Good from the bottom up
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- There's a method to West Virginia Power manager Michael Ryan's madness in batting Walker Gourley in the No. 9 position.
Gourley surely isn't hitting like he belongs at the bottom of the order. With his 3-for-3 performance Tuesday in the Power's 6-1 win over the Hagerstown Suns, he is hitting a team-high .342 with 29 RBIs.
In his last 11 games, he is hitting .385; in his last six it goes up to .571. In nine games against the Suns, that number "falls" to .536, with a home run and six RBIs.
So why is Ryan batting him ninth?
"The reason why I hit him nine is I love what he does on the bases, in the nine hole," Ryan said. "I looked at some numbers - the most at-bats with runners in scoring position are from the nine hole. With our best situational hitter, I figured that would be a good spot for him."
He held up his end of the deal Tuesday. He walked to lead off a two-run third, singled in a run in the three-run fourth and singled in the final run in the sixth. He also singled in the eighth, but was doubled off in a forgettable base-running goof.
But that was a footnote in an excellent game for Gourley, as well as the Power.
"I'm seeing the ball pretty good, taking care of situations," said Gourley, a 13th-round pick in 2009 by the Pittsburgh Pirates. "It's a thing where your teammates put you in those situations, and I got the job done and helped the team win."
In this game, Gourley served as designated hitter. He has played first base, left field and right field for the Power, and grew up playing shortstop and even some catcher.
Whatever gets him in the lineup, he figures.
"I like right field, that's fine," Gourley said. "First base is kind of a lighter workload, I guess you can say. But I enjoy the outfield a lot."
The Power (4-2 second half, 41-35 overall) took advantage of Suns starter Brett Mooneyham, who walked four in 31/3 innings. Two walks and a dreadful throwing error by catcher Pedro Severino on a pickoff helped put the Power up 2-0. Josh Bell had the lone RBI, on a sacrifice fly, while the second run scored on that error.
In the third inning, Mooneyham exited with runners on first and third, and the Power touched up reliever Travis Henke for three runs - Gourley's RBI single and a two-run double by Dilson Herrera.
Francisco Diaz doubled to lead off the sixth, advanced to third on an error and scored on Gourley's single.
Otherwise, the story was the Power's three-hit pitching, even with starter Clay Holmes walking four in four-plus innings. When he walked the first two in the fifth, he was hooked in favor of Ryan Hafner.
Hafner (5-0) gave up a sacrifice bunt and an RBI single to Tony Renda, but got the final two outs - the first by fielding a comebacker to the mound and the next on a lazy fly to left.
Hafner pitched a hitless sixth and seventh before yielding to Christian Meza, who put down the last six in order.
It was a tidy ending for the crowd of 2,157 on a humid night.
"I think Hafner set the tone, three clean innings," Ryan said. "Getting out of that jam with just one run, he made a great defensive play on a ball hit right back at him. And he had two clean innings after that, so we gave our bullpen some rest and we didn't have to throw in another guy.
"Haynes throwing two innings helped us for tomorrow night."
The Power and Suns (4-2, 42-31) meet again at 7:05 p.m. today and Thursday, closing out the seven-game homestand.
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.