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Meyers' admirable job inspires Suns

July 31, 2006|by BOB PARASILITI

Ryan Meyers was far from being the center of attention, even though he was the man in the middle.

The Hagerstown pitcher, who has been pressed into multiple roles this season, was like the second through fifth clues in a Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon game. He wasn't a show-stopper, but very much needed to get the Suns to the final destination - the winner's circle.

Meyers pitched three innings of hitless relief to help steady the Suns after a shaky fifth inning and make sure Drew Butera's clutch RBI single held up as the difference in Sunday's 4-3 victory over Asheville at Municipal Stadium.

Even in the boxscore, Meyers looked like an afterthought. Jonathan Niese started and got his 11th win with a five-inning effort. Kevin Tomasiewicz earned his 12th save by closing out the ninth inning.

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Yet, the three innings that Meyers worked may have been the most critical as the Suns posted their ninth win in 11 games.

"He did a great job and his stuff was good," Suns manager Frank Cacciatore said. "He had a good tight slider and was aggressive in the zone. He did the job and we didn't support him that well. We had the defensive breakdown in the fifth and he came in and got the momentum back."

The Suns scored four runs in the fourth inning - capped by Butera's hit - for a 4-1 lead, but gave two of them back with two costly errors in the fifth to make it a one-run game.

Meyers, who had been a starter, entered to right the ship that was knocked off course for Niese.

"No matter where I come in, it's still pitching," Meyers said. "I still have to come in and pitch and make the pitches. It felt good to go out there with the lead. Most of the time, we are trying to break the other team's momentum. Games like today, it's a matter of getting our guys back in the dugout as quickly as possible to give them a chance to score more runs."

Meyers had extra snap on his pitches, setting down the Tourists with three strikeouts over the 11 batters he faced. The only two Tourists to reach came on a walk and a hit batter.

It was the calm the Suns needed to hold on for the win.

Asheville took a 1-0 lead in the second when Dan Carte led off with a double that got over right fielder Jesus Gamero's head, took third on Jason Van Kooten's sacrifice bunt and scored on Chris Cook's single.

After a slow start, the Suns locked on to Asheville starter Brandon Darden (8-3). With one out, Jonel Pacheco - who threw out his second runner at home in two games - drew a one-out walk and Nick Evans singled.

Leivi Ventura tied the game with a single to center, and he and Evans advanced on a throw to the plate. Gamero continued on his torrid pace, ripping a two-out, two-run double off the center-field wall. It was his 12th and 13th RBI in the last seven games.

Butera, who has struggled at the plate most of the season, stepped in and drilled a single through the hole at short to bring in Gamero and give the Suns a 4-1 lead.

"It felt really good to make contact and help the team," Butera said. "I was trying to cover the plate and go the other way, but I got a pitch I wanted."

"That hit was big for us and big for him, too," Cacciatore said. "He's come so far offensively this season, but the numbers don't reflect it. Hopefully, this will be the hit that will help him finish the season well."

The Suns bobbled away two-thirds of their lead in the fifth. With one out, Niese hit Florentino Nunez with a pitch and Nunez took second on Dexter Fowler's groundout. After Eric Young walked, Chris Nelson hit a shot that forced Ventura to make a diving stop. His throw to second was errant, allowing Nunez to score.

Young came in when Philip Cuadrado hit a grounder to Ventura, who threw to first only to have Evans drop the ball. Niese got Carte out to strand the tying run at third.

In came Meyers and Tomasiewicz to nail down the victory as the Suns' team ERA fell below 4.00 for the season.

"Meyers did a great job and Tomasiewicz has been solid for us since May," Cacciatore said. "It was another outstanding job for us from the bullpen."

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