1 innings with only 23 baserunners allowed.

SP Collin Wiles: He continues to knife through South Atlantic League competition. Currently leads the SAL in fewest baserunners allowed (67 in 63.1 innings). He is third in OBA (.225), fourth in WHIP (1.05), and fifth in ERA (2.36). Wiles has not faced the Grasshoppers this season.

RP Ariel Juado: Will pitch on the back end of a piggyback with Mendez for now. He leads the SAL in WHIP (0.94), is third in ERA (2.11) and fifth in OBA (.228). He has 14 Ks in 13 innings versus the Grasshoppers this season.

RP Erik Swanson: For now, it appears that he will get looks to close out games. He earned the save vs. Lakewood on June 29 (2 IP, 1 BB, 2 K), but then gave up a run-tying hit in the ninth inning Thursday vs. Greenville. He went on to strike out four over three scoreless innings.

RP Joe Filomeno: Has also been given key late-game situations during the second half. He gave up three runs on four hits in his first save opportunity on June 27 vs. Lakewood, then threw two scoreless outings (4.1 innings) in the series with Greenville.

2B Carlos Arroyo: Went 0-for-4 in Friday night’s game, but hitting .303/.324/.485 in the second half. He has hits in 14 of his last 19 games, seven of those multi-hit games.

UT Juremi Profar: Currently in the midst of a five-game hitting streak (7-for-19). Crashed his first homer of the season on Friday.

CF Jose Cardona: Is 3 for his last 17, but two of the hits were homers. Cardona is the lone player on the current roster who has homered against the Grasshoppers and is hitting .346 in six games.

Players to watch- Greensboro:

SP Tyler Kolek: The 2014 first-round pick (second overall) of the Marlins is currently the 21st best overall prospect (mlb.com) and the eighth-best RHP. The Marlins have limited him to more than four innings in just seven of 14 starts, though one of those was five shutout innings against Hickory in late April. Has just 40 Ks in 62 innings with 28 walks and 14 wild pitches.

SP Michael Mader: The Marlins third-round selection in 2014 (Chipola College) is the Marlins No. 12 prospect. Mader is third in the SAL with 39 walks in 71.1 innings (15 starts). He walked five and allowed six hits in 3.2 innings during his lone start against Hickory. Mader four-hit Hagerstow over six innings in his last start.

RP Josh Hodges: The closer (7th round, 2009) for the Grasshoppers is second in the SAL in games finished and has ten of the team’s 19 saves. Has posted 42 Ks in 38.1 innings and a 1.17 ERA.

C Arturo Rodriguez: Was the starting catcher for the Northern Division in the SAL all-star game. Hit .406 in April, but just .248 in May and .261 in June. He has just 6 hits in 32 at bats in the second half. Rodriguez blasted two homers against Hickory this season.

SS Justin Twine: The athletic Twine was the second round pick of the Marlins in 2014. A quarterback in high school (had a scholarship to Baylor) and won a gold medal in long jump in the Texas state championship. The Marlins 11th best prospect (mlb.com) is looking to transfer his athleticism to the baseball field. Currently carrying a .186/ .211/.277 slash, Twine is 5-for-25 against Hickory with a double and a triple, but with 10 Ks

LF Austen Smith: Started in the SAL All-Star Game is second in the league with 12 homers and fifth in slugging (.481). Smith is batting .207 (6-for-29) in nine games to start the second half.

RF John Norwood: Is 9-of-20 in his last five games.

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