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Suns' errors help braves

May 12, 2004|by BOB PARASILITI

bobp@herald-mail.com

For one play, the Hagerstown Suns' gloves turned into magnifying glasses again.

One play with one inopportune error - as if there is an opportune time for one - turned into one more loss for the Suns.

Third baseman Nate Schierholtz was unable to handle pitcher Bill Musgrave's throw attempting to turn Scott Schade's sacrifice bunt into a force out in the eighth inning, opening the door for Rome's decisive three-run rally and a 6-3 victory before 1,394 fans at Municipal Stadium.

The error only magnified what seems to be a defensive slump for the Suns.

"It was a play we should have made," Suns manager Mike Ramsey said. "That was a huge turning point. If we make it, we are probably still out there (playing)."

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It was the third straight day and fourth straight game the Suns (12-20) have committed two errors in a game. Tuesday's two miscues led to three unearned runs. They have made eight errors in the last four games, resulting in 10 unearned runs and four losses.

"I don't know what it is," Ramsey said. "When we weren't hitting early, our defense was playing well. We were making the plays and not giving the other teams extra opportunities. Since Sunday, we have had three games in a row where we haven't been making the play."

The Suns and the Braves were locked in a 3-3 tie heading into the eighth. Schierholtz committed an earlier error in the fourth inning, leading to Rome's first run on Jarrod Saltalamacchia's sacrifice fly to tie the game at 1-1.

The eighth became the Suns' downfall, though, as Musgrave hit Miguel Bernard and walked Saltalamacchia to lead off the inning. Schade squared and bunted to the third-base side, forcing Musgrave to make the play.

The reliever turned and fired his throw at the bag, handcuffing Schierholtz. The ball ticked off his glove and rolled along the fence, allowing Bernard to score.

Juan Downing greeted Tim Alvarez, the South Atlantic League's pitcher of the week, with an RBI single and Dean White laid down a suicide squeeze bunt to give the Braves the 6-3 lead.

"It's tough losing a game like that when we had a chance to get out of it," Ramsey said. "It's tough to recover from something like that in the eighth inning when you only have six more outs."

Schierholtz gave the Suns a 1-0 lead in the first on a two-out home run to right, his sixth of the year. It gave starter Bryan Millikan an early cushion for his 3 1/3 innings of no-hit pitching.

Hagerstown took a 3-1 lead in the fourth on Dayton Buller's two-run double that landed just inside the right-field line.

The Braves tied the game using a run in the fifth on doubles by Downing and White and another in the sixth when Matt Esquivel doubled and eventually scored on Millikan's wild pitch.

"Millikan did fine tonight, but he had a few stretches when he had trouble keeping the ball down," Ramsey said. "It was a difficult game because we didn't make a couple plays on defense and we had a couple at-bats when the hitters were too anxious and that was the game."

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