The Single-A Hagerstown Suns came back to defeat Greenville 8-5 to finish the first half of the season with 44 wins. But because Greensboro won earlier in the day, the Suns did not win the first half of their Northern division in the South Atlantic League.
Despite a big lead out of the gates, the Suns lost seven of their final 10 games of the first half to come up a little bit short.
But Hagerstown demonstrated how they can win games with a comeback in the sixth inning. Trailing 3-1, Isaac Ballou doubled, Spencer Kieboom tripled and Drew Ward crushed a two-run homer to make it 4-3 Suns.
The Suns added four more runs in the seventh courtesy of a string of base hits by Brennan Middleton, Narciso Mesa, a sac fly by Kieboom and another hit from Ward. Suddenly it was 8-3 Hagerstown and they finished off the Drive from there.
Right-hander Austin Voth pitched five innings as the starter, giving up four hits and three earned runs, three walks and striking out five batters. Left-hander David Napoli (1-0) pitched one inning in relief for the victory.
The Suns have gone 8-8 in the month. Prior to Sunday’s outburst, the Suns had only three runs in a 23 inning span. It was good to see the runs return which was one of the reasons why this team won 44 games in the first half of the season.
Saturday was a tough loss to Greenville as the Suns fell 3-1, but top pitching prospect Lucas Giolito (2-1) had a good outing despite getting credited with the hard-luck loss. Giolito spun five innings, allowed two hits, one solo homer, one walk and struck out three batters.
Hagerstown Director of Broadcasting Eli Pearlstein told me on “Nats Insider” on 106.7 The Fan that Giolito’s fastball was moving and locating well.
“Giolito was great (Saturday),” Pearlstein said. “Certainly didn’t deserve the loss. He really made just one mistake to Carlos Asuaje, a home run over the right center field wall. He was good. He was hitting the corners. His fastball had sink. It was, I think at one point, clocked (at) 99 mph (Saturday).
“He has been pitching great his last four starts, the three since he was shut down for a couple weeks and the start before that. The run (Saturday) was the only run he has given up in his last four starts. He and Austin (Voth) both have really been the two pitchers of late that have been most impressive.”
Pearlstein also provided some insight on why Giolito was shut down for a few wees after May 11.
“They (were) trying to limit his pitches and innings that he is throwing this year a little bit,” Pearlstein said. “He wasn’t put on the DL or anything. They just wanted to rest him for a couple of turns in the rotation.
“Actually, ... he said that was part of the plan all along, that they were going to give him this sort of break mid season to limit his pitch count.”
Pearlstein confirmed that Giolito was still hitting and maintaining a good velocity in the fifth and final inning of his start. The limit was five innings and 75 to 80 pitches. He said Giolito was still pitching well in the fifth, but that the team wanted to stick to the innings cap.
Giolito finished the first half of the season with a 2.03 ERA in 10 starts and 44 1/3 innings. He has an amazing 50 strikeouts and only 18 walks, for a 1.13 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
The second half of the Suns’ season begins Thursday at Greensboro. The All-Star game is Tuesday in Hickory, N.C.
Note: Infielder John Wooten broke his nose when a ball ricocheted off his batting helmet and hit him in the nose during an at-bat. Pearlstein said he was being evaluated by team doctors Sunday. He was placed on the disabled list Sunday. Right-hander Jake Johansen (blister) was activated.
Left-handers Napoli and Cory Bafidis arrived from short-season Single-A Auburn. Right-handers Jefry Rodriguez and David Ramos were trasnferred to Auburn.
High Single-A Potomac left-hander Brett Mooneyham was activated from the disabled list and was in Auburn for a rehab assignment. On June 14, he tossed two innings, allowed two hits, two runs, three walks and struck out two batters.