Thursday, December 12, 2013
By MIKE DRAGO Special to the Press Herald
READING, Pa. - The Reading Phillies played small ball to get to Portland Sea Dogs left-hander Chris Hernandez, using two bunt singles to key a three-run inning in a 7-3 win Wednesday at FirstEnergy Stadium.
After Hernandez cruised through the first three innings without allowing a hit, Cesar Hernandez of Reading led off the fourth with a perfect bunt down the third-base line. After Darin Ruf reached on an error by second baseman Zach Gentile, cleanup hitter Steve Susdorf laid down another perfect bunt, one that neither Hernandez nor third baseman Heiker Meneses made a play on.
Miguel Abreu made them pay, slashing a two-run double to the gap in right-center to spark a three-run inning that gave the Phillies (23-15) a 3-2 lead. Abreu later scored on a wild pitch.
"Cesar puts a perfect bunt down, maybe puts a little pressure on them, and then they can't make a play," said Reading Manager Dusty Wathan. "Then Susdorf puts a perfect bunt down. Sometimes that can mess with a pitcher's psyche. He thought he could have been out of the inning, maybe. We made him stick around a little longer."
The Phillies took advantage of Meneses, a middle infielder who was moved to third in the second inning when Juan Carlos Linares came out due to an injury.
Meneses made a pair of sparkling defensive plays an inning before, but helped Hernandez get in trouble in the fourth by not making a play on Susdorf's intended sacrifice.
"We didn't take care of the baseball as well as we should have behind (Hernandez)," said Sea Dogs Manager Kevin Boles. "I thought he pitched very well. He put the ball in play. He was efficient in his approach but we made mistakes behind him."
Boles didn't think Hernandez became unraveled.
"Susdorf made a well-placed bunt," Boles said. "He executed offensively. At that point we were trying to limit the damage.
"You just stay focused and keep pitching; you've just got to slow the game, limit the damage, keep attacking the zone and making quality pitches. I thought Hernandez did that. He's been solid for us all year."
The Sea Dogs (14-25), seeking their first three-game sweep in Reading in their 19-year history, looked good in the third with a 2-0 lead.
Ryan Dent had a leadoff bunt single in the second, moved to third on a single by Gentile and scored when Meneses reached on an error.
Portland went up 2-0 in the third on consecutive singles by Ronald Bermudez, Derrik Gibson and Reynaldo Rodriguez.
The Sea Dogs didn't get another hit off Trevor May and three relievers. They collected just six hits, all singles.
They couldn't mount a big inning when May walked four in the fifth. Gentile drew a bases-loaded walk to make it 3-3 before Jayson Hernandez grounded out to end the inning.
"May, he got himself into a little bit of trouble," Boles said, "but with his stuff he can get back on track at any time, and with that delivery he's got a lot of upside. He was able to work out of that without a lot of damage.
"He did a good job maintaining his mound presence and composure."
NOTES: Linares was forced to leave the game after being struck by a pitch in the rib cage in the first inning. He returned to the field but left midway through the second inning when he had a hard time catching his breath, according to Boles. The Sea Dogs concluded their season series with the Phillies with a 3-7 record.