HAGERSTOWN — The Hagerstown Suns beat the odds to get in position to defeat Greenville on Saturday.
But the odds got even.
The Suns missed on prime opportunities in the 10th and 11th innings, leaving the door open for Henry Ramos to hit a two-out RBI single to center to lift the Drive to a 4-3 win in the 12th for a split of the four-game series.
Hagerstown (34-22) came back from a 3-0 deficit in the eighth inning on David Freitas’ three-run home run, but couldn’t muster another rally in the bottom of the 12th to pull the game out.
“We ran into a starting pitcher who had his ‘A’ game tonight,” said Suns manager Brian Daubach. “We had a couple of big two-out hits to get back into it and had a chance to win it in the 10th.”
In the end, it was a matter of inches and a bad hop — much like the ones that got Hagerstown back into the game — that cost the Suns in the end.
Chris Manno (1-2), who came on in the 11th, issued a one-out walk to Miles Head and a two-out pass to Jose Garcia in the 12th before being lifted for Neil Holland.
Holland got two strikes on Ramos, who stroked the next pitch into center field. Head challenged the arm of center fielder Michael Taylor, whose throw bounced off the downslope of the mound, giving just enough time for the run to score.
“At the end, the guy got the hit and the throw took a bad hop off the mound,” Daubach said. “It goes about another foot-and-a-half and things could have been different.”
The loss reduced the Suns’ lead over Greensboro to 1 1/2 games in the South Atlantic League’s Northern Division. Hagerstown will host the Grasshoppers in a three-game set starting today at 4:05 p.m. that could help decide the first-half title.
Hagerstown will have some reinforcements for today’s game, as Washington Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman will play for the Suns in a rehabilitation appearance.
Greenville starter Kyle Stroup, who was the last player selected in baseball’s 2008 draft, mastered the Suns for six innings and left the game with a 3-0 lead. He allowed two hits and two walks while striking out four before giving way to Chris Martin.
The Suns didn’t get to Martin until a lucky break started the comeback in the eighth.
Adrian Sanchez reached first on a bad-hop single over the head of Garcia at short. After Blake Kelso singled to left, David Freitas put up a fight and won the battle against Martin.
The Suns catcher worked the count to 2-2 and fouled off five consecutive pitches before sending Martin's next pitch over the wall in left-center field to tie the game at 3.
Greenville got runners to second in the 10th and 11th innings but failed to score each time. Josue Peley led off the 11th with a double off Manno, but got no further.
Taylor reached on an error by Garcia to open the bottom of the 10th. He took second on Wade Moore’s sacrifice bunt and stole third, but was left stranded.
Manno carried a 0.00 ERA into his 20th appearance of the season, having allowed just two unearned runs. The Drive scored the third run — and the first earned run — off of the reliever to get the win.
The Drive roughed up Suns starter Sammy Solis in the first inning with back-to-back home runs to take a quick 3-0 lead.
Sean Coyle hit a double down the left-field line before Head blasted a shot over the wall in center field. Brandon Jacobs followed with a drive to right center for the three-run lead. It was Miles' 13th homer of the year, tying him for the South Atlantic League lead with Lakewood's Jim Murphy and the Suns' Bryce Harper.
Harper, who didn’t start the game, came in as a pinch hitter for Kevin Keyes in the ninth inning, then took over in right field. He was called out on a low strike in the ninth and was intentionally walked in the 11th.
Charle Rosario (3-0) pitched the final two innings for Greenville.
The Suns finished with six hits, led by Kelso’s two — although he struck out in the 10th.
The Suns used five pitchers in the game, allowing nine hits and striking out 14.
“I’m happy with the way the guys fought to the end,” Daubach said. “We have to forget this one and get ready to face Greensboro tomorrow.”