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Tomasiewicz walks the line

Suns cash in

June 05, 2006|by BOB PARASILITI

Kevin Tomasiewicz turned into a tightrope walker with a death wish on Sunday.

The Hagerstown reliever was walking a thin line without a safety net. Keep your balance and get all the applause. Make one false step and .... SPLAT.

Tomasiewicz was in the second inning of protecting the Suns' first lead in nearly a week. He stumbled, allowing two runs, but gathered himself to retire the last two hitters he faced to hold off Lexington for a 6-5 victory and give the Suns a split in the nightcap of a doubleheader to end an 11-game losing streak. That 11th straight loss was a 2-0 shutout in the opener.

"We had the lead and I knew I couldn't let the team down," said Tomasiewicz, in a more relaxed state. "We had Marcelo Perez as our closer and he was (promoted), so now it is (German) Marte and me working as the closers. I know there is no backup. It's 'you or lose,' now. I like that feeling.

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Tomasiewicz got all the fire-resistant feeling he could have wanted in the nightcap. He was called on in the sixth as the third pitcher in the inning with the bases loaded, one out and the Suns nursing a 5-3 lead.

The left-hander knocked the Legends off the ledge by striking out Josh Flores and Eric King to end the threat.

"Those strikeouts were huge," said Suns manager Frank Cacciatore. "Kevin has been throwing well and he deserved the chance to go in and finish a game. He's been coming in and throwing strikes for us and he got those two big punchouts when we needed them."

After Tony Piazza homered in the bottom of the sixth to give the Suns a much-needed insurance run, Tomasiewicz was forced to save himself from himself.

Lexington inched closer as Tony Manzella led off with a single and took third on Ole Sheldon's double before scoring on Eli Iorg's grounder to third. Mitch Einertson ripped an RBI single and moved into scoring position on Pedro Espinoza's hit in what suddenly became a one-run game.

That prompted a visit from Cacciatore to settle Tomasiewicz down. And then came the realization that the game, the win and the end of the long losing streak was all up to him.

"As soon as he came out to see me, I looked out at the bullpen and there was no one out there warming up," Tomasiewicz said. "I said to myself 'It's now or never, and I'm not going to let the team down.'"

Tomasiewicz promptly got Wladimir Sutil and pinch hitter J.R. Towles to fly out to end the game in the Suns first win since May 22.

"In that first inning, I was coming in trying to hold them to one run and I got that first strikeout," Tomasiewicz said. "In the second inning, I was getting the ball up and getting hit. I wasn't striking anyone out. But I got a couple of fly balls and had my defense behind me and we got the win. That's the name of the game."

Tomasiewicz's save provided the drama that took away from a commanding performance by Suns' starter Jonathan Niese. The left-hander struck out 10 in 5 1/3 innings and kept the hard-hitting Legends off balance with his breaking pitch. He left with the bases loaded in the sixth for Marte, who allowed a two-run double to Mike Thompson and walked Eric Cavers before being lifted for Tomasiewicz.

"Niesy had thrown a very good game," Cacciatore said. "He had as good a curveball as I have seen him throw today. He was up there in the pitch count and we weren't going to let him make a mistake late in an outing to ruin it. That's why we have a bullpen."

The Suns jumped out to a 2-0 lead - their first advantage in 26 1/2 innings - on Nick Evans' two-run home run off Lexington starter Doug Arguello. They added a run in the second on Piazza's RBI double and two more in the third on Jonathan Sanchez's two-run shot to right.

Iorg got Lexington on the board with an RBI single off Niese in the fourth before the Legends mounted the comeback, fueled by a fielding error by second baseman Hector Pellot to start the sixth.

In the opener, starter Bobby Parnell was the hardluck loser, allowing two runs (one earned) on seven hits while striking out six.

Lexington scored in the second on Sheldon's home run to right and picked up an unearned run on Towels' double in the seventh. The Suns managed only three hits off Lexington starter Tip Fairchild.

The second game made up for the frustration of the first.

"It's nice to hang on, but it's good to get the 'W,'" Cacciatore said. "Especially with us heading back on the road (today). These are a bunch of young guys with all they can handle on their plates in this league. They'll get better and will."

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