At times, the Hagerstown Suns enjoy living by the “Dorothy” theory.
Sometimes, Municipal Stadium is like Kansas. There is no place like home.
One of those times came Friday when the Suns faced arch-rival Greensboro in the first game of a four-game homestand.
“The weather was cooler and the guys got a little rest,” said Hagerstown manager Brian Daubach. “It was a great crowd. The guys seem to play better when we have good crowds like this.”
It felt like a “wearing bedroom slippers” kind of night. The Suns put together a nifty 2-1 victory in a crisply played game, especially considering they didn’t get back into town until 8 a.m. after completing a road trip in Hickory, N.C.
Daubach said Hagerstown didn’t take batting practice to allow the players to catch some sleep. There was a little added incentive because the Suns were playing the Grasshoppers, a team that put Hagerstown to the test for much of the first half.
Still, the Suns seem to be hams. They really play it up for the crowd.
Hagerstown is 34-25 when playing before crowds of at least 2,500, including 9-6 at Municipal Stadium.
That should make things interesting today with pitcher Stephen Strasburg in front of a sellout crowd.
* Kevin Keyes is 12 for his last 32 (.375) over the last seven games to lift his batting average 21 points to .260. Keyes is hitting .290 with three home runs and 24 RBIs in 26 games since being inserted into the cleanup spot.
*Michael Taylor is quietly building a strong 2011 season. The outfielder has shown steady improvement every month, hitting .172 in April, .245 in May, .264 in June, .296 in July and now .357 in the early part of August. He is currently on a six-game hitting streak, going 8-for-21 (.381) with two homers and eight RBIs.
Taylor is carrying a .328 average (38-for-116) since the All-Star break with eight home runs and 27 RBIs, raising his batting average 40 points to .254. Taylor has been strong in the clutch, especially with two outs. He is hitting .333 with runners on and .349 when they are in scoring position, each with two outs.
*Adrian Sanchez is another Sun enjoying the second half. He is hitting .306 since the break to raise his average 23 points to .268. Since July 6, he has hit safely in 22 of his last 26 games (35-for-107, .327) with eight multihit games, including four with three hits. He has been equally efficient in the field, committing just three errors in those games.
*When Matt Grace gets past the fourth inning, he and the Suns have a chance for a good outcome. In seven of his last 10 starts, Grace has been around to see the fifth inning and is 5-0 in those games. He has pitched 42 2/3 innings with a 1.90 ERA in those games. In the other three outings, he is 0-1 with a 16.00 ERA in eight innings. Grace was 2-0 with a 1.77 ERA in four starts in July.
*Pitcher Paul Applebee is 0-0 with a 2.45 ERA in 10 appearances since the All-Star break. Two of those outings were spot starts where he pitched 10 innings and collected a 2.70 ERA. Out of the bullpen, Applebee has been as reliable as they come with 18 strikeouts in 19 1/3 innings with a 1.41 ERA in eight relief appearances.
First 27 games in Hagerstown — 34-for-92 (.370) with 20 runs, nine doubles, seven home runs, 23 RBIs, 16 walks, 22 strikeouts, 5-for-7 stolen bases.
First 27 games in Harrisburg — 23-for-95 (.242) with 11 runs, six doubles, one home run, five RBIs, nine walks, 19 strikeouts, 4-of-5 stolen bases.
Overall (99 games through Friday) — 105-for-353 (.297), 30 runs, 23 doubles, 15 home runs, 51 RBIs, 53 walks, 80 strikeouts, 23-for-29 stolen bases.
Bob Parasiliti covers the Hagerstown Suns for The Herald-Mail.