BOWIE – The All-Star break may be coming at a bad time for the Bowie Baysox.
The Baysox, winners of 16 of their last 22 games, defeated the Richmond Flying Squirrels 6-3 on Sunday to close out the first half of MLB Double-A play. In less than a month the locals have made up six games and sit tied for first as they head into the four-day break.
“I want these guys to enjoy themselves,” Bowie Manager Gary Kendall said about the break. “Eighty-nine baseball games. A lot of teams below us break at the halfway point. This is a major league grind and we haven't had many off days other than rainouts.
“So I want these guys to enjoy their break. They have three days and then a light workout the day before we come back. Then we will get on a bus and head to Altoona.”
The win caps off a great homestand for the Baysox, who won five of six games against Hartford and Richmond including an opening sweep of the Yard Goats.
The homestand also builds upon a hot run for Bowie. Since losing to New Hampshire on June 16 and falling five games below .500, the Baysox have gone 16-6 to get all the way back to 47-42 and second place in the Western Division of the Eastern League. Despite being as many as six games back in the middle of June, Bowie is now tied with Altoona for first place.
“We have been pitching better,” Kendall said of the team’s resurgence. “I think we are still leading the league in hitting - it is something we usually do every day - but we hadn't pitched the way we were capable of pitching. I just think our rotation has carried some innings and put our bullpen in a situation like it was today where you are not asking for too much out of them.
“When we pitch, we play better. When we defend, we play better. There is no magic secret to it. The guys have responded, have pitched better, and we are getting big hits.”
Things got off to a rough start for Bowie on Sunday after starter Jesus Liranzo served up a two-run homer to K.C. Hobson in the top of the first. The Baysox responded with a homerun of their own in the bottom of the second off the bat of DJ Stewart - his 11th of the season.
Brandon Barker took over for Liranzo in the second and blanked Richmond for the next two innings before the Flying Squirrels picked up a run in the fourth on a RBI double by Brandon Bednar.
Still, Bowie would answer in the bottom of the inning with three runs of its own. Aderlin Rodriguez (double) and Audry Perez (single) recorded back-to-back RBI prior to Perez scoring on a throwing error two batters later. The runs gave the Baysox their first lead of the game at 4-3.
Bowie right fielder Mike Yastrzemski added two insurance runs in the seventh when he went the opposite way to left for a homerun.
However, the story of the day was Barker. The right-hander hurled six innings of one-run ball, giving up just five hits and no walks while striking out six to move to 6-3 on the year.
“(Barker) has been doing that for a while now. He is a good starter for us,” Kendall said. “Based on the way we have been pitching, with Liranzo getting the start, he coming in has been doing an excellent job. That's not easy to handle; getting ready as a bullpen guy.
“He knows in advance that he is going to come in, usually in the fourth but we backed off Liranzo to one inning today, but he is a strike thrower, expands the zone, and gets movement to both sides of the plate. He has been doing a nice job and is giving us a lot of consistent innings.”
Tim Berry and Scott McGough pitched the eighth and ninth innings respectively, with McGough earning the save.
Bowie will pick back after the All-Star break on Thursday when it travels to Altoona for a four-game set and a chance at taking over sole possession of first place in the division.