Blue Crabs conclude brief homestand with win over Long Island
Grening, 4 relievers shut out Ducks to take series
Hot, humid conditions on Sunday afternoon were hardly ideal for players and spectators alike when the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs concluded a brief, three-game homestand against the Long Island Ducks but the local squad emerged with a 2-0 victory.
Southern Maryland starter Brian Grening and Long Island southpaw starter Dustin Richardson were hooked in a genuine duel through the early part of the day. Neither surrendered a hit through the first three innings, but the Blue Crabs got two hits and an unearned run against the Ducks’ hurler in the fourth.
Blue Crabs right fielder D’Arby Myers arrived on Sunday with a 19-game hitting streak. After he grounded out to second in the bottom of the first, Myers came up with the first hit of the game for either team when he delivered a single to center in the bottom of the fourth, extending his hitting streak to 20. Before the inning ended he would score the game’s first run.
“I’m a day-to-day guy,” Myers said, attempting to downplay his hitting streak. “I don’t keep track of the streak. I know I had the first hit of the game and scored the first run. It’s always good to get that first run. We have a lot of good pitchers on this team. Friday was a fluke, but those things happen in baseball.”
Bryant Nelson came into Sunday’s game nine hits shy of overtaking Jeff Nettles for the alltime Atlantic League record for hits. Nelson flied out to center field in his first at-bat in the first, but he followed Myers’ single with one of his own in the fourth.
Myers and Nelson set the stage for the first run of the game. After both singled, both also executed a double steal and Myers scored the game’s first run when Long Island catcher Mike Dowd’s throw sailed into left field. Nelson did not advance on the throwing error, however, and he was eventually stranded at second base when Michael Snyder and Zach Wilson both struck out.
Long Island’s Ruben Gotay spoiled Grening’s bid for a no-hitter with a single to right-center with one out in the top of the fifth. The Ducks’ Delta Cleary Jr. had a one-out single in the sixth, stole second, took third on a throwing error by Blue Crabs catcher Angel Flores, but was stranded at third when Grening fanned Mark Minicozzi.
Southern Maryland had a genuine chance to add an insurance run against Long Island reliever Patrick Crider in the home half of the sixth. Flores had a leadoff single, then Antoan Richardson walked. Myers grounded into a force at third and then Nelson grounded into a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning, one in which the Blue Crabs failed to score.
The hosts got a run in emphatic fashion in the bottom of the seventh. Two pitches after Alfredo Marte inadvertently hit Ducks catcher Dowd in the back of the head on his follow through swing, Marte hit a Nick Struck fastball over the fence in left for a solo homer and a 2-0 lead.
Grening (5-4) would eventually get the win after tossing 6 2/3 scoreless innings and relievers Craig Stem, Robert Carson, Navery Moore and Cody Eppley combined to blank the Ducks over the last 2 1/3 innings of work. Eppley recorded his 17th save by tossing a perfect ninth, posting one strikeout.
“That first game they really hit the ball,” Grening said. “Long Island has a really good hitting team. We held them to just one run over the last two nights. That shows you how good of a staff we have. Long Island has a very good hitting team. But we’ve played well in our last two series against first-place teams.”
The Blue Crabs (33-53) jumped into third place in the Freedom Division second-half standings, three games behind Sugar Land, heading into a seven-game road trip through Connecticut that was scheduled to begin Monday in Bridgeport but was postponed by rain. A Tuesday doubleheader was scheduled and with the completion of the three-game series with the Bluefish at 7:12 tonight before the Blue Crabs move on to New Britain for four games Thursday to Sunday.
Saturday night, the Blue Crabs edged the Ducks, 2-1, as second baseman Gary Brown collected his second home run in as many nights during the homestand. Starter Daryl Thompson, a 2003 La Plata High School graduate, limited the Ducks to one run in six innings, but did not get a decision.
Brown, who had never played infield prior to arriving in the Atlantic League, belted a solo home run in the bottom of the seventh to give the Blue Crabs a 2-1 lead. Eppley recorded his 16th save.
Saturday’s pitchers’ duel was in stark contrast to Friday’s home opener as the Blue Crabs were pummeled by the Ducks, 15-2, as Southern Maryland starter Gaby Hernandez was roughed up for 11 runs on 12 hits, including four homers, in 3 1/3 innings of work. Long Island (50-35, 10-5 second half entering Tuesday, leading Somerset by a half-game in Liberty Division) outhit Southern Maryland, 22-9.
Thursday in the last game of their series at York, the Blue Crabs squandered a 4-2 lead and a solid outing from starting pitcher Brian Burres, who eventually got a no-decision after allowing two runs on four hits and one walk while fanning eight batters in seven innings.
Southern Maryland took a 4-2 lead into the bottom of the ninth, but Eppley surrendered three runs without retiring a single batter. Nelson did not play that game, but had at least one hit in each of the three games versus Long Island.
Starter Brian Grening and four relievers combined for a four-hit shutout Sunday as the Blue Crabs defeated Long Island to take the three-game series. Grening allowed just three hits, walked two and struck out five over 6 2/3 innings.
Blue Crabs second baseman Angel Sanchez turns to go to first base during Sunday’s contest with Long Island. Sanchez and the Blue Crabs shut out the Ducks, 2-0.