On paper, this looked like it was going to be a blowout. Wilmington’s Jake Ordorizzi was coming off a 13-K outing against the first-place Salem Red Sox, Potomac’s Mitchell Clegg two starts removed from an 11-run shellacking against third-place Winston Salem.
Instead, Odorizzi suffered his worst outing and Clegg posted his best as the Potomac Nationals once again prevailed 5-4, this time walking off in the bottom of the 9th.
Make no mistake: Clegg was not dominant. Three of the five hits he gave up were no-doubt doubles and he only struck out two over his five and a 1/3rd innings. But he got the outs he needed, including two double plays and had more outs on the ground than in the air, which is progress for a pitcher that has a tendency to leave his pitches up in the zone.
Meanwhile, the duo of Destin Hood and Eury Perez were nearly unstoppable. Both went 4-for-4 with seven total bases, accounting for eight of the 11 Potomac hits. Hood would drive in three runs while Perez would score two runs, including the gamewinner. But more on that a little later.
After six straight games with an error, the P-Nats finally put a zero in the “E” column with the infielders racking up eight assists and turning two double plays, highlighted by Francisco Soriano knocking down a grounder behind the second-base bag and gunning down the runner to save a run.
Josh Smoker and Marcos Frias — both recent starters-turned-relievers — were the first two to follow Clegg on the mound. Each had mixed results. Smoker, who was hitting 92 on the gun, stranded his inherited runner in the sixth but walked the first two batters in the seventh. Frias let in one of those walks in the seventh, but retired the last five batters he faced.
With a slim 3-2 lead going into the bottom of the eighth, Destin Hood drove the first pitch of the eighth deep into the trees beyond the left field for a 4-2 lead. Though the next three batters went down in order, with P-Nat closer Pat Lehman warming in the ‘pen, it looked like the game was over.
Though he had warmed up the night before, Lehman hadn’t pitched since last Wednesday and the Blue Rocks were able to take advantage of the rust for a two-out double and single that tied the game at 4-4.
After a J.R. Higley strikeout and a warning-track flyout by Soriano, Perez got his fourth hit of the game with a single to left field for a chance to avoid extra innings. Wilmington reliever Manauris Baez knew it, too, as he easily threw to first as often as he threw to the plate against the next batter, Jeff Kobernus.
While he was able to hold Perez at first, Baez made the fatal error of giving the speedster a 3-2, two-out jump and Perez took full advantage, taking off when Baez’s motion was toward home and going into the proverbial fifth gear when he saw the ball Kobernus hit clear the shortstop’s leap and float into left-center field.
Stevie Wonder could see that this was not going to be a close play as the crowd roared when Perez kicked into the proverbial fifth gear, gliding past third and sliding home with the game- and series-winning run.
The win knocked Wilmington out of first, and put Potomac at .400 for the year with a 14-21 mark. They’re back on the road again with four against the new first-place team, Frederick, then three against the last-place Lynchburg Hillcats before returning to Woodbridge next Monday for a six-games-in-seven-days homestand.