Blue Crabs making a push
Win two of three in Bridgeport, rout York to open four-game series
After taking two out of three games in Bridgeport over the weekend, Southern Maryland Blue Crabs manager Jeremy Owens stated that the team’s four-game series in York was perhaps going to be critical with playoff implications on the line as the second half of the Atlantic League regular season winds down.
On Labor Day Monday, Owens watched his Blue Crabs set the tone in the opening game of the series with a 10-1 win over the Revolution at PeoplesBank Park in York, Pa.
Southern Maryland exploded out to a 10-0 lead after three at-bats, which included a seven-run third that saw it hit four home runs. The Blue Crabs had five for the game.
With the win, Southern Maryland (53-74 overall, 27-30 second half) is just 4 1/2 games back of first-place Sugar Land (32-26, 67-61) in the Freedom Division second-half standings with 13 games left to play as the series with York continued Tuesday. The series finishes with 6:30 p.m. contests tonight and Thursday, then the Blue Crabs come home for a threegame weekend series versus the Skeeters, who have lost 9 of their last 10, the first two of that streak came Aug. 27 and 28 at Waldorf’s Regency Furniture Stadium.
“Every game is really crucial and the guys have been playing very resilient,” said Owens. “After losing Game 1 in Bridgeport [on Friday], we bounced back to win the series and [today] we beat a very good York team.”
York (70-56, 30-26) stayed a game behind Sugar Land entering Tuesday after Monday’s loss to the Blue Crabs.
The Blue Crabs put Monday’s game away early in the third by sending 10 hitters to the plate and scoring seven runs on six hits. All seven runs came via the long ball. Eric Garcia led the inning off with a homer, then Zach Wilson belted a three-run shot. Later, Alfredo Marte had a solo blast and Gary Brown finished with a two-run shot.
“Guys have been picking up the slack at the plate and are answering the bell,” Owens said. “I’m just so excited to where the offense has come and our pitching and defense has been strong for us.”
The Blue Crabs took a 2-0 lead in the first on a Garcia RBI double and an RBI single from Angel Sanchez, then tacked on another run in the second on a two-out solo homer from Angel Flores.
Brown, Garcia and Flores each had two hits and two runs scored in the game.
Blue Crabs starter Gaby Hernandez pitched a complete game, allowing just one run on four hits to go along with eight strikeouts and no walks to pick up his fourth straight win. The lone run Hernandez gave up
was a solo homer to Josh Wilson in the sixth. Hernandez now has 133 strikeouts for the season, which is third in the Atlantic League entering Tuesday.
The game also marked the 1,000th career league game for Blue Crabs third baseman Bryant Nelson, who was seven away from the record entering Tuesday currently held by Somerset’s Jeff Nettles. In August, Nelson — who was 0 for 5 in Monday’s contest — broke Nettles’ all-time hits record.
After falling 8-6 in Friday’s series opener in Bridgeport where Southern Maryland overcame an early 5-1 deficit to tie only to lose later, the Blue Crabs swept a Saturday doubleheader, 10-1 and 3-2 win in nine innings, to deliver the series win. Atlantic League doubleheaders are two seven-inning regulation contests.
The doubleheader was formed as a precaution due to Post-Tropical Storm Hermine’s possible impacts in hitting the northeast on Sunday.
In Game 1, Brian Burres shut down the Bluefish, going the distance in seven innings, allowing one run on five hits with three walks and two strikeouts. The lone run scored on a double-play ground ball in the seventh.
Burres’ record went to 10-8, the 10 victories tied for second in the league entering Tuesday. The leader is Bridgeport’s Jonathan Albaladejo, the Game 1 losing pitcher, with 13. His ERA lowered to 3.01, which was second in the league entering Tuesday.
Marte was 2 for 2 at the plate with a home run, three RBIs, a walk and two runs scored. He hit a two-run homer in the fourth to give the Blue Crabs a 4-0 lead. His sacrifice fly in the seventh capped off the team’s scoring. Marte also had a twoout solo homer in Thursday’s 8-4 loss to Somerset, which took three of four at Regency.
In Game 2 of Saturday’s doubleheader, Michael Snyder singled home Garcia for the eventual game-winning run in the ninth.
Brown’s two-run, two-out, bases-loaded single gave the Blue Crabs a 2-1 lead in the sixth. Bridgeport answered in the bottom of the inning on Jose Gil’s RBI single.
The Blue Crabs loaded the bases in the top of the seventh on three hits but could not score. The Bluefish had the winning run on third in the eighth, but Craig Stem got Gil to strike out swinging to send the game to the ninth.
Stem threw 2 2/3 innings of scoreless relief to get the win, allowing just two hits and one walk while striking out. Closer Cody Eppley struck out the side inbetween a one-out single for his 29th save, which is tied for third in the league with Sugar Land’s Derrick Loop entering Tuesday.
Sanchez was 6 for 8 in doubleheader with two RBIs and two runs scored, while Garcia finished 5 for 9 with an RBI and three runs scored.
“It felt great to win the series in Bridgeport,” said Sanchez on Monday afternoon. “We are putting every piece together and we will win more games. Every game is important from here on out.”