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Grasshoppers piece together win over Suns

August 12, 2006|by BOB MAGINNIS

Baseball is like a jigsaw puzzle.

All the pieces assemble to make one big picture. The finished product is the only thing that counts and is all most people remember. But to some people, those pieces are oh so important.

The final picture for the Hagerstown Suns on Friday will be remembered as a 3-0 loss to the Greensboro Grasshoppers. That's what will be entered on the permanent record. But the big piece of the puzzle was the performance of losing pitcher Deolis Guerra before the fireworks-hungry crowd of 4,341 at Municipal Stadium.

The 17-year-old Guerra, the youngest player in the South Atlantic League, wasn't anywhere near his best on Friday against the Grasshoppers. But that's what made him so good.

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"I thought Guerra didn't have his best stuff," said Suns manager Frank Cacciatore. "He didn't have a curve for three innings and he was erratic, but he kept us in there. He pitched."

Guerra was on the verge of a disastrous start but only allowed one run in the first inning. The starter and three Suns relievers kept Greensboro off the scoreboard until the Grasshoppers scored two unearned runs in the ninth inning to put the game away and send the Suns to their fifth straight loss.

"It could have been a similar situation to what happened (on Thursday, when Greensboro scored four times in the first in a 10-3 victory)," Cacciatore said. "We didn't get a call and they scored, but it could have been worse. He minimized the damage."

Guerra started tentatively, allowing a leadoff walk to Agustin Septimo, who advanced to second on James Guerrero's single and took third on a wild pitch.

After Brad Correll drew a one-out walk to load the bases, Brett Hayes hit a grounder to third baseman Leivi Ventura in the baseline. Ventura bobbled the ball, recovered to make a swipe tag at Guerrero, who ran to the infield side of the line to avoid it, and threw to first to get the out.

Septimo scored on the play, but Cacciatore went out to argue that Guerrero ran out of the baseline for a double play to no avail. Instead, Greensboro had the 1-0 lead.

From there, Guerra held his ground with four shutout innings to keep the Suns in reach.

"A loss is never positive, but the ways some of the players perform within the game should receive credit," Cacciatore said. "When a guy like Guerra does what he did ... minimize the damage and then rights himself to go four more good inning innings ... that shows he is using the things he's learned. Unfortunately, there is more to baseball than pitching and fielding. It's offense, too."

The Suns had little of that. Hagerstown again had its chances to score against Greensboro starter Sean West, but couldn't come up with the key hits. The Suns finished with five hits while striking out 12 times, including the last two outs when they had two on in the ninth.

Hagerstown had its best chance to tie the game in the eighth after Sean Henry led off with a double off reliever Mauro Zarate and moved to third on an errant one-out pickoff throw only to be left stranded when Hector Pellot and Ryan Coultas struck out.

Greensboro got a pair of unlikely insurance runs against closer Kevin Tomasiewicz in the ninth. After Guerrero drew a two-out walk, Andrew Jenkins hit a fly down the right-field line.

Jesus Gamero, who threw a runner out at the plate earlier in the game, made a running catch of the ball, but dropped it. Guerrero was running on the crack of the bat and tried to round the bases. Gamero pegged a throw home to catcher Rafael Arroyo, who was sent flying in a collision at the plate and dropped the ball.

Correll tacked on the final run with a single.

"The biggest problem I had there was the two-out walk," Cacciatore said. "They tend to come back and bite you. He was the No. 2 guy and he walked on a 3-2 curve. We should have went after him."

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