HAGERSTOWN—If anything, the Hagerstown Suns are trying to make things interesting in the South Atlantic League’s Northern Division.
After matching wins and losses with Greensboro and trailing the Grasshoppers by 6 1/2 games for the better part of the last month, the Suns are firmly in the division leader’s rear-view mirror as they head to the first-half finish line.
Alex Meyer controlled Kannapolis for six innings and the Suns used home runs by Jason Martinson and Cole Leonida to build an early lead before settling for a 6-5 victory on Thursday before 1,215 fans at Municipal Stadium.
The Suns (36-23) swept the three-game series and moved to within 3 1/2 games of the division lead. First-place Greensboro lost to Augusta on Thursday as it struggles to hold onto its advantage with 10 games remaining.
Hagerstown closed the homestand after winning six of seven games.
Meyer (5-3) wasn’t at his most powerful, but he was efficient. The Washington Nationals’ top pick in the 2011 draft pitched six innings, allowing three runs — two earned — on three hits with two walks and only one strikeout.
Martinson gave the Suns’ offense a jolt with a two-run home run in the fourth inning, while Leonida hit a solo shot — his second in two games — in the fifth to highlight the offense.
Martinson, who was left off the Northern Division all-star roster, has nine homers and a league-leading 58 RBIs. Leonida was 4-for-10 with two home runs and five RBIs in the three-game series after ending an 0-for-24 streak that began on May 8.
Meyer started slowly as he allowed Kannapolis a run in the first inning.
Keenyn Walker drew a leadoff walk and stole second before moving to third on a wild pitch. Ross Wilson lofted a sacrifice fly to right to plate the run for the 1-0 lead.
The Suns used a little creativity to take the lead with two runs against Kannapolis starter Erik Johnson in the second.
Martinson led off by reaching second on a fielding error by third baseman Rangel Ravelo before Matt Skole walked. Both runners advanced on Steven Souza Jr.’s fly to right center.
Caleb Ramsey legged out a high chop to third for an infield single to allow Martinson to score the tying run and move Skole to third.
With two outs, Ramsey edged off first base and drew a pickoff throw to start a rundown. While the Intimidators were chasing Ramsey, Skole scampered home to give Hagerstown the lead.
The Suns doubled their lead in the fourth as Chris Marrero led off with a double to center before trotting home on Martinson’s monstrous home run over the wall in center field.
Hagerstown pushed the lead to 6-1 with two more runs in the fifth inning, starting with Leonida’s leadoff homer. Billy Burns drew a walk to follow the homer and stole second before scoring on Brian Goodwin’s single to right.
The Suns helped Kannapolis get back into the game in the sixth inning by committing three errors, including two on one play.
Walker, who hit a one-out single, stole second and took third on Leonida’s errant throw to second. Ross Wilson singled to right to score Walker.
Wilson reached third when Martinson bobbled Cyle Hankerd’s grounder to short and then made a wild throw to first. It set up Mark Haddow’s RBI single to right to cut the deficit to 6-3.
The Intimidators inched closer when Hankerd hit a two-out solo homer to left-center off Suns reliever Colin Bates to make it 6-4.
Aaron Barrett, the Suns’ all-star closer, came on in the ninth to earn his seventh save, but it wasn’t easy as he allowed a two-out homer to right by Kevin Dubler to keep the Intimidators alive. He struck out Leighton Pangilinan to end the game.
Marrero, a Washington Nationals first baseman and a former Sun, made his second appearance with Hagerstown in his rehabilitation stint for a torn left hamstring he suffered while playing winter ball. Marrero left after six innings, going 1-for-3 with a run scored.