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Suns notebook

Richards notices something in the air

Richards notices something in the air

July 10, 2005|by BOB PARASILITI

There has been a certain air about the Hagerstown Suns lately.

And its a fragrance that's forcing manager Gene Richards to turn his nose up. We're not talking roses here.

"We've been stinking," Richards said.

The Suns have been more aromatic than aerodynamic over the last two weeks. Not much has gone right for Hagerstown since winning the South Atlantic League North's first-half title.

The Suns were 4-10 through Friday and in last place in the second half, going 2-8 since knocking off Lexington for the first-half title on June 25.

In the midst of the championship hangover, the Suns have stumbled through promotions and the conservation of pitchers.

The Suns lost outfielder Dante Brinkley (the SAL's leading hitter), infielder Wilson Batista and catcher Aaron Hathaway to St. Lucie of the Florida State League.

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"(Losing Brinkley) has hurt us, but it's a happy break for me," Richards said. "It has given a player a chance to go up and meet the challenge on the next level."

At the beginning of the second half, the Suns - as ordered by the New York Mets organization - were forced to have pitchers skip starts to get extra rest. It is a practice which is not uncommon at the Single-A level.

The Mets don't want to see some of their top pitching prospects throw 200-plus innings for the season. It has disrupted the Suns starting rotation and put added strain on the bullpen as relievers have been used for spot starts.

All are reasons and excuses for the Suns' woes, but none are valid in Richards' mind.

"I wish that was the excuse," Richards said. "I can't see that. If you want to make it to the Major Leagues, you have to pass the test. You have to show that you can play a full year here - and that's more than 140 games. To play Major League baseball, there are a lot of ups and downs in a season. You have to show that you are able to stand in there and get your second wind."




Suns Spots


-- The Suns have had a dramatic change of fortunes since sealing the first-half title.

Since June 25, Hagerstown hasn't had problems hitting the ball. It's just the pitching has had problems holding the lead.

The Suns have hit .314 in their nine games since earning the postseason berth, but the pitching staff has allowed 68 runs and a 6.09 ERA. It has translated into a 2-8 record, including a six-game losing streak they snapped Thursday.

The pitching numbers speak for themselves when it comes to the Suns' problems.

Muniz - 4 innings, 8 hits, 7 runs, 6 earned (13.50 ERA), 1 walk, 4 strikeouts

Perez - 7 innings, 7 hits, 4 runs, 2 earned (2.57 ERA), 2 walks, 6 strikeouts.

Cova - 9 2/3 innings, 11 hits, 15 runs, 13 earned (12.10 ERA), 7 walks, 10 strikeouts

Miramontes - 4 1/3 innings, 5 hits, 8 runs, 8 earned runs (16.62 ERA), 10 walks, 1 strikeout.

Mannix - 8 innings, 16 hits, 11 runs, 9 earned (10.13 ERA), 2 walks, 3 strikeouts.

Devaney - 11 2/3 innings, 8 hits, 9 runs, 9 earned (6.94 ERA), 5 walks, 11 strikeouts

Bowman - 9 1/3 innings, 11 hits, 3 runs, 3 earned (2.89 ERA), 2 walks, 1 strikeout

Offensively, the Suns have more than held their own. They have averaged 5.5 runs per game with 37 of their 107 hits going for extra bases.

Some of the hitters have even excelled. Corey Coles has been hitting .447 in the span (17-for-38) with three doubles and three RBI.

Ryan Coultas is hitting .424 (14-for-33) with five doubles, three home runs and 12 RBI; Grant Psomas is hitting .371 (13-for-35) while drawing 10 walks and Jesus Flores is hitting .375 (12-for-32) with four doubles and six RBI.

On the other side of the spectrum though, Mike Carp has struggled, hitting .206 (7-for-34) with eight strikeouts and Derran Watts is mired in a 3-for-24 (.125) slump.

-- The Suns have lost seven games when leading entering the ninth inning. Meanwhile, the Suns have come from behind only once - April 16.

-- The Suns are 25 of 38 in save situations (65.8 percent).

-- Miramontes has hit 18 batters in his last 13 outings




Milestones


-- Deactivated - The Suns placed closer Carlos Muniz on the inactive list Wednesday. Meanwhile, Rafael Cova was placed on the disabled list Friday with a sore right arm.

-- Returning - Blake Eager rejoined the Suns on Thursday after a stint at extended spring training rehabilitating a pulled oblique muscled. He will work a piggyback start, when the Suns will throw two starters in half-game situations.

-- Gone, not forgotten - Gabriel Hernandez was promoted to St. Lucie after Friday's game. He left Hagerstown after 18 starts, going 6-1 with a 2.43 ERA in 92 2/3 innings. Hernandez, the opening day starter for the Suns, allowed 29 runs on 59 hits, with 30 walks and 99 strikeouts. He pitched the second no-hitter in Suns' history on June 19 and leaves in the middle of a string of 23 1/3 scoreless innings.

Muniz was also promoted to St. Lucie on Friday, ending a servicable run which became shaky near the end. He leaves with a 4.50 ERA and struck out 43 in 37 2/3 innings.

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