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Suns' bullpen suffers rare meltdown vs. Legends

July 02, 2003|by TIM KOELBLE

koelble@herald-mail.com

A normally reliable Hagerstown bullpen went into the proverbial dumper on Tuesday night.

After five solid innings from starter Merkin Valdez, the Suns virtually gave Lexington a free ride to a 9-3 victory.

Reliever Erick Threets couldn't find any part of the plate and issued five walks, including the first four batters in a three-run seventh that put the Legends up for good, 5-3.

Jason Schmidt got into the negative bullpen picture, allowing a pair of two-run homers in the ninth inning.

"It's been pretty rare the bullpen has let us down," Suns manager Mike Ramsey said. "Munhall (catcher Brian Munhall) said Erick wasn't even close. He's done a good job since he has been here. Tonight was just a step backward."

And several steps to first base for the Legends.

The Suns' Carlos Sosa broke a 1-1 deadlock with his second homer of the year, a two-run shot ripped to right against Lexington lefty Aaron Heitzman, scoring Fred Lewis, who had singled.

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Valdez allowed only three hits during his work, including a prodigious solo blast by John Fagan that carried 405 feet to left center in the second inning. Valdez walked three and struck out four.

Threets (1-1) labored in his initial inning but wiggled out of the sixth, allowing only one run which Fagan delivered on a sacrifice fly to plate Justin Humphries, who had walked.

Then Threets really started missing the bullseye.

Opening the seventh, he walked four straight Legends before being removed from a 3-3 tie.

Scott Munter nearly got out of the inherited jam as he struck out Humphries and Pat Peavey, but Freddy Acevedo rammed a sharp one-hopper toward a fully-extended Mikey Miranda at second. The ball skipped past Miranda and the Legends scored twice.

In the ninth, Schmidt was tattooed for homers by Humphries and Fagan, the latter almost in an identical spot as his first.

"We had chances to break the game open in the fourth but couldn't get a key hit," Ramsey said. "They hung around long enough to get the win so we just have to come back from this one."

The Suns (41-37, 6-5 second half) had Heitzman in trouble in the fourth when Jason Columbus and Kevin Kelly opened with singles and moved to second and third with no outs after a fielding error.

Heitzman (8-6) bore down and proceeded to retire Randy Walter on an infield pop, Miranda on an infield out and Lewis on a called third strike.

Heitzman was replaced in the eighth after Sosa led off with a single, but Dan Freeman came in and shut the door over the last two innings.

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