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Notebook: Suns shoot for moon, but fall just short in June

June 18, 2011|By BOB PARASILITI | bobp@herald-mail.com

April’s power brought a flowering May for the Hagerstown Suns this season.

The Suns were the class of the South Atlantic League over the first two months of the season.

Then came June, all too soon, along with a swoon.

The Suns were 32-20 and holding a 2 1/2-game lead over Greensboro in the South Atlantic League’s Northern Division on June 1. From there, it all went south.

Hagerstown is 6-10 with a .280 team batting average and 4.20 team ERA for the month entering Saturday’s game with Delmarva.

The bottom began to drop out on June 6, as the Suns have won just three of their last 11 games.

The most telling stat may be that the Suns are hitting 17-for-79 (.215) with runners in scoring position in the last 11 games, which includes 5-for-39 (.128) during the recently completed six-game losing streak.

All totaled, the numbers led to the Suns falling to third place in the division, two games behind Greensboro and Hickory and hanging in the first-half title race by their fingernails. The chase could be over by this morning.

Ebb and flow

In the first half of the season, Bryce Harper has proved to be just what everyone didn’t expect him to be.

That is, he is an 18-year-old talent trying to learn how to play professional baseball.

Despite being the No. 1 overall selection in the 2010 draft, Harper’s season has been a roller-coaster ride with different milestones changing directions in his season.

The five phases of Harper’s season are listed in the graphic.

Harper’s two major hot streaks came on the heels of major events. He went on an 18-game hitting streak after being fitted for contacts in April. Then the outfielder regained his stroke when he made a concerted effort to drive the ball to the middle of the field. In that combined 32-game span, Harper was 52-for-113 (.460) with 12 home runs and 32 RBIs.

In contrast, in his other 32 games, Harper was 23-for-114 (.202) with two home runs and 13 RBIs heading into Saturday. Harper’s current struggles began on June 7 after the controversy surrounding a kiss he blew to Greensboro pitcher Zach Neal after hitting a home run.

Harper, who has been battling a jammed thumb, showed signs of coming out of his most recent funk with a 2-for-3 outing in Friday’s 2-1 win over Delmarva.

Harper has proven that when things are good, they are great. When they are bad, it is tough. Despite it all, he is hitting .330 overall.

He came to Hagerstown for the sole purpose of an education. Because of his reputation, it was more intense than he could ever have imagined off the field. On the field, it hasn’t been totally what he has been used to experiencing, either.

But in the end, Harper will be better for it.

Suns spots

* David Freitas has been the hottest hitter for the Suns, hitting safely in 15 of his last 17 games. The all-star catcher is 27-for-63 (.429) with three home runs and 14 RBIs. He has had nine multi-hit games, including three three-hit games.

* Conversely, Blake Kelso has hit some hard times. He is 11-for-46 — all singles — in the last 11 games (.244) with one RBI. He has only scored five runs in the stretch.

* Some trends for the Suns: They are 26-14 when scoring first, 15-7 when scoring last, 15-9 in one-run games, 4-4 in two-run games and 4-3 in extra innings.

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