HAGERSTOWN, Md. - Former Major League closer Francisco Rodriguez (a.k.a. K-Rod) pitched a scoreless first inning for the Hagerstown Suns (11-8, 49-39) on Thursday night at Municipal Stadium, but the Charleston RiverDogs (14-6, 48-42) scored six runs in two innings against Tyler Watson to grab the 7-5 victory in a battle of South Atlantic League division leaders.
Rodriguez signed a Minor League contract with the Washington Nationals on July 5 and made his fifth appearance for a Nationals affiliate. The 35-year-old from Caracas, Venezuela made his last professional start in 2001 with the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes in the A-Advanced California League.
K-Rod allowed a leadoff single to Hoy Jun Park, who promptly stole second base. The next batter, Diego Castillo, flied to center where All-Star outfielder Blake Perkins made a diving catch and Park continued running around third base without tagging up. The Suns doubled him off easily as Jake Noll tapped the bag at second. Rodriguez ended his night by inducing a groundout to second base by Yankees prospect Blake Rutherford.
Rodriguez, who set the single-season Major League record with 62 saves in 2008 for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, left after the first inning on Thursday with one base hit allowed, no walks, and no strikeouts. He threw 11 strikes with 15 total pitches. Following three appearances with Double-A Harrisburg, one relief outing with A-Advanced Potomac, and his one-inning start with the Suns, K-Rod has a 1.80 ERA in five innings with four hits, one earned run, three walks, and two strikeouts in Minor League Baseball this season.
Hagerstown plated two runs in the bottom of the first against Charleston starter Nick Green. Perkins scored on an RBI groundout by Sheldon Neuse and Nick Banks tallied a two-out, infield single that drove in Aldrem Corredor .
Watson (Loss, 5-4) inherited a 2-0 lead in the top of the second but gave up two RBIs on a pair of ground balls that never left the infield. After tying up the game at 2-2, Charleston poured it on in the third with three straight doubles by Donny Sands, Isiah Gilliam, and Brandon Wagner, who gave the RiverDogs a 6-2 advantage.
Watson allowed six earned runs on eight hits with one strikeout in his two frames. Steven Fuentes relieved him and allowed a leadoff homer to Carlos Vidal in the fourth before retiring the next 12 batters in order.
Hagerstown cut the Charleston lead to 7-5 with a three-run bottom of the fourth. Telmito Agustin launched his third home run in the last six games on a two-run shot to right-center field. Neuse followed with a two-out RBI single for his team-leading 51st run batted in this season. Neuse and Agustin led the Suns with two RBIs each.
Jordan Mills pitched the final two innings and allowed two base hits in his second appearance with the Suns since rejoining from A-Advanced Potomac on July 6, but the Hagerstown bats mustered one hit in the final 4 1/3 innings against Charleston relievers Matt Frawley (Win, 5-1) and Trevor Lane (Save, 2). The RiverDogs, division leaders in the SAL Southern, have lost only four times when leading after five complete innings in 2017.
Following a loss by the Hickory Crawdads on Thursday night, Hagerstown remains in first place atop the SAL Northern Division second-half standings. On Friday, the Suns try to avoid a three-game sweep during Charleston's lone regular season visit to Hagerstown this season. Suns right-handed starter Weston Davis (0-2, 5.73) goes to the mound first at 7:05 p.m. against RiverDogs righty Freicer Perez (5-3, 3.03).
Before Friday's game, the Suns will posthumously honor former general manager Bob Miller. The 1982 Sporting News Class A Baseball Executive of the Year will be inducted into the Hagerstown Suns Hall of Fame with his family in attendance at Municipal Stadium. Live in-game entertainment will feature dueling pianos and a fireworks spectacular will immediately follow the game. To purchase tickets, call (301) 791-6266 or visit hagerstownsuns.com.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.