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Suns throw Legends a curve

August 15, 2011|By BOB PARASILITI | bobp@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN — Matt Swynenberg was like an inventor with a new patent on Monday.

He had a new product that no one could touch.

The Hagerstown pitcher unveiled a new breaking ball that baffled Lexington batters for 7 2/3 innings, allowing the Suns to score a come-from-behind 3-2 victory over the Legends.

Swynenburg kept the Legends in check until the Suns came up with a three-run sixth inning, capped by Kevin Keyes’ game-winning two-run home run, as the Suns scored their fifth straight victory.

“He continues to throw the ball extremely well,” said Suns manager Brian Daubach. “He was economical with his pitches and he attacked the zone. That was the best breaking pitch we’ve seen him throw all year.”

Swynenberg grinned at the compliment, then confessed.

“I haven’t thrown a breaking pitch all year,” the right-hander said. “I have been working on one in the bullpen with (pitching coach Chris Mikhalak) and we decided to use it in the game today.”

Swynenburg, who joined the Suns’ rotation in the second half, used his starting mentality in an extended relief performance as he replaced Washington Nationals reliever Doug Slaten after his 2/3-inning rehab start.

Swynenburg (6-1) pitched into the ninth inning, going 7 2/3 innings and allowing one run on three hits while walking three and striking out three. The breaking pitch and his work in the strike zone allowed him to go deep into the game.

“I went out there with the mindset to let them hit the ball and let my defense do the work behind me,” Swynenberg said. “They did a great job. Over the years, I lost my feeling for the breaking pitch. I got a new grip that I’m comfortable with and I’m not throwing it as hard.”

With the Legends in check, the Suns (67-22 overall, 27-22 second half) finally got to Lexington starter Tanner Bushue (6-5) to erase a 2-0 deficit.

Adrian Sanchez started the rally with a double down the left-field line before scoring on David Freitas’ single to center. Kevin Keyes put the Suns ahead with a blast over the fence in right field.

“Their starting pitcher has given us trouble this year,” Daubach said. “He’s like Swynenberg. He gets all his pitches in the zone and that makes him tough. Kevin got the big hit. He’s got a lot of confidence at the plate right now.”

Slaten’s outing was his first since going on the disabled list in June with a sore left elbow. He made his rehab debut after spending the last two weeks working out at the Nationals’ spring training site in Viera, Fla.

Lexington took a 1-0 lead in the first inning off Slaten. Ben Orloff hit a one-out single to right and scored on Mike Kvasnicka’s double off the wall in center. Slaten reached his pitch limit after Telvin Nash’s eight-pitch at-bat for the second out before being lifted for Swynenberg, who got Tyler Burnett to fly to center to end the inning.

The Legends took a 2-0 lead in the fourth when Burnett launched a Swynenberg pitch over the wall in right for a two-out solo home run.

“He’s always tough on me,” said Swynenberg. “I threw a fastball inside with a 1-0 count. You can’t pitch from behind against him.”

Bushue lasted six innings, allowing the three runs on seven hits while striking out four.

Ben Graham replaced Swynenburg with one out in the ninth and loaded the bases before ending the game on Bryce Lane’s deep flyout to left.

The Suns had seven hits, led by Freitas with three and Keyes with two.

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