The Bowie Baysox opened September with a 6-2 victory over the Altoona Curve Wednesday night. Designated hitter Joel Guzman and infielder Brandon Waring connected on home runs in the early innings to give Bowie a lead before a three-run rally in the seventh inning put the Curve away. The Baysox are 73-64 with the win, keeping pace with the Harrisburg Senators in the race for the final playoff berth, trailing by half a game with five games left in the regular season.
“We got some big hits today,” Manager Brad Komminsk said. “Obviously [Guzman’s] home run was huge for us, started our scoring. Waring’s home run was big too. We had a little chaos ball there where we scored three, but it was good.”
Right-handed reliever Bob McCrory notched his first win since July 24 with his strongest outing in years. He pitched three shutout innings with one hit and no walks as he struck out a season-high five batters. It was McCrory’s best performance since Aug. 18, 2006, when he gave up one hit through three shutout innings with a walk and six strikeouts as a member of the Aberdeen IronBirds.
“I felt good on the mound for the most part,” McCrory said. “The biggest thing was just getting ahead of hitters. When you get ahead it’s a lot easier to make your pitch and make them hit something that you want them to hit instead of having to lay it in there for them.”
The Baysox struck first in the bottom of the first inning. Center fielder Xavier Avery opened the inning with an impressive play, stretching a bloop to shallow left field into a double with his impressive speed. Three batters later, Guzman launched a two-run home run over the left field scoreboard for a 2-0 lead. It was the 32nd homer of the year for Guzman, who leads the Eastern League in home runs. He is now just two away from breaking Walter Young’s single-season Baysox record of 33 home runs, a mark set in 2004.
Altoona’s Andrew Lambo opened the second inning with a line drive that hit Baysox starting pitcher Pedro Viola in the back of the leg. Viola gathered the ball and threw Lambo out at first base. He remained in the game after a brief evaluation by Athletic Trainer Joe Benge and walked second baseman Jim Negrych with two away. Outfielder Yung-Chi Chen followed the walk with a double to left-center field that moved Negrych to third base. Chen was nearly thrown out at second base, but Avery’s throw from the outfield was off-target, allowing Negrych to score as the ball rolled into the infield. Shortstop Greg Miclat made a great play to end the inning, tracking back into the outfield to make an over-the-shoulder catch on a bloop to shallow center field.
Waring restored the two-run lead with a leadoff home run in the bottom of the second inning, his first since he knocked two out of the park in New Hampshire on Aug. 8.
The Curve put another man on base with two outs in the top of the third inning, as Jordy Mercer hit a double off the left-field wall. Matt Hague’s single to shallow right-center field plated Mercer, cutting the Baysox lead to 3-2.
Viola left the game after the third inning, as his counterpart, Curve starter Tony Watson, went on a roll and 10 Baysox batters in a row from the end of the third inning through the sixth.
McCrory relieved Viola and matched Watson at nearly every step, retiring five in a row before giving up a single to Josh Harrison in the top of the fifth inning. After the hit, McCrory kept cruising and retired four more batters in a row to carry the one-run lead into the seventh inning.
“We’ve got a great bullpen, we know that we can go out and throw up zeroes and give our team a chance to win,” McCrory said. “That’s what we did tonight. Viola was pitching good, [he] takes a line drive and we knew we were going to have to pick it up and step up for the team.”
Watson departed the mound to start the bottom of the seventh frame, and was replaced by right-hander Michael Dubee. First baseman Joe Mahoney was the first Bowie player to reach base since the third inning, with a leadoff double down the left-field line. Waring followed him with a walk, and catcher Caleb Joseph tried to bunt the runners over, but Mahoney was thrown out at third base. Right fielder Jonathan Tucker hit a grounder to Harrison at third base, who bobbled the potential double play ball, allowing Tucker to reach and safely load the bases.
Carlos Rojas delivered an RBI single to center field that rotated the runners as Waring scored and the bases remained loaded. After Avery struck out, left fielder Danny Figueroa and second baseman Ryan Adams drew back-to-back walks that pushed two runs across the plate for a 6-2 Baysox lead. Guzman grounded into a forceout to end the inning.
Right-hander Brandon Cooney took the mound after McCrory and earned a hold with two shutout innings, allowing one hit as he struck out three. Chad Thall closed out the game, striking out two batters to begin the ninth. Chen hit a single to right field, but was retired one batter later on a forceout that ended the game.
Bowie faces the Western Division champions once more in their final regular-season home game, Thursday at 7:05 p.m. The Baysox honor the approach of Hurricane Earl with a special ticket offer Thursday night. Any fan named Earl receives a free lower reserved seat ticket with proper photo identification, limit one per Earl. The club closes out its third consecutive winning season in Richmond, with four games against the Flying Squirrels beginning Friday.