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Clutch hitting leaves Suns with full plate

Clutch hitting leaves Suns with full plate

August 13, 2006|by BOB PARASILITI

People claim wine tasting is an acquired taste.

The same could be said for clutch hitting.

The Hagerstown Suns have spent the entire season trying to find the palate for hitting with runners in scoring position. For the most part, it has left a bad taste in their mouths.

It will take time, but like eating Brussels sprouts as a kid, the Suns will learn to like it.

They have to.

"I think it's a constant learning process," said Suns manager Frank Cacciatore. "There are a lot of different ways to knock in runs besides hitting the ball."

The Suns entered Friday's game hitting .239 with runners in scoring position - on second or third base - accounting for 320 RBI. The Suns were 47-69 overall, including 25-35 in games decided by two runs or less.

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The average falls even further when there are two outs as the Suns were hitting .198.

In contrast, Greensboro, Hagerstown's weekend opponent, is hitting .269 and has driven in 341 runs in the same situations. The Grasshoppers were 59-56, including 29-30 in close games.

Still, driving in runs has been difficult for the Suns. It is a form of growing pains for such a young team.

"The key is trying to get a bunch of hits together," Cacciatore said.

The prize pupil has been Nick Evans. The first baseman is hitting .273 in 143 chances with runners on, driving in 50 runs. Not all of the have come on classic hits.

On Thursday, Evans battled Greensboro's Aaron Thompson for seven pitches before finally lining a two-run single to center.

"Nick had a lot of opportunities early, but now he's been knocking runs in a different way," Cacciatore said. "It doesn't always have to be a drive. He battled today and fouled off a lot of pitches and stayed alive. Then, when it got to the nitty gritty, he came through."

History doesn't lie. Battle for hits, string them together and the runs will come.

"Earl Weaver proved it," Cacciatore said. "Bunching hits is big, but of course he lived by the three-run home run, too. Still, he knew that he could probably score more in one inning than the other team did in the whole game."

Shift is on

The lineup shuffle continued for the Suns.

Fernando Martinez and Armand Gaerlan were promoted to St. Lucie and Matt Anderson was activated from the disabled list. Todd Lentz was sent to and Sean Henry was acquired from Kingsport.

And finally, Ryan Coultas returned to the Suns from St. Lucie. Coultas played for Hagerstown last season, hitting .289 in 89 games while working at second base and shortstop. He played only 50 games for St. Lucie, hitting .145.

He replaced Martinez, who was promoted after playing three stints with the Suns. The 17-year-old center fielder was a catalyst for Hagerstown when he wasn't recovering from a thumb and knee injuries. The Suns were 25-21 with Martinez in the lineup.

Sun spots

The Suns' pitching staff posted a 3.19 ERA for the month of July.

The Suns have had trouble coming back when they trail in a game. They were 7-52 when trailing after five innings, 6-55 after six, 6-59 after seven and 4-55 after eight innings.

Coultas is the Suns top hitter in August, hitting .500 heading into Friday's game. Deolis Guerra was the top starting pitcher with a 1.53 ERA while Kevin Tomasiewicz has a 0.00 ERA in four appearances out of the bullpen.

A look ahead

Fans will be cheering for the Suns from a distance for most of the next two weeks.

After today's game with Greensboro (Marlins), the Suns hit the road for a 14-day, 12-game road trip at Lakewood (Phillies), West Virginia (Brewers) and Delmarva (Orioles) before returning home for the final eight games of the season on Aug. 28.




Bob Parasiliti covers the Hagerstown Suns for The Herald-Mail. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2310, or by e-mail at bobp@herald-mail.com

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