Maybe it was only fitting that Ramon Jiminez didn't allow his final chance to bat go unnoticed in the Greensboro Hornets' opening home game at Memorial Stadium.
And thanks to his booming bat, the Hornets sent Charleston, S.C., reeling to its sixth consecutive loss in the South Atlantic League. The latest came by a 6-5 score Tuesday night just before rain drops began to fall on the field.Jiminez nearly hit for the cycle and it was the first baseman whose blast to the wall with two out in the bottom of the ninth inning drove in the tie-breaking run that enabled Greensboro to lift its record to 4-2.
Jason Robertson had blooped a double to left to lead off the ninth. But the next two Hornets' batters left him standing there. Jiminez, who seemingly thrives on such situations, jumped on a fastball thrown by relief pitcher Joe Murdock and sent it soaring to the bottom of the center field fence.
Robertson scored easily as Charleston outfielder Craig Pueschner made a futile dive for the ball and came up empty-handed. Jiminez, who collected a double and a triple earlier, was credited with a single this time.
``I knew it was going to drop in,' said Jiminez. ``It felt good.'
Business as usual? Not exactly.
The Hornets started one of their top pitchers in lefthander Rafael Quirico and he struck out the side in the first inning. Quirico added another couple of strikeouts in the second inning and it appeared that the southpaw had the Rainbows under control.
Quirico did until the sixth, when he not only lost his shutout but also what would have been his first victory of the season. A sudden streak of wildness, resulting in two walks and three wild pitches, enabled Charleston to score twice and tie the game at 2-2.
``He just lost his rhythm and couldn't get it back,' said pitching coach Dave Jorn. When Quirico tried, Monte Brooks smashed a run-scoring triple to make it 2-2. Jeff Hoffman, who had rescued Quirico at Sumter last week, rushed in from the bullpen to strike out Lee Henderson.
Hoffman gained his second win and is 2-0.
``It was a little ugly,' said Manager Brian Butterfield. With the game only minutes old, he already was worrying about tonight's starting pitcher. Two of his regulars are doubtful and he already has put in a call for help to the Yankees' minor league headquarters in Tampa, Fla.
``We hope to get someone in for tomorrow's game,' said Butterfield. Mark Hutton was scheduled to start on the mound but he has an elbow problem and may not be able to go. ``We're scratching,' said Butterfield.
Jiminez paced a 12-hit attack in the opener of the five-game series with Charleston and three other Hornets collected two hits each, including shortstop Aaron Van Scoyoc, who drove in a pair of runs.
The Hornets took a 1-0 lead in the third inning when Robertson reached safely on an infield error and scored on Jiminez' triple to right center. Jiminez had doubled with two outs in the first and stole third only to be stranded for the first time.
Tim Garland put the Hornets ahead 2-0 in the fifth inning. He singled, stole second and scored on Van Scoyoc's single to left. It was still 2-0 when Charleston rallied for a pair of runs in the sixth.
But Garland bunted safely with two outs and scored on Van Scoyoc's double to give the Hornets a 3-2 lead which held firm until the Rainbows came to bat in the top of the eighth. Greensboro's chances for a victory nearly disappeared when Charleston combined three hits for three runs and a 5-3 edge.
Greensboro's young battlers wouldn't give up. The Hornets rallied for a pair of runs in their half of the eighth for a 5-5 tie. Andy Fox tripled in Brian Johnson for one runs and Fox scored on a sacrifice fly by Mike Rhodes with two outs.
That set the stage for Jiminez' final time at bat.
``He's a good hitter,' said Butterfield, and the man of the hour for the Hornets.
Though Charleston was limited to six hits, the Rainbows made the most of them.
Bill Johnson, going after his first win, struck out seven Hornets. Troy Cunningham relieved and pitched one inning and the hard-throwing Murdock became the victim as Charleston's second reliever.
It wasn't exactly business as usual at Memorial Stadium.