Red-hot Blue Crabs continue to win
Beat York after taking 2 of 3 vs. New Britain to lead Freedom Division by 2 games
The Southern Maryland Blue Crabs ventured up to York to begin a four-game series Monday versus the Revolution and had one of its top pitchers going in Gaby Hernandez.
Hernandez ended up having one of his tougher nights of the season, but the Blue Crabs managed to pull out a 7-6 win.
Zach Cone hit two two-run home runs in as many at-bats to start the game and Southern Maryland held a 4-3 lead until Hernandez allowed a bases-loaded walk to Ryan Dent in the fifth, his fourth free pass of the inning and seventh overall on the night, and his night was done.
Sam Runion came on in relief and allowed two inherited runners to score, but York scored no more the rest of the night as the Blue Crabs tied the game with two in the sixth and scored the eventual game-winning run as Luis Alen came home on a Zach Wilson bases-loaded sacrifice fly in the eighth.
Zack Thornton got out of a jam in the last of the eighth and closer Cody Eppley slammed the door in the ninth to give Southern Maryland the win, its eighth in the last 10 games through Monday.
Jesse Beal, one of four Blue Crabs relievers, got the win to move his record to 4-0 on the season. Eppley picked up his 17th save, which is second in the Atlantic League.
Hernandez, who entered the night with the league’s second-best ERA at 2.17, allowed six runs (5 earned) on four hits with the seven walks and six strikeouts. While his ERA jumped to 2.74, now sixth in the league through Monday, he led the league in strikeouts with 61.
Southern Maryland (32-24 overall) held a two-game lead over Lancaster in the Freedom Division standings as the series continues through Thursday.
One day after seeing their sixgame win streak come to an end in the middle game of their brief, three-game home stand against the New Britain Bees, the Blue Crabs got the better of the visitors, 2-1, following a stellar pitching duel on Sunday
afternoon in the rubber match.
Southern Maryland righthander Brian Grening and New Britain’s Mike Lee had control of the contest from the outset. The Blue Crabs scored the game’s first run courtesy of Lee’s brief wildness and without virtue of a hit, while Grening had blanked the Bees on three hits through seven shutout innings before encountering trouble in the eighth. Lee suffered the loss despite allowing only two runs through seven complete innings of work.
“Brian was very good again today,” said Blue Crabs manager John Harris. Grening went to 5-1 and 2.55 ERA is second in the league through Monday. “Our starting pitching has been really good. Anyone we send out there has been effective. Brian really battled. He’s a bulldog. I probably left him out there one batter too long, but that was my fault because I didn’t have anyone warming up the bullpen soon enough.”
Grening was hardly overpowering, fanning only one batter through the first six frames before he struck out the side in the seventh and retired 14 straight Bees before encountering trouble in the eighth. He retired the first two batters, but Yusuke Kajimoto, James Skelton and Jovan Rosa all delivered singles with Kajimoto scoring on Rosa’s single that chased Grening.
“I felt really good through the first seven innings and Cody’s homer in the seventh really helped,” Grening said. “I really wanted to get that last out [in the eighth], but they took some good swings. A lot of their guys know us and we know them. But everyone on the staff has been really good. I can’t think of anyone that hasn’t been.”
Eppley allowed one hit in a scoreless ninth to earn his 16th save, retiring Michael Crouse on a grounder to second to end the game.
Southern Maryland added a run in the bottom of the seventh when Cory Vaughn greeted Lee with a home run on a 1-ball, 1-strike pitch over the fence in left field, then Rodriguez followed
with a double into the right field corner. Rodriguez advanced to third on a grounder by Brian Bistagne but was stranded there when Wiggins popped up to second.
With two outs in the bottom of the first, Wilson and Michael Snyder both worked Lee for walks, Vaughn was hit by a pitch to load the bases. With Devon Rodriguez up, Lee uncorked a wild pitch that enabled Wilson to score the game’s first run.
Saturday night, the Blue Crabs’ six-game win streak came to a screeching halt when the Bees scores three runs in the top of the first and never looked back en route to a 9-3 victory. Crouse hit two home runs, a two-run shot in the third and a three-run blast in the fifth that offset single runs by the Blue Crabs in the first, third and sixth innings. Snyder and Rodriguez each had an RBI double.
In the series opener Friday night, Southern Maryland got an ideal outing from starter Daryl Thompson, a 2003 La Plata High School graduate, who fanned nine batters in 6 2/3 innings
of work and picked up the win, his fifth, in a rain-shortened contest. Southern Maryland led 3-2 in the seventh when the umpires halted the game due to rain and then made it official after a near 1-hour delay.
“For us, he’s really the guy,” Harris said. “He keeps everyone up in the dugout and in the clubhouse. He’s a real go-to guy for us. But everyone on the staff has been pitching well. We’re not scoring a lot of runs, but we’re winning with good pitching and the key is that we’re
winning ball games.”
Southern Maryland out-hit New Britain 12-4 as Rodriguez went 3 for 3 with a double, scored once and drove in another run. Rodriguez started the Blue Crabs on their way with an RBI double in the fourth after the Bees had scored twice in the top of the frame to take an early 2-0 lead. The Blue Crabs also added single runs in the fifth and sixth to prevail in the contest ended two innings early by weather.
Southern Maryland Blue Crabs starting pitcher Brian Grening jogs to the dugout after being hooked with two outs in the top of the eighth inning on Sunday afternoon. Grening allowed one run in 7 2/3 innings of work and collected the win as the Blue Crabs defeated the New Britain Bees, 2-1.