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Carp is the catch of the day for Suns

April 12, 2005|by TIM KOELBLE

koelble@herald-mail.com

Remember Dave Kingman and Dave Nicholson?

They are two former major leaguers who were notorious home-run hitters who also fell into the "all-or-nothing" category.

While it's early in the season and batters are still trying to find their niche at the plate, the Hagerstown Suns have an early candidate for the all-or-nothing category.

Mike Carp, the Suns' strapping 6-foot-2, 205-pound first baseman who is only 18, went down swinging three times, but the one time he made contact, it became far more meaningful than the Ks.

Taking advantage of an error by the Lakewood BlueClaws that extended the inning, Carp reeled in a pitch from Maximo de la Cruz and sent it into the Suns bullpen for a grand slam that broke a 1-1 tie in the third inning and guided the Suns to a 6-1 victory in front of an announced crowd of 607 at Municipal Stadium on Monday night, keeping their record perfect through the first five games of 2005.

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Carp, who blasted his second round-tripper of the season, has been to the plate 12 times and has struck out in six of them.

"We had an opportunity and (de la Cruz) was struggling at the time," Carp said. "I wanted to jump on a pitch right away and he gave me a fastball right down the middle."

One-out walks to table-setters Wilson Batista and Dante Brinkley at the top of the lineup gave the Suns a potential threat, but Carlos Gomez flied out to center. Ambiorix Concepcion, who tripled in the first inning to drive in Brinkley for a 1-0 lead, then sent a grounder to Lakewood's Sam Orr at third, whose throw to second drew Bradley Harman off the bag to load the bases and set the stage for Carp.

"That was a big hit for us because we have struggled with the bats in all our games," said Suns manager Gene Richards.

Lakewood tied the game in the top of the third inning off Suns starter Matt Durkin, who gave up a single and a walk and hurt himself with an error on an attempted pickoff throw to second.

Durkin, a 6-4, 220-pound righthander from Louisiana who was making his first professional start, had his control leave him with two walks to start the fourth inning and was pulled.

"At the beginning of the game I really felt fine," Durkin said. "Usually I have good control of my fastball and not the curve, but tonight it was the opposite way."

"Coach (pitching coach Shawn Barton) came out and said I was aiming the ball and trying to be a little too fine. I knew I was gone when I walked those guys in the fourth."

Once Richards made the move to the bullpen, it performed like champions.

Matt Miramontes (2-0) came on for two innings, followed by three innings from Orlando Rengel and a closeout ninth from Marcelo Perez as the Suns allowed only six hits and struck out 13 BlueClaws in lowering their team earned run average to 0.89 through five games.

"The first start of the year is always a tough start," Richards said on Durkin's outing. "He might have been under the gun ... he didn't want to be the first to lose a game. Miramontes and Rengel came in and really settled things down."

The Suns manufactured a run in the fifth inning when Batista singled, stole second and scored on a single by Gomez - another sign that Richards' aggressive style is rubbing off on the players.

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