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Tourist Trap: On the Road Again

The Asheville Tourists take their show on the road to Greensboro.

The Asheville Tourists faced off against the Greensboro Grasshoppers in the second game of a six game set, at noon on Wednesday.

I normally cover the Fayetteville Woodpeckers, the Houston Astros Single-A affiliate in the Carolina League. The Asheville Tourists are one level higher, at the “High-A” echelon of competition in the South Atlantic League. It’s like low-a, but (unscientifically speaking) with a roughly 10 percent higher level of competition.

In recent transactions, C Jose Alvarez was assigned to Asheville from the Double-A Corpus Christi Hooks. A .253 hitter at the higher level, Alvarez has played all four corner positions as well as pitcher and catcher for the Hooks this season so far. I can only think he joined the team to work on fundamentals at one position or another.

Of the Houston Astros top 30 prospects, four are represented by Asheville. Namely, outfielder Colin Barber (5), shortstop Cristian Gonzalez (11, batting fourth, DH), RHP Chayce McDermott (12), and fellow RHP Spencer Arrighetti (28).

The view from left-center

The Grasshoppers play at First National Bank Field (2,955 present, but I’d estimate fully half of that is general admission, see pic above), in downtown Greensboro. They’re the High-A affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Their club boasts three of Pittsburgh’s top 30 prospects: C/OF Endy Rodriguez (7, batting third, LF), RHP Jared Jones (12), and OF Hudson Head (20, batting seventh, CF).

Asheville enters the contest at 25-38, last in the Southern Division, 14 games back of the Bowling Green Hot Rods. The Hoppers boast a similar 26-37 record, fifth in the six-team North Division and 16.5 games behind the Aberdeen Ironbirds.

Something I’m struck by on every visit to a minor league ballpark is that the umpire crew is significantly less than that of a major league crew. To wit, there are only two — one to manage home plate, the other to patrol all three non-home bases.

Asheville Tourists 2, Greensboro Grasshoppers 9

The Tourists were reliant on Diosmerky Taveres (0-1, 5.40 ERA) to throw strikes in today’s game, versus Justin Meis (0-1, 108.00). Hopefully, the “bad guys” can keep Meis ERA roughly the same. At least that’s the way I see it, as a fan of the bad guys.

Katie, my contact in the Hoppers front office, was kind enough to provide me with “scout seats,” as the press box is full in First National. Unfortunately, there was no shade in those fantastic, right-behind-the-plate seats, and my laptop cooked in the heat. I had to relocate to general admission seating in center field, where there was shade. To be clear, the MacBook didn’t stop working, but it had started to burn my legs. That would not do. I know most of y’all live in Texas, but 92° is plenty hot for me.

The top of the first would see RF Michael Sandle collect a single, but nothing else. In the bottom of the frame, Taveres loaded the bases, but also struck out the side to escape unscathed.

Taveras struck Rodriguez out, but loaded the bases with one out around him. After a scoreless top of the second, Sammy Siani got the Hoppers on the board first with an RBI-single to make it 1-0. It was already game for Taverez, who struck out four but allowed a run on two hits, a hit batsman, and three free passes on 64 pitches over just two innings.

In top 3, Meis walked the first two batters to set the table for Sandle, but Kenedy Corona was picked off trying to get from first to second on a 9-4 double play when Sandle flew out to deep right. Chad Stevens struck out, and the game remained 1-0.

In the bottom of the fifth, I saw something that you’ll never see in the major leagues in 2022. Tourist reliever Aaron Brown struck out Yoyner Fajardo on four pitches in 22 seconds. That’s not an exaggeration, and it includes a foul ball. There are a lot of major league pitchers who take longer than that between each pitch. With two out and runners on the corners, Greensboro doubled their lead when Dariel Lopez singled in a run. One batter later, Head cleared the bases with a three-run shot over the fence in right field to make it 5-0.

Lopez brought another home in the seventh, himself. He jacked one just to the right of the deepest part of the park, just right of the center-field 400 mark to make it 6-0. It just didn’t look like the Tourists are in it to win it today. Recent promoted Corona had something to say about it in the top half of the eighth. He led off with a solo jack to right-center to trim the lead to 6-1, his first with Asheville.

Sandle followed Corona with a single, then stole second and third base while Stevens drew a five-pitch walk. Runners on the corners, no out and one in, the Hoppers made a pitching change. Reliever Eddy Yean out, Cameron Junker in. On Junker’s first pitch, he collected two outs while allowing Sandle to score, as Gonzalez grounded into a 6-4-3 twin killing. Still, the Tourists trailed, 6-2.

In the bottom of the eighth, the Grasshoppers poured it on with another three runs. Luis Santana was hit by a pitch in the head leading off the ninth for Asheville and had to be replaced with a pinch-runner. Santana did get off the field under his own power.

The game ended with the same score, a 9-2 setback for Asheville.

  • Reliever Brown gave up five runs in five innings, but only one was earned. He allowed six hits and one walk, striking out three.
  • Sandle and Corona each finished with two hits, while Santana’s single represented the rest of Asheville’s offense.
  • The six-game series is now tied at one apiece. Thursday’s game starts at 6:30 EDT, with Tourist starter Cesar Gomez getting a turn.