Zephyrs left-hander Brad Hand, continuing on his rehabilitation assignment from the Miami Marlins, shut out Sacramento on two hits over seven innings Tuesday at Zephyr Field.
“Everything is working pretty well right,” Hand said. “I’m throwing everything for strikes now, mostly. … It’s just a matter of when (the Marlins) want me.”
New Orleans won the final game of the series to salvage a split as it heads into its American South Division showdown at Nashville beginning Thursday. The win, coupled win Nashville’s 5-1 loss at Salt Lake on Tuesday, gave the Zephyrs a 2½ game lead over the Sounds.
Juan Diaz and Mark Canha homered to back Hand.
Consecutive one-out doubles in the first inning by Jordany Valdespin and Canha gave the Z’s a 1-0 lead. Diaz led off the fifth with a shot to right field. After Valdespin singled leading off the sixth, Canha followed with a blast that made it 4-0. River Cats center fielder Shane Peterson leaped at the wall and at first appeared to catch the ball.
Hand didn’t allow a hit until Jake Elmore lined the ball off the glove of right fielder Donovan Solano in the fifth. Hand then walked two, loading the bases with one out, but got a strikeout and induced a grounder by the next two hitters.
The only other hit he allowed was a one-out double in the seventh by Jose Martinez, but Hand struck out the next two and didn’t return.
WHO: New Orleans Zephyrs at Nashville Sounds
WHEN: 7:05 p.m.
WHERE: Greer Stadium, Nashville, Tenn.
PROBABLE STARTERS: Zephyrs right-hander Alex Sanabia (2-1, 3.49 ERA) vs. Sounds right-hander Ariel Pena (4-5, 4.04).
RADIO: WMTI-FM, 106.1
With power-hitting first baseman Justin Bour and hot-hitting center fielder Jake Marisnick having been called up to Miami, someone needed to help fill the void.
Mark Canha was moved from the outfield to first base and has proved nifty around the bag in the infield, too, getting to more balls than perhaps most first basemen can.
He’s also filling in well at the plate. He is hitting .481 (25-for-52) with two home runs, a triple, five doubles, 13 RBIs and 17 runs since June 9.
In the series against Sacramento, he went 7-for-11 (.636) with three doubles, five RBIs, four runs, four walks and a stolen base. He is on a five-game hitting streak dating to the final game of the previous series against Fresno.
“I guess I’ve had a better approach,” he said. “Every time I go up there, I’ve been really focusing on which pitches I’m swinging at and trying to eliminate some bad swings and just have better pitch selection, really.”
The Zephyrs are off Wednesday. … Hand has one more start on his assignment, likely Sunday at Nashville or Monday at home vs. Round Rock. … Infielder Danny Black was brought up from Double-A Jacksonville, filling the Zephyrs’ final spot on the 25-man roster. It had been open the past three games. Black played 63 games with the Suns and batted .225 with two home runs, seven doubles, four triples, 25 runs and 21 RBIs. He started at second base for the Zephyrs on Tuesday and went 1-for-3, getting a single leading off the seventh. He also helped turn two double plays. … Manager Andy Haines was ejected from the game during the top of the fifth inning by home-plate umpire Adam Schwartz for arguing strike calls. After Sacramento’s Anthony Aliotti walked with one out, putting runners on first and third, Schwartz signaled to the Zephyrs dugout that someone had been ejected. Haines made a bee-line to Schwartz to finish making his point. “Adam got to me,” Haines said. “He’s is a good home-plate umpire. I thought Brad (Hand) was getting squeezed a little bit (with the strike zone), and I let him know it, and he didn’t like what I said and threw me out. He has the final say. I’m going to fight for my guys and do my job.”
-- By Darrell Williams