After so many nights of frustration, this night was a treat — a reminder of what we love about minor-league baseball. For the casual fan, it may have simply been a home win on a fireworks night, even if the game started an hour late. For the baseball fan, it was pitcher’s duel featuring the usual assortment of crisp defense, boneheaded baserunning, and timely hitting.
For Trevor Holder, it was a reminder of why he’s been labeled a prospect and a much-needed building block for the future.
Entering the game with a 7+ ERA, Holder tossed seven shutout innings for just his third win in 12 starts, but easily his best start of the 2011 campaign. He allowed six hits, walked none, and struck out four as the first of three pitchers to combine on a 2-0 Potomac shutout. He kept the ball down for the most part and allowed just one runner to reach third base, two to reach second.
That’s also in part because the defense was on last night. With Jose Lozada sliding over to third, Justin Bloxom starting at first base, Justino Cuevas at short, and J.R. Higley in right field, it should have been. With eight runs allowed in his previous two starts, it was clear that manager Matt LeCroy wanted the seven men behind Holder to be the best possible alignment.
In the third and fourth innings, the wisdom of that decision was proven. A round-the-horn double play erased the first single that Holder allowed in the third, while an unusual (misruled) double play killed both a rally and the spirit of the Salem Red Sox in the fourth.
For a little more detail on that second play: Salem leadoff hitter Wilfred Pichardo served a single in right to start the frame. No. 2 batter Peter Hissey laid down a sacrifice bunt down the third base line that Lozada fielded and fired over accurately, but Bloxom dropped the throw. Pichardo hesitated, then went for third. Bloxom fired back to Lozada for the out. Hissey rounded towards second and Lozada threw back to Bloxom for another out.
Hissey’s bunt was ruled a single (instead of a sacrifice and an error on Bloxom), making for an unorthodox 5-3-5-3 double play.*That’s one assist and putout apiece for the two fielders; I don’t just watch, I keep a scorebook for everygame I attend.
Potomac would get on the board in the sixth, as Destin Hood would get the second of his three singles for the night. Cleanup hitter Justin Bloxom worked the count full and ripped a grounder to second that got past (went through?) the Salem second baseman into short right-centerfield. Running on the 3-2 pitch, Hood would score from first for the 1-0 lead.
The P-Nats would get their insurance run in the next inning with a little less luck, as J.R. Higley led off with a single, took second on a Sandy Leon liner off the pitcher that he scooped up and sprinted over to tag the less-than-fleet catcher. A wild pitch sent Higley to third and a Justino Cuevas sacrifice fly drive him home.
Joe Testa came on in the top of the eighth to face two lefthanded batters, and got one to ground out and walked the other. With Pat Lehman up the ladder to Harrisburg, LeCroy called on Hector Nelo to close out the game. The fireballer got the first man he faced to ground into the third double play of the night for the Potomac infield, then pitched a 1-2-3 ninth for the save, his fourth of the year.
The victory was the third in a row for Potomac, the longest at home and the third stretch of three or more wins on the season. Paul Demny (2-6, 4.50) gets the ball today against Salem’s Ryan Pressly (4-5, 4.50), the redheaded Texan gunning for his first home win of the year.