Before Wednesday night’s game, three Bluefield players and their manager earned honors for their successful Appalachian League seasons.
Then they each played a role in another Blue Jays victory, a 5-2 decision over Greeneville at Pioneer Park which kept them in the East Division lead going into the year’s final two series.
All-League picks Art Charles, Kevin Pillar and Chris Hawkins each shined. Charles added to his league RBI lead with a two-run double in the first, giving him 56 for the season, while Pillar chipped in two hits, two steals and a highlight-reel catch. Hawkins reached base three times and scored a run.
Overseeing it all was Dennis Holmberg, the league’s Manager of the Year. He’s the first Bluefield skipper to win that award since John Hart picked up in 1982 when the then-Orioles won the league title by 4 1⁄2 games over the Paintsville Yankees.
“Maybe I should get out of it after this year so that I can stay ahead of the game,” joked Holmberg after his team improved to 38-24 and maintained its division lead over Danville. “Seriously, any honors I win, you should give credit to the players and the coaching staff. Without their work, we wouldn’t get in this spot.”
Showing no ill effects of Tuesday night’s brutal 10-8 loss to the Astros (25-37), the Jays scored three runs before the game was 10 minutes old. Peter Mooney drew a leadoff walk, Dalton Pompey singled him to second and Alex Fermin drove him in with a single to right.
Charles then picked on a meaty 1-2 fastball from Tyson Perez (2-4), rifling it to the gap in right-center to easily score Pompey and Fermin for the only runs Bluefield required.
“I was looking for another cutter and he threw me a fastball on the inner half,” Charles said. “My eyes just lit up.”
Greeneville hitters got nothing that juicy from Ajay Meyer (4-2), who worked fast, changed speeds and controlled the game before losing his command in the sixth, issuing two walks and allowing his only run.
Meyer fanned seven hitters – all in the first 3 1/3 innings – and yielded just four hits. He voided singles in the fourth and fifth by inducing quick double play balls.
“Our guys tried, but we couldn’t make the adjustment to him until he got tired,” Astros manager Omar Lopez said of Meyer. “His slider from the three-quarter slot was tough for our guys to hit and he had a lot of sink on his fastball.”
When Greeneville appeared to have a chance in the seventh, Pillar snuffed it, robbing Chan Moon of a two-run extra-base hit with a leaping catch on the warning track in right field.
“That’s a different ball game if that ball drops in,” Holmberg said. “You saw why (Pillar) is an all-league player right there.”
Ian Kadish worked a 1-2-3 ninth for his seventh save.
Bird Seed: Eric Arce made his Jays debut as a pinch-hitter for Charles in the top of the sixth inning, taking a called third strike, and then singled in the eighth. Arce put up some terrific numbers in the Gulf Coast League, hitting .268-14-40 in 153 at-bats and drawing 38 walks. His OPS (on-base plus slugging) percentage was 1.058 … Bluefield returns to Bowen Field Thursday night to start a three-game series against Elizabethton, which is fighting Kingsport for the West’s wild-card spot … The Jays have put playoff tickets on sale. All tickets will be $4 with no discounts. If they win the division, they will play at home on Sept. 1 and possibly Sept. 2, but if they lose the division, they will host game 1 of a three-game series on Aug. 31. Bluefield will earn home-field advantage for any playoff series if it wins the East.
Bluefield.................................300 002 000 — 5 8 0
Greeneville............................000 001 010 — 2 6 0
Meyer, Lucas (6), Kadish (9) and Hernandez. Perez, Dando (6), Zuloaga (7), Jones (8) and Alvarez. W—Meyer (4-2). L—Perez (2-4). S—Kadish (7).