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Suns squander chances in loss

July 18, 2003|by BOB PARASILITI

bobp@herald-mail.com

The Hagerstown Suns had manager Mike Ramsey tied up in nots.

"Did not" and "could not" were about the only terms Ramsey could use on Thursday after the Suns dropped a 5-3 decision to Delmarva, their third straight loss.

Once again, Hagerstown fell behind and tied the game, only to allow two late-inning runs for another uncharacteristic loss. The Suns didn't help matters offensively, either, squandering prime scoring chances in three of the last four innings.

"We just didn't score enough runs and couldn't hold them in the late innings again," Ramsey said. "We had our opportunities. It's frustrating a little when we could have scored more runs and didn't."

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The Suns (48-45, 13-13) trailed 3-1 after the first inning but scratched up single runs in the fifth and sixth to forge a tie and get starting pitcher Merkin Valdez off the hook. Delmarva made good on its chances in the seventh and ninth innings against Hagerstown's bullpen while the Suns floundered in similar situations in their final two at-bats.

"We aren't really shutting teams down late in the games like we had been," Ramsey said. "We aren't having the success we had been having earlier."

The frustration started in the sixth when the Suns tied the game, 3-3. Jake Wald and Kevin Alexander singled off Delmarva starter Daniel Cabrera (2-7). Carlos Sosa singled home Wald after Julian Benavidez struck out with Alexander getting thrown out at third on the play.

"We had runners on first and second with no outs, so we decided to let Benavidez take a shot," Ramsey said. "He probably would have walked but went after a pitch out of the zone and punched out."

Wald and Alexander drew walks to chase reliever Richard Stahl in the eighth. Benavidez greeted Shorebirds closer Jeff Montani with a sacrifice bunt attempt that the pitcher fielded and narrowly threw out Wald at third on a force play. The Suns failed to find a clutch hit.

"The bunt was a close play," Ramsey said. "I had a guy up who you don't know if he will be a cleanup hitter later on in his career. The bunt was good, just too close to the pitcher. We would have had runners on second and third. It could have worked ... it was a good decision and I'd do it again."

Montani issued a pair of two-out walks in the ninth before striking out Wald to earn his 19th save. It was only Delmarva's third win in 13 tries against the Suns.

Delmarva scored three runs in the first off Valdez, highlighted by Randy Ruiz and Dustin Yount RBI doubles.

Only great defense by Fred Lewis and Kevin Kelly prevented the inning from becoming worse. Randy Walter turned in a sparkling double play while running into the wall in the third.

The Suns scored single runs on RBI grounders by Benavidez and Brian Munhall and on Sosa's single in the sixth.

Delmarva got the go-ahead run off Scott Munter (3-4) on doubles by Gera Alvarez and Ruiz in the seventh. The Shorebirds added a ninth-inning insurance run on Gregg Davies' single off Jeremy Schmidt.

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