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Keyes lifts Suns with 14th-inning homer

June 29, 2011|By BOB PARASILITI | bobp@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN — Kevin Keyes admits he doesn’t know his own strength.

“I guess I don’t know the power God blessed me with,” the Hagerstown Suns outfielder said.

Keyes is blessed and the Suns are rejoicing about now. Keyes unloaded a leadoff home run in the 14th inning — his second of the night — to lift Hagerstown to a come-from-behind 4-3 victory over Lakewood on Tuesday at Municipal Stadium.

Keyes, who has seven homers in his last eight games, bookended his two right-field shots around a dramatic two-run blast by Michael Taylor in the ninth to erase a 3-1 deficit and move the Suns into extra innings.

“No doubt,” Suns manager Brian Daubach said about three swings of the bat changing the outcome of the game. “I’m proud of Mike and Kevin. They both have been working hard and had a good couple of games to end the first half. Like we said at the end of the first half, we were looking for it to carry over into the second half.”

And it has in the first six games. Keyes has hit five home runs in the second half while Taylor is 10-for-23 (.435) with two homers and five RBIs to help Hagerstown (44-32) to a 4-2 start in the second half.

The two teams played close to the vest after Taylor’s homer as the bullpens took control.

Lakewood got a runner to third in the 14th with two outs but failed to score. The Suns didn’t get any runners in scoring position.

They didn’t need one.

Keyes came up and ripped Tyler Knigge’s offering over the right-field fence to give the game that sudden-death feeling.

“I was just looking to put the ball in play,” Keyes said. “I was just looking to start a rally to help the team and win the game, especially after my previous two at-bats.”

Keyes had struck out with the bases loaded in the eighth and then went down swinging again to lead off the 11th.

“I guess you could say it was redemption,” Keyes said. “I just want to help the team any I can. You are going to strikeout. You just have to go and flush them.”

The Suns looked all but dead but came off the mat in the ninth inning to force extra innings, giving Keyes the opportunity to win the game.

Hagerstown got to Lakewood closer Juan Sosa, who came on with two outs in the eighth to end a bases-loaded situation.

Sosa got the first out of the ninth before hitting Cole Leonida with a pitch. Taylor came up and drove his 1-1 pitch over the wall in center field for a game-tying home run.

“Mike has been hitting the ball hard for the last couple of weeks,” Keyes said. “He is tremendously talented. I can see him having a lot of years playing in the majors.”

It was an uphill battle for the Suns for most of the night as starter Jessie Biddle held them to four hits while striking out eight through his 5 1/3-inning stint. Keyes and Mills Rogers had two hits each for the extent of the Suns' offense through six innings.

For the second straight night, the BlueClaws took the lead in the first, scoring two runs off Hagerstown starter Matt Grace. Edgar Duran led off with an slow-rolling infield single to third, stole second and took third on Carlos Perdomo's single to right. Zach Collier lofted a sacrifice fly to right to notch the first run.

After Pedomo stole second and took third on Jim Murphy's single to left, Geancarlo Mendez lined to shortstop Jason Martinson. Martinson threw the ball away, trying to double Murphy off first, allowing the second run to score.

The Suns got one run back against Biddle in the second as Keyes hit a high, towering homer to right on a 3-2 pitch with two outs, that he kind of flicked at with a defensive swing.

“Strong man,” Daubach said. “He has been working a lot with (hitting coach Marlon Anderson) and he has quieted his leg kick. He has been outstanding. It has been fun to watch.”

The BlueClaws got the run back in the fifth as Travis Mattair led off with a single to left and a double by Cameron Rupp to left. Perdomo brought in the run with a one-out grounder to short.

The Suns bullpen took over for Grace in the sixth. The contingent of Paul Applebee, Wilson Esuebio, Ben Graham and Sam Brown combined for nine shutout innings of three-hit relief, with two walks and three strikeouts. Brown (2-1) got the win by pitching the 14th after issuing a one-out walk to Mendez before stranding him at third base.

“The bullpen was the story for the first two months of the season,” Daubach said. “It was good to see the way Graham and Brown pitched tonight.”

Keyes led the Suns with three of the team’s seven hits.

Bryce Harper was out of the lineup for a third straight day as he continues to nurse a bruised left thumb. Doug Harris, the Washington Nationals director of player development, said Monday that Harper was getting some rest.

"It's the first time this kid has played baseball day, after day, after day in his life," Harris told Rotoworld.com. "So we're just giving him a blow."

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