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Sanchez gets Suns going vs. Lakewood

June 24, 2006|by BOB PARASILITI

For Jonathan Sanchez, familiarity breeds ascent.

Over the course of the first 2 1/2 months of the season, the Hagerstown Suns right fielder has come to know Lakewood pitcher Maximo De La Cruz on a first-pitch basis. On Friday, did he ever have a greeting.

Sanchez clubbed a leadoff home run in the third inning to help the Suns regain the lead and added a clutch two-out RBI double in the two-run seventh to cap a three-hit night and the Suns' 6-4 victory over the BlueClaws.

"It's the second half and I have to start hitting better," Sanchez said. "I know (De La Cruz). I have hit against him a lot when we played them in Lakewood. Knowing him helps me more when I'm hitting because I know what he's going to throw me."

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The recognition couldn't have come at a better time for the Suns (29-43, 1-1), who won their first game of the South Atlantic League's second half.

Hector Pellot's throwing error on a double-play attempt opened the door for Clay Harris' three-run home run in the third inning as Lakewood tied the game at 3-3.

Sanchez led off the third with a blast to right off De La Cruz for his ninth home run of the season to put the game back in the Suns' favor.

"Sanchez was big with the home run and a big two-out hit," Suns manager Frank Cacciatore said. "We didn't complete that double play and they got back in the game, so we were back on our heels. But that home run got us going."

It got Sanchez going, too. The outfielder started the season in a funk, but has turned it around by hitting all nine of his home runs in his last 116 at-bats (one every 12.9 at-bats).

"I'm just hitting the ball well," Sanchez said. "I didn't have any home runs in my first 150 at-bats this season. I have been working with my hitting coach (Luis Natera) and I have made an adjustment in my swing."

The Suns got to De La Cruz early as Joe Holden led off the first with a home run to right, his sixth. The lead moved to 3-0 in the second when De La Cruz balked with the bases loaded to plate a run and Drew Butera hit a sacrifice fly.

Suns starter Jeff Landing (4-9) treaded water in his five-inning stint, coming up when he needed to avoid trouble. He escaped major problems with the bases loaded in the second by getting Fidel Hernandez to ground to Leivi Ventura at third, who threw home to start an inning-ending double play.

Landing wasn't as lucky with Pellot's double-play throw, which would have ended the inning, but prolonged it to set up Harris' three-run home run.

Eric Brown relieved Landing in the sixth and pitched three outstanding innings, holding Lakewood to one hit and one walk while striking out three as the Suns used their defense to keep the one-run lead.

"Brown came in and had good stuff and threw strikes," Cacciatore said. "He came in a did the job in a situation where every pitch counts."

Hagerstown got insurance off left-handed reliever Justin Blaine in the seventh when Holden stroked a one-out single to left and stole second. Sanchez drove the right-center-field gap for his two-out RBI double and scored when Nick Evans tripled down the right-field line for the 6-3 lead.

"That double was bigger for me (than the home run)," Sanchez said. "A lefty hitting a lefty isn't too easy, and I hit a breaking ball. When I was going up, I told my hitting coach that I was going to get a breaking pitch and I was going to hit it ... and I did."

Lakewood picked up a run in the ninth off Suns closer Kevin Tomasiewicz as Hernandez and Julian Williams hit back-to-back doubles before he nailed down his seventh save.

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