Down on the Dodger Farm

Who doesn't like a tight race for first place? Both Jacksonville and Columbus are in such a position right now and may I suggest that for both teams it isn't all that enjoyable. Jacksonville's fall from grace has been going on for some time but Tuesday night's defeat at the hands of Huntsville (Brewers) may have been the cruelest. The Suns held a 6-0 lead with two out in the seventh, saw that dissipate, still were in front 6-3 going into the ninth but wound up losing, 7-6.

Columbus, which had a seven-game win streak snapped Monday, went down 4-3 to Asheville (Rockies) and has more than a little company around the top spot in its division as a result.

The Jacksonville lead was courtesy of the pitching of T. J. Nall aided by the hitting of James Loney and Wilkin Ruan. Nall held the Stars without a run until he was relieved by Luis Gonzalez in the sixth. But Gonzalez wound up walking five to give away two runs, one more scored off Elvin Nina in the eighth, then Yhency Brazoban (3-2) was rocked for a three-run homer plus another tally in the ninth so it was bye, bye ball game.

This dropped the Suns into third place in the Southern League East, two games behind Chattanooga and one back of second-place Carolina. Both Ruan and Loney had a double and two singles apiece while Edwin Bellorin doubled and singled. Nall struck out seven and walked only one in another strong stint.

Two home runs by Ian Stewart, Colorado's first-round draft pick last June, off Julio Pimentel (4-3) did the damage to Columbus. The Catfish are now locked in a three-way tie for first in the South Atlantic Southern Division with Charleston, S. C. and Rome (the one in Georgia, not Italy) with Capital City only one-half behind that trio.

Andy LaRoche drove a ball into the pine trees behind the left field fence at Golden Park for his eighth home run for the Fish whose Jamaal Hamilton came on for three more scoreless innings in relief. Hamilton has now been touched for only one earned run in 25.1 innings of work for an ERA of 0.36.

Las Vegas seems to have spun out of control with the 51's losing streak now reaching seven straight as they were handcuffed by Denny Stark and Marc Kroon of Colorado Springs (Rockies) 2-0. Stark, who had thrown seven no-hit innings his last time out was almost as good this time, checking Vegas on two hits over seven. Kroon, who had been in the L.A. system back in 2000, came on to give up just one more hit in the final two.

Tom Farmer (1-3) threw well (five innings, six hits, two runs) but suffered the loss which dropped Vegas into last place in the Pacific Coast South, seven 1/2 games out.

The evening wasn't a total loss for Dodger teams, though, as Vero Beach got past the Lakeland Tigers 2-1 in 10 innings. Lefthander Mike Megrew was impressive once again holding the Tigers to three hits and one run over five innings, walking no one while striking out seven. Two Rule 5 draftees, Beau Dannemiller and Richard Bartlett did the rest with Bartlett (2-0) gaining the victory when Russell Martin singled home a run in the first extra inning.

Vero picked up a game in the Florida State East and now trails by seven.

Player Moves--Re-habbing Dave Roberts played left for Vero, led off but was 0-3. ... Columbus made a couple of moves involving former infielders who have become pitchers. Omar DeLos Santos, whose ERA had ballooned to 9.00, was released while Brett Wayne was promoted from the extended camp to take his place. Wayne had opened the season with Vero Beach.