Suns report: Guerra gaining length, exposure

Not much has been going right lately for the Hagerstown Suns, who dropped their sixth straight game with a loss to the Hickory Crawdads on Thursday. The 5-1 decision, handed 17-year-old Deolis Guerra his fifth professional defeat.

Hickory has had the Suns' number this season, taking all seven of the matchups between the two teams, with the eighth and final game of the year between those clubs on deck for Friday night at Hagerstown's Municipal Stadium.

Though it was a loss for Guerra, his second straight, there were silver linings to be grasped.

A touted international talent who signed a $700,000 deal with the Mets last year, Guerra would be pitching as a high school junior if he had been born in the United States.

Instead, the 6-foot-5, 200-pound product of San Felix, Venezuela is attacking professional hitters every five days around Hagerstown's lineup, and is doing a markedly better job.

After beginning the season on a strict pitch count (his first three starts for Hagerstown, beginning on May 6, were two inning affairs in which he faced no more than nine batters), Guerra has been allowed to stretch out.

Two of his last three starts have been of the quality (six innings with three runs or less) variety, including his loss to Hickory on Thursday.

In that start, Guerra allowed three runs and six hits, including a home run, over six innings. He walked one and struck out three.

Now with 11 professional starts under his belt, Guerra – who is 3-5 with a 2.85 ERA, having allowed 40 hits and 16 runs (15 earned) in 47.1 innings -- has pitched through five innings in each of his last seven efforts.

He even touched the seventh inning in a splendid start against Lakewood on July 2, allowing one run and four hits to earn his third professional victory.

Overall, Guerra has struck out 30 and walked 22 this season, holding opponents to a .241 average.

State of the Suns: Hagerstown is off to a disappointing start through the first 20 games of the second half, entering play Friday with a record of 7-13 (.350), 8 ½ games behind Lakewood (16-5) in the South Atlantic League Northern Division.

The Suns haven't won since July 6, when Nick Evans highlighted Hagerstown's offense by going 4-for-4 with two doubles and three RBI, backing Bobby Parnell to his third victory.

Hagerstown leaderboard, offense: Nick Evans' 15 home runs and 54 RBI pace all Mets minor leaguers … Jonel Pacheco ranks third in the system with 14 stolen bases, trailing St. Lucie's Corey Coles by two … Overall, the Suns are batting .241 (718-2979), which places them third among Mets farm clubs. They lead the system in home runs with 66 and caught stealing attempts with 40.

Hagerstown leaderboard, pitching: Left-hander Jonathon Niese is tied for second in the system with eight victories … Kevin Tomasiewicz is tied for third in the system with eight saves, equaling marks set by Heath Bell and Royce Ring at Triple-A Norfolk … Niese's 95 strikeouts are second in the organization only to Mike Pelfrey's 103 … As a team, Hagerstown has a 4.30 staff ERA, which is fifth among the seven Mets farm clubs. They have issued more walks (351) and recorded more strikeouts (658) than any other club.

ON THE RISE

After finishing the first two months of the season batting just .244, outfielder Jonel Pacheco has turned it up. He batted .308 (24-78) in June, slugging three home runs, and has continued his hot hitting into July.

Batting .271 this month entering play Friday, Pacheco had a four-hit game with three runs scored and two RBI on July 3 at Lake County, and also stroked three hits in the Suns' loss Thursday vs. Hickory.

TOUGH TIMES

Ryan Meyers can't seem to catch a break. The 21-year-old right-hander has lost six straight decisions dating back to his lone victory of the season on May 9 vs. Lake County, including dropping four straight starts from June 14 to July 9 in which he allowed a total of 14 earned runs over 19 2/3 innings (a 6.40 ERA).

Overall, Meyers – a 17th round pick from Round Valley (Mt.) High School in the 2003 draft –- is 1-9 this year with a 6.78 ERA. Opponents are batting .295 against him.

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