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Suns fall just short

June 06, 2011|By BOB PARASILITI | bobp@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN — The Greensboro Grasshoppers put a new spin on a an elementary theme for success: You walk before you score runs.

That is usually what happens if the walk is of the leadoff variety. A leadoff walk in the seventh inning was the fuel leading to Wilfredo Gimenez’s game-winning three-run home run to vault Greensboro to a 3-2 victory on Monday at Municipal Stadium.

The blast not only erased a 2-0 Hagerstown lead in what played out as a pitchers’ duel between the Suns’ Robbie Ray and Greensboro’s Zach Neal, it knotted the three-game series between the top two teams in the South Atlantic League’s Northern Division at a game apiece.

Hagerstown holds a 1 1/2-game edge over Greensboro in the battle for the first-half title with 12 games remaining.

But, in the long run, it was a walk that ended the Suns’ chances of jumping out to a 3 1/2-game bulge.

“Start off with a leadoff walk and usually it leads to runs,” said Suns manager Brian Daubauch. “It did tonight.”

Ray was lifted after the sixth because he reached his pitch count limit and was replaced by Shane McCatty, who didn’t retire any of the four batters he faced. McCatty committed the cardinal sin by walking leadoff hitter Ozuna.

Ozuna advanced on a wild pitch, but only made it to third on Ryan Fisher’s double off the center-field wall.

The running gaffe didn’t hurt the Grasshoppers, though, as Wilfredo Gimenez lined a shot that just cleared the fence in left for a three-run homer that gave Greensboro a 3-2 lead.

McCatty (0-1) was lifted for Neil Holland after allowing a double to Brian McConkey. Holland worked out of the inning without any further damage, keeping the Suns within one run.

“You can never tell if a pitcher has it when he comes out of the bullpen,” Daubach said. “(Greensboro) is a good hitting club and they scored the runs when they needed them.”

Ray and Neal controlled the game until the Suns broke through for their two runs in the sixth.

Ray allowed a second-inning single to Christian Yelich, the only hit in his six shutout innings of work. The left-hander struck out nine and didn’t issue a walk.

Neal was equally as effective, allowing only three hits until the sixth.

The Suns finally broke through against Neal and it took one big swing from a usual character.

Bryce Harper connected on a 1-0 pitch and launched it over the wall in right-center field with one out for his 14th homer of the season. The blast moved Harper into a tie for the league lead with Augusta’s Adam Duvall.

Freitas followed with a single and took third on Randolph Oduber’s single to right that outfielder Marcell Ozuna misplayed. Brett Newsome grounded into a fielder’s choice to score Freitas to give the Suns a short-lived lead.

Freitas led the Suns with three hits.

Michael Brady struck out all four Suns he faced to earn the save for Greensboro.

“We have Taylor (Jordan) tomorrow,” Daubbach said. “He has been one of our best all year and we’ll come out to try and win the series.”

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