The Hagerstown Suns rallied for five runs with two outs in the first inning, taking advantage of mistakes both mental and physical, en route to a 7-4 victory over the Rome Braves.
Like many big innings, the genesis is often subtle. Estarlin Martinez beat out an infield single on a high tapper to third. Brandon Miller broke his bat, but fisted it into shallow right field for another two-out hit.
A balk pushed both runners over one base, and “Help Me” Wander Ramos made Rome’s 20-year-old starter Wes Parsons pay for worrying more about the runners than about him with a double down the left field line for a 2-0 lead.
A walk to Bryan Lippincott once again set up a force at any infield base. Braves 3B Eric Garcia froze up on grounder off the bat of Khayyan Norfork and committed the dreaded double error, booting it for one, throwing it past 1st for another, which let in the third Suns run and put runners on 2nd and 3rd for Craig Manuel.
The eighth batter of the inning cashed in the mistake with a single to left to complete the five-run sequence as Stephen Perez struck out to end the frame.
Kylin Turnbull, who began the year in Potomac and was dropped down twice, couldn’t stand the prosperity of a 5-0 lead. After setting down the side in order in the 1st on three groundballs, he let in a run on three singles in the 2nd, gave up a leadoff HR in the 3rd, and allowed two more runs in the 4th before finally putting up a zero in the 5th.
He left after five innings thrown, giving up four runs on 12 hits, walking none and striking out four. He would end up the winning pitcher nevertheless. It’s fashionable nowadays to try to explain away that many hits and blame the defense, especially sight unseen, but that wasn’t the case (it rarely is). The almost-24-year-old remains timid in long counts and gets hit when he gives in as a result.
Bryan Harper only got the hold, but was the most effective pitcher on either team. The brother of you-know-who faced seven batters and got seven outs, giving up a “hit” when Martinez and Perez converged but couldn’t snare a shallow pop to left field as Martinez dropped it, but Perez quickly recovered to gun down the runner trying to turn a gift single into a double.
Travis Henke replaced Harper with one out in the 8th and gave way to Gilberto Mendez in the 9th. The diminutive Dominican with a big arm gave up a leadoff hit, then retired the next three on groundballs to secure his fifth save.
Nos. 4-5 batters Miller and Ramos combined for five hits, two runs, and two doubles as Hagerstown piled up 10 hits total and tacked on insurance runs in the 3rd and 8th innings.
The win keeps pace with first-place Hickory, keeping Hagerstown a half-game back in second place and a game ahead of third-place West Virginia. Pedro Encarnacion gets assignment this afternoon in Game 3 of the four-game set, which concludes with a Monday morning getaway game.