Blue Crabs playing strong on road trip
Win third straight during six-game series in Texas
A trip to the Lone Star State is going pretty well for the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs thus far.
After a slip-up in the opener of a six-game series versus the Sugar Land Skeeters at Constellation Field in Texas, Southern Maryland took the next three — 4-0 on Saturday, 2-1 on Sunday and 6-2 on Monday — thanks to solid pitching and found itself right in the thick of things in the Atlantic League’s Freedom Division standings with the first half closing soon.
The Blue Crabs (27-23 overall), which dropped the series opener 7-4, were just one game back of Lancaster as the series continued Tuesday night and will finish at 12:05 p.m. today. After an off day Thursday, they start a three-game homestand versus New Britain at 6:35 p.m. Friday.
Blue Crabs pitching had allowed just three runs in 31 innings versus Sugar Land, going back to the six-run fourth on Friday night, heading into Tuesday’s contest.
Monday night’s starter Brian Grening went seven innings and allowed just a run on five hits with two walks and three strikeouts to raise his record to 4-1 and drop his ERA to 2.71, ranked fifth in the Atlantic League through Monday.
Michael Snyder keyed a three-run first with a two-run home run, his 10th homer of the season. Leading 3-1 in the sixth, the Blue Crabs added to their lead when Cory Vaughn doubled home two runs and he promptly scored on an RBI single from Zach Cone.
Sam Runion allowed a RBI groundout in the eighth and Zack Thornton shut down the Skeeters in the ninth to pick up the win.
Sunday night, Sugar Land reliever Julio DePaula issues back-to-back 1-out walks to Snyder and Vaughn with the game tied at 1 in the top of the ninth. A single from Devon Rodriguez loaded the bases.
After Cone struck out for the second out, Luis Alen walked and Snyder came across home plate to put the Blue Crabs ahead 2-1.
In the bottom of the ninth, Sugar Land’s Kevin Ahrens hit a leadoff single, but closer Cody Eppley struck out Hector Olivera and then forced Wilfredo Rodriguez to ground out into a 4-6-3 double play to end the game.
The Blue Crabs used four relievers after starter Drew Hayes left with one out in the sixth. Jesse Beal was credited with the win after pitching a 1-2-3 eighth with a strikeout to improve to 3-0 on the season. Eppley picked up his 14th save of the season, the second most in the league through Monday.
“Winning back-to-back games on Saturday and Sunday was big for us,” Blue Crabs manager John Harris said. “We got great starting pitching, but we have to rely on our bullpen. They are going to have to carry us. My starters can’t go the distance all season. We are going to take things one game at a time and continue to get better.”
Snyder’s leadoff home run in the top of the second put the Blue Crabs on the board first. Sugar Land tied the game in the sixth on Travis Scott’s RBI single. It was the first run that the Blue Crabs had allowed in 18 innings.
“Our pitching gives our offense a lot of confidence knowing if we score four or five runs a night, we have a great chance of winning the game,” Snyder said. “Our starters are bulldogs and our bullpen have been vital for us this season.”
Saturday night, starter Daryl Thompson and relievers Thornton and Eppley combined on a five-hit shutout for Southern Maryland.
Thompson, the 2003 La Plata High School graduate, went seven innings and improved to 4-3 on the season with the win. He allowed just five hits with one strikeout and did not walk a batter.
Thompson, who was seventh in the league in ERA as of Monday (2.96), retired 15 of the last 16 batters he faced, including 10 in a row, after giving up four hits to the first 10 batters of the game.
“It felt good to get the win on the road against a good team like Sugar Land,” said Thompson, who was also tied for fifth
in the league with 50 strikeouts as of Monday. “We are looking forward to continue to play baseball for the remainder of the trip. We just have to keep capitalizing on opportunities to put game away when we have chances.”
Devon Rodriguez started the scoring with an RBI triple in the fourth that plated Snyder. An inning later, Zach Wilson — 3 for 4 with a double — scored Patrick Palmeiro with an RBI single. A Sugar Land error brought in a run in the sixth and a Vaughn sacrifice fly made it 4-0 in the seventh.
“Always great to be ahead and
winning. We’ve been playing on both sides of the ball,” Wilson said. “We are solid up and down the lineup and when we’re not hitting our pitching has kept us in games.”
Friday, Southern Maryland scored three in the third on a leadoff homer from Ryan Wiggins and a two-run blast by Wilson. But Sugar Land scored six runs in the fourth on four hits as 11 batters came to the plate in the inning. The big blow was a three-run homer from Andy Wilkins that gave the Skeeters the lead and eventual win.
Starter Craig Stem, just signed by the Blue Crabs the day before along with infielder Brian Bistagne, did not retire a batter in the fourth before being
pulled. Stem was charged with four runs, three earned, on five hits with three walks and two strikeouts.
Thursday, the Blue Crabs wrapped up a homestand versus York with a 2-1 loss.
Gaby Hernandez was perfect through four innings, but York ended that in the fifth as it scored twice with the help of two Blue Crabs errors.
Hernandez went the distance, pitching all nine innings, allowing just three hits with nine strikeouts and no walks. He threw 100 pitches, 74 for strikes. The two runs were unearned and his ERA was at 2.12, which led the league through Monday.
York starter Victor Mateo allowed one run on seven hits
in seven innings with no walks and 10 strikeouts to pick up the win.
The Blue Crabs had a chance to tie in the ninth versus Revolution
reliever Brad Allen. Cone singled with one out, but Alen grounded into a 5-4-3 double play to end the game.