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Pitching is all the Matt-ers for Suns

June 02, 2003|By BOB PARASILITI

bobp@herald-mail.com

Lately, when the Hagerstown Suns want to make an opponent feel unwelcome, they throw out a Matt.

On Sunday, it kept Delmarva from knocking on the door.

Matt Cain dominated the nightcap of a doubleheader with 12 strikeouts and Matt Palmer saved both games, finishing off a strong performance by Glenn Woolard in the opener, as the Suns locked down a 4-3, 4-2 sweep of the Shorebirds.

Hagerstown (31-23) moved to eight games over .500 with the sweep by winning its fourth straight and 14th of its last 16 games to remain in contention for the South Atlantic League Northern Division's first-half title. The second-place Suns trail Lake County by 6 1/2 games with 16 remaining in the half.

Woolard and Cain gave the Suns a pair of high-quality starts, but in the end, Hagerstown puts its cash on Palmer.

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"He answered the call," Suns manager Mike Ramsey said. "His numbers speak for themselves. We wanted to take our chances today with him going in both. We want to maximize our opportunities without overusing him. He's been money."

Palmer notched his 11th and 12th saves of the season with a combined two innings - facing just seven hitters - allowing one hit and striking out four. Palmer lowered his ERA to 0.30, allowing one run in 30 1/3 innings on 10 hits while striking out 31.

"It's a bulldog thing," Palmer said. "I go in there thinking I have better stuff than anyone else. I love our starters. Our hitting is coming around and our defense ... the outfield is diving for balls and the infield is making great plays."

In the second game, Cain took another major step in his development by shutting down the Shorebirds, who have lost nine straight after a seven-game winning streak. The 18-year-old right-hander controlled the inside half of the plate to keep Delmarva on its heels and punch out 12 of the 18 outs he collected.

"Cain's a young guy who has shown so much maturity," Ramsey said. "He's learned how to pitch quickly ... that's why he has so much upside."

Cain (3-3) held Delmarva to one hit - a leadoff single to Dustin Yount to start a bases-loaded threat in the third - until making his only mistake in the sixth. Rafael Ruiz connected on 3-1 fastball for a two-out, two-run homer to cut the deficit to 4-2.

"I love to pitch inside" Cain said. "They were giving the higher strike and that helped me out. The inside got the hitters sitting back. I was sort of effectively wild."

The Suns took a 1-0 lead in the first as Fred Lewis walked to lead off the game against Daniel Cabrera (0-5) and scored on Carlos Sosa's two-out double to right. Aaron Hornostaj clubbed a two-run double and scored on Karl Jernigan's single for three insurance runs in the fifth.

In the opener, Woolard (5-1) got past a three-run third inning when he allowed three extra-base hits, including a two-run triple to league RBI leader Val Majewski, to keep the Suns close.

Hagerstown got all four of its runs in the fourth, using six singles that would have barely reached the center field wall if they had been linked together. Derin McMains laced a single to center to bring home Hagerstown's first run, but Sosa, Travis Ishikawa and Randy Walter each drove in runs with infield hits.

"Sometimes, you'd rather be lucky than good," Ramsey said. "We got the lead and shut the door ... that's a good win. We followed the same formula today - good pitching, good defense and timely hits. Right now, if we score four runs, we have a chance to win."

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