In the only professional baseball game in the area last night, the Prince William Pirates scored three earned runs in defeating the Salem Redbirds for only the third time this season, 6-3, in a Carolina League game in Woodbridge.
With major league players on strike, and the evening cool, and the team winning of late, management looked for a good turnout at Prince William County Stadium. But the approximately 900 fans who showed up as the Pirates won their seventh straight game at home and their 11th in 14 games constituted one of the Class A team's smaller gatherings.
In its preceding home game, last Wednesday against Winston-Salem, the Pittsburgh farm club tallied 1,809 admissions; the night before, 1,713. A series with Hagerstown July 12-15 drew 2,227, 2,628, 3,095 and 3,404 -- the last on a Monday night when Baltimore left-hander Mike Flanagan originally was scheduled to pitch for Hagerstown in preparation for his return to Orioles duty. It was announced the night before that a stiff neck would keep Flanagan away, but the fans came anyway.
Despite last night's victory, Prince William remained 5 1/2 games behind Northern Division leader Lynchburg, which defeated Hagerstown. But after finishing last in the first half of the two-part season, the Pirates are involved in a race in the second.
A major reason for the Pirates' turnaround is center fielder Barry Bonds, the son of former major leaguer Bobby Bonds.
Last night, Barry Bonds, who joined the team in June and was the league's player of the month in July while batting .347, went three for four and scored two runs. He would have scored a third had he not been called out for leaving third base early on a fly ball in the fifth inning.
"He's the key to our total success," Pirates Manager Ed Ott said. "He generates belief in our ball club."
Ott said of the strike and of the possibility of drawing more fans to the Pirates' games: "We'd love to have them out there, but we have to win ball games."
Right-hander Jim Neidlinger (7-10), who is 7-3 at home, pitched six scoreless innings before giving up three runs in the seventh. Hipolito Pena did not allow a hit the final two innings.
Offensively, Lance Belen drove in his 59th and 60th runs and Burk Goldthorn his 53rd.
The Pirates scored two runs in the first inning with two out. After Randy Kramer (6-9) struck out Reggie Barringer and got Jose Lind to line out to first base, Bonds doubled down the left field line and scored on Goldthorn's grounder up the middle. Belen knocked in Goldthorn with a double off the right field wall.
In the third, Lind and Bonds singled, and Kramer hit Goldthorn with a pitch to load the bases. Belen hit a fly ball deep to right field that was dropped by Greg Bailey, allowing Lind to score from third. Bonds came home on Dimas Gutierrez's double-play ground ball.
Neidlinger had a shutout going until two were out in the seventh. Joe Morales' grounder up the middle caused shortstop Barringer and second baseman Lind to collide headfirst, and Lind suffered a broken nose and concussion and Barringer a concussion, Ott said.
After a 10-minute delay, Kevin Botay doubled to left field, driving in Morales, and Neidlinger walked the next two batters. Al Farmer hit an opposite-field single to left to make the score 5-3 before Neidlinger got Kirk Bates to ground out.
"Maybe there was something to it," said Neidlinger of the delay, "because I was in the groove. But, I was a little tired at the time. I was losing a little zip on my ball."
Prince William made it 5-0 in the sixth inning. Gutierrez walked, moved to third on Bobby Bonilla's line single, and scored on Reggie Hammonds' sacrifice fly to left. Bonilla hit .526 on the Pirates' recent six-game road trip.