BY WAYNE PHILLIPS
Great pitching. Sparkling defense. Clutch hitting.
All those aspects of the game of baseball add up to wins, and the Greeneville Astros used all of the above in knocking off the East Division leading Danville Braves 5-2 Thursday night before over 1,800 fans at Pioneer Park.
With the large crowd on hand to celebrate Bobblehead Night with local country music stars The Band Perry as the honorees, the fans were treated to a nifty display of baseball, much to the delight of Astros' skipper Omar Lopez.
"What can I say?" Lopez smiled immediately after the final out was made and the Astros had improved to 7-3 on the yet-young season. "We had great pitching. We played great defense. We had one big inning (a four-run third)."
The Astros erased a 1-0 Braves' lead in the bottom of the third with the four-run rally, sparked by a lead-off homer well over the left field fence by Michael Martinez, his first of the year. That would be all the runs that starter Daniel Minor, middle reliever Mitchell Lambson and closer Mike Hauschild would need.
"This game is all about pitching and defense," Lopez said. "I tell the guys you can win a game with two or three hits as long as you play defense and get good pitching. The pitching staff is starting to realize that we play pretty good defense behind them."
Minor went the first four innings and allowed both Danville runs. Lambson, who got the win, pitched the middle three frames and was impressive, allowing only one hit and striking out three with no walks. Hauschild earned his second save of the year, pitching two innings, allowing one hit and striking out three batters with one walk.
After winning two of three games in a series with Princeton, Lopez seemed especially happy to start the Braves' series with a victory.
"Both Princeton and Danville are good clubs," he said. "You've got to compete, and I think we're doing that right now."
Danville, also 7-3 on the year and tied with Princeton for first in the Applachian League West, got a run off Minor in the first when Carlos Franco smacked a two-out double and Josh Elander followed with an RBI hit to right.
Braves starter Ernesto Silva got into trouble in the third. After giving up the lead-off homer to Martinez to tie the score at 1-1, he hit Marc Wik with a pitch and Jimmy Howick beat out an infield hit. D'Andre Toney bunted to advance the runners, and he did just that but was also safe at first when the Danville third baseman failed to field the bunt and was charged with an error.
Jean Batista came through with a two-run single, and Brian Blasik hit into a double play but the fourth run of the frame scored on that play.
Danville closed to 4-2 when Blake Brown uncorked a no-doubt 400-ft.-plus homer over the center field wall in the top of the fourth.
But that would be all the scoring the Braves would get as relievers Lambson and Hauschild shut down the bats.
The Astros got an insurance run in the seventh. Martinez walked with one out, went to second on a wild pitch, scooted to third on an infield grounder, and came home on a clutch two-out single to left by Howick.
"That two-out hit by Howick was big, I thought," Lopez noted.
Closer Hauschild walked one and hit one in the eighth, but got out of it with two infield grounders. He allowed a harmless two-out hit in the ninth before finishing off the Braves.
Greeneville's 7-3 record ties them with Elizabethton for first place in the West Division.
The Braves and Astros play again tonight at 7 p.m. at Pioneer Park, with fireworks following the game, then close out the series on Saturday with a 6 p.m. start. After three road games at Kingsport, they return home on July 4 to host Johnson City.
what can I say. great pitching. great defense. clutch hittiing. one big inning. big 2-out RBI by howitch.
no errors. pretty good feeling. it's a big difference this year. lot of progress from top to bottom of lineup.