Thursday, May 2 - Suns 3, GreenJackets 2
The GreenJackets fell victim to another big inning that led to a loss. The Suns scored three in the second, all they would need behind an effective Pedro Encarnacion, who shut Augusta down for six innings.
Encarnacion, who reminded me of Wednesday starter Ronald Pena in many ways, held Augusta to three hits over six scoreless innings, walking one and striking out three. Encarnacion limited the walks and kept the ball in the zone, forcing GreenJackets hitters to attack his pitches. The best they could do was sprinkled singles.
Augusta starter Chris Stratton was off in the first two innings, resulting in three runs on three hits and two walks in the second. He turned to his breaking stuff after losing the fastball early, but he found the fastball in the next four innings, limiting Hagerstown to one hit over his final four scoreless innings.
Hagerstown second baseman Tony Renda, one of the higher-ranked Nationals prospects on the team not injured, took two fastballs the other way for singles, including one up and away on a 1-2 count that drove in two runs. He ended up with three singles, a walk and stolen base. Renda is a scrappy guy on the right side of the infield and showed every bit of it in this game. He has also played steady defense so far.
Take away two innings and the GreenJackets have two shutout wins in the series. But baseball requires nine innings, and Augusta has two losses as a result.
Notable GreenJackets lines:
Chris Stratton: 6 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 3 BB, 8 K, 9 swinging strikes
Trevor Brown: 2-4
Eric Sim: 1-3, HR, RBI, BB
Shayne Houck: 1-3, BB
Notable Suns lines:
Pedro Encarnacion: 6 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 3 K
Tony Renda: 3-4, 2 RBI, BB, SB
Wander Ramos: 1-4, 2B, RBI, BB
Mike McQuillan: 1-4, BB
"That’s been the motto so far (in the series). They’ve jumped out early, put a crooked number on us, and we just aren’t swinging the bat well enough to get back in the ballgame right now. Our singles were spread out, we weren’t able to string anything together. Two nights in a row we’ve been 0-fer with runners in scoring position. It’s tough winning ballgames like that.
"I think we’re still playing good defense even though we had a couple errors tonight. Both were not on routine plays, which is what we preach these guys every day, make all the routine plays. They continue to do that, and I’m very pleased to see that.
"A couple walks by Stratton came back to bite him. I know Stratton isn’t trying to walk guys, but I’ve yet to find a human being alive that can defend a walk. So I think you’ll see these guys attack the strike zone much better. Like I said, I know they’re not trying to walk guys, but they need to be a little more aggressive and not be so fine early in the count to put us in those counts.
"Once Stratton got going, he pitched well for six innings. The first couple innings were shaky, but once he settled down he was pretty good.
"Bullpen, once they came in, kept us in the ballgame, gave us a chance to tie or win in the ninth, and that’s all you can ask for out of those guys.
"We had a 1-2 count on (Renda), we were trying to elevate him, but we weren’t trying to elevate him away, which is something you never do. Up and away allows a little slower bat a chance to catch up and do something with it. Up and in, I think we would have got him on a swing and miss. But we left it in a position where it was hittable, which right now, they’re clutching up and getting hits in scoring position and we’re not. That’s the difference in the first two ballgames."
"Fastball location has got to get better. Pretty much just trying to find it and getting behind, then thinking too much. So I just have to attack early and get first pitch strikes. Location with the fastball. Last time I faced them last week, I walked a few guys there, too, just not getting the ball down. Just have to work on that.
"Secondaries were good, but if you don’t have your fastball it’s always a tough night. I just tried to battle through and get our team the best chance to win. Just go out there and pitch, try to have fun. Even in a pressure situation, try to have fun."