Justin Meis perfect in home finale as Hoppers win I-40 rivalry
GREENSBORO ― Justin Meis pitched seven perfect innings and combined with Santiago Florez on a one-hit shutout in the Grasshoppers’ final home game of the season, and Greensboro won the “Battle of I-40” rivalry series with a 6-0 victory over the Winston-Salem Dash at First National Bank Field on Sunday
GREENSBORO ― Justin Meis pitched seven perfect innings and combined with Santiago Florez on a one-hit shutout in the Grasshoppers’ final home game of the season, and Greensboro won the “Battle of I-40” rivalry series with a 6-0 victory over the Winston-Salem Dash at First National Bank Field on Sunday night.
Meis (4-4) was simply brilliant, retiring all 21 batters he faced and striking out seven. He was lifted after the seventh inning with the perfect game still intact, throwing just 74 pitches.
And what extraordinary pitches they were. The lanky 22-year-old right-hander worked the edges of the plate, mixing a low 90s-mph fastball with a sweeping slider and effective changeup.
He threw strikes. He changed speeds. He worked fast.
And he mowed down Winston-Salem’s hitters. The only thing that stopped Meis was an end-of-season limited pitch-count meant to protect young arms. He threw 93 pitches in his previous start Tuesday, leaving us to wonder “what if” he’d been given those extra 19 pitches Sunday?
Instead, Florez came on in relief and retired the next four hitters in a row, taking the combined perfect game into the ninth inning.
Florez was just two outs away before the Dash’s Cabrera Weaver grounded a clean single into the hole between the second baseman and first baseman. James Beard drew a walk, but Florez retired the last two hitters on a flyout and a ground ball to wrap up the one-hit shutout.
Jacob Gonzalez, Mike Jarvis and Jase Bowen all hit solo home runs in the game for the Hoppers (57-66), who improved to 30-28 in the second half of the South Atlantic League season. They trail first-place Brooklyn by 5 games in the North Division standings with just six road games remaining in the regular season.
Bowen went 3-for-4 in the game, while Gonzalez finished 2-for-4 with two RBIs and two runs scored.
Greensboro won the “Battle of I-40” rivalry season series, going 13-11 in head-to-head games with Winston-Salem this summer. The Hoppers won nine of the last 13 games in the series.
- Right-hander Justin Meis pitched 14 shutout innings in this homestand against Winston-Salem, allowing just three hits and striking out 13.
- Meis, a 10th-round pick in the 2021 draft, has been Greensboro’s best starter down the stretch. He made two disastrous starts after his promotion from Class-A Bradenton on June 7, failing to get out of the first inning in both. But in 13 starts since then, Meis is 4-3 with a 3.19 ERA, 70 strikeouts and just 27 walks in 67⅔ innings of work, holding opposing hitters to a .186 batting average.
- The Grasshoppers will finish the 2022 season with a total attendance of 265,988 in 65 games at First National Bank Field (4,092 average home crowd). That currently ranks second in the 12-team Sally League behind the Greenville Drive (291,210) and ahead of Winston-Salem (260,881). Both the Drive and the Dash have six home games remaining.
- Greensboro wraps up the season with six games in Bowling Green, Ky., this week.
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.