By DAVE UTNIK
WOODBRIDGE –?Charlie Manning, his night’s effort complete after 91 pitches and 62/3 well-crafted innings in the hot August sun, sat in the home dugout Wednesday night and watched the rest of his teammates put the finishing touches on a spirited 6-1 victory over the Frederick Keys.
It was a joyous sight, especially the part where the Cannons kept circling the bases.
”That was nice to see,” Manning said, shortly after picking up his third victory in three starts for the Cannons.
”It’s fun to pitch for these guys,” he said. ”We’ve been hitting the ball well the last few games.”
The Cannons scored 17 runs in a three-game sweep of the Keys, but pitching has been another strong point. The Cannons continue to remain in playoff contention thanks to performances like the ones they’ve received from Phil Dumatrait on Monday, Edward Valdez on Tuesday and Manning last night.
Though they remained 5? games behind first-place Wilmington, the Cannons will board a chartered bus for Myrtle Beach at 7 a.m. feeling as much a part of the pennant race as anyone else.
”Everybody’s still talking about the playoffs,” Manning said. ”We all want to make it.”
With 17 games remaining, the Cannons are now within two games of the third-place Keys. Manning is largely responsible for making that possible. Of course part of the credit also belongs to reliever Todd Coffey, who worked 21/3 scoreless innings to earn a save, as well as Mark Schramek and Chris Denorfia, who each delivered two-run hits.
On a night when the Cannons learned they will play the remainder of the season without all-star shortstop Jeff Bannon, Manning provided a tremendous boost.
With Bannon earning a promotion to Double-A Chattanooga following the game, the Cannons prepared to leave town with a 24-27 record and all the momentum that a three-game winning streak can possibly generate.
Manning did his part by allowing one earned run — his first in 19 innings since joining the team on August 1 — and striking out seven.
”This team made me feel at home right away and that makes a big thing when you’re changing organizations,” said Manning, who came to the Reds in a trade that sent Aaron Boone to the Yankees.
”Since I’ve been here I’ve been able to throw everything for strikes and get ahead in the count. That’s how I’m doing it,” he said. ”I just want to show these guys what I can do.”
So far, Manning has been everything the Reds imagined. He’s 3-0 with a 0.46 ERA.
On Wednesday, he held the Keys to four hits.
The Cannons more than doubled that against Keys starter Ryan Hannaman and two relievers.
Brad Correll put Potomac ahead with a solo homer and the Cannons piled it on with an RBI single by Junior Ruiz and a four-run seventh that featured back-to-back two-run hits by Schramek and Denorfia.