Pinning hopes on pitchers, defense, Legends hold off Augusta 5-4

mmaloney@herald-leader.comApril 17, 2014 

  • FRIDAY

    Augusta GreenJackets at Legends

    When: 7:05 p.m.

    Radio: WLXG-AM 1300

Two weeks into the season, the Lexington Legends are beginning to establish an identity.

And that identity is "how you win games — pitching and defense," Manager Brian Buchanan said before Thursday's game against the Augusta GreenJackets. "So if we can score three, four runs a game, we'll be right in most of them."

Right on cue, the Legends went out and beat the GreenJackets 5-4 at Whitaker Bank Ballpark, improving their record to 8-7.

No matter that the defense committed an uncharacteristic three errors.

Luis Santos tossed five innings of one-run, four-hit ball. Jose Rodriguez entered with the bases full and none out, inducing a fly ball and 5-4-3 double play. A three-run Augusta ninth, though, tied the score at 4 and made for an interesting finish.

Ramon Torres led the Legends with four singles, the last of which drove in Carlos Garcia with the winning run.

Fred Ford drove in two runs, his league-leading 15th and 16th RBI. Michael Antonio and Elier Hernandez drove in a run each.

Through Wednesday, Lexington ranked fourth in the South Atlantic League with a 2.87 ERA. On offense, the Legends were 12th with a .231 batting average.

"There's nothing we can't do," said Buchanan, who is in his second season with the Legends. "It's a young team position-player-wise, but there's a lot of talent out there.

"Pitching-wise, we've got guys that go out there and throw strikes and attack the strike zone (and) our defense is going to help them out a ton. We're going to make hitters put the ball in play and, with our defense, I think we should be fine."

Andrew Edwards (0.64, .170) and Jake Junis (0.75, .171) rank 1-2 in the league in ERA and 2-3 in opponent batting average. Matt Tenuta (1.53) is ninth in ERA.

"Top to bottom, our staff's been great," Junis said. "The starting pitching has been very, very solid, and our bullpen's picked us up after we come out of the game."

Santos and Rodriguez also have had quality starts.

Three players have a save each, as the closer role goes to who's available and ready rather than a designated individual.

Edwards also is the fourth native Kentuckian to play for the Legends. He is a native of Benton and resident of Gilbertsville who played collegiate ball for Western Kentucky.

As for slick defenders, Buchanan mentions Humberto Arteaga, Torres, Mauricio Ramos, Antonio, Garcia and pretty much all his infield. Ditto for his outfield, led by Alfreda Escalera and Ford.

Behind the plate, the Legends have Frank Schwindel, who's somewhat new to the position, and Chad Johnson.

Ford, who played here last year, has sparked the offense thus far. He tied for the team lead in home runs (13) last season.

Through Wednesday, he topped the SAL in RBI, shared the lead in doubles (6) and extra-base hits (8), and was fourth in slugging percentage (.610).

"That goes to all my teammates," Ford said of his RBI total. "It's not like I've been driving myself in much. They're putting me in good situations with the opportunity to succeed, so I kind of owe it to them. Our offense is pretty well-rounded. We've got guys that score runs and drive in runs from top to bottom."

Antonio is tied for second in the league with 12 runs scored.

The roster includes three of the Kansas City Royals' top 20 prospects.

Hernandez, who started in right field Thursday, is ranked No. 11 by Baseball America and MLB.com. He batted .301 last season while helping Idaho Falls win the Pioneer League.

Arteaga, a shortstop and second baseman for the Legends and Idaho Falls last season, is ranked 19th by MLB.com.

First baseman Samir Duenez, the Royals' Player of the Year in the Arizona League last season, is No. 19 on Baseball America's chart.

The Legends feature decent speed on the basepaths, including Torres, Escalera and Garcia. Then there's Dominique Taylor, whom Baseball America rated the fastest runner in Kansas City's draft class last year.

"They all get along," Buchanan said. "A lot of these guys played together last year and so far it's been a pretty fun year for us. They're rooting for each other to do well, and that's a key to having a good team."

Mark Maloney: (859) 231-3229 Twitter: @MarkMaloneyHL Blog: markmaloney.bloginky.com.

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