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Murder in the first

July 13, 2002|by BOB PARASILITI

bobp@herald-mail.com

These days, even simple accounting is going against the Hagerstown Suns.

No matter how many credits they stack up, it just takes one debit to put the Suns in the hole for the night.

Delmarva only needed its first three batters to score the only two runs starting pitcher Kurt Birkins needed Friday. He took care of the rest for the Shorebirds with a complete game three-hitter and a 2-1 victory.

The game was a sharp contrast to Thursday's 8-0 embarrassment, when Hagerstown committed five errors to allow four unearned runs and only managed five hits against Delmarva.

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"You can say it's a positive, but a loss is a loss," Suns manager Mike Ramsey said. "We faced a pitcher who shut us down the whole way. We had some positives, but it's still a loss."

The only thing sinking faster than the Suns is the Dow Jones index. Hagerstown (39-51) lost for the eighth time in the last 10 games and the 17th time in 22 games in the second half.

The bad-inning wheel stopped on the first for the Suns on Friday as starter Brion Treadway (0-3) hit leadoff batter Omar Rogers with a pitch and Tripper Johnson doubled, setting up Adam Manley's two-run double to left-center field before the first out was recorded.

After the initial shock wore off, Treadway found his groove and locked into a pitchers' duel with Birkins, but it was too late.

Birkins (8-6) kept Hagerstown hitless until Tyler Von Schell hit his first home run of the second half to lead off the fifth inning. Julian Benavidez added a one-out single in the inning before being erased on an inning-ending double play.

Hagerstown's only other hit was a ninth-inning single by Kevin Alexander.

Besides those three potholes, Birkins finished one walk and seven strikeouts.

"He's pitched well against us three times, but this was the best," Ramsey said. "He did a great job pitching. He had good breaking stuff. He did a nice job, except for one pitch."

Birkins is 3-0 in three starts against Hagerstown, including two complete games. Overall, he has allowed six runs (four earned) on 13 hits and four walks while striking out 18 in 24 innings for a 1.50 ERA.

Treadway allowed two runs on four hits - only two after the first inning - and a walk while striking out seven in six innings, but hit three batters. Julio Pavon closed the game with three innings of two-hit relief.

"Treadway was getting the ball up early, but made an adjustment after that and pitched really well after that," Ramsey said. "This time we stayed close, but they got two runs and that was it. We are struggling to get runs and we aren't getting any threats."

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