No Mercy! This is Wilmington!
The regulars know this is the battle cry from Steve Stevens, an otherwise mild-mannered grandfather, and last night the Potomac Nationals paid heed to the former Marine, blasting the Wilmington Blue Rocks by 12-3 score and taking the series three games to one.
The P-Nats scored often and early, though the bulk of the damage came in an eight-run second inning, one in which 12 men came to bat and highlighted by Sandy Leon’s first big fly of the season and a grand slam from J.P. Ramirez. Potomac “only” had 12 hits for the night, led by Jeff Kobernus’s 3-for-5 effort, with four other batters (Ramirez, Leon, J.R. Higley, and Eury Perez) collecting two.
Let’s Go Big Pitch!
It was also the Carolina League debut of 2010 Washington Nationals 2nd Round Draft pick Sammy Solis, who turned in a quality start of six innings pitched, three runs allowed on seven hits, one walk, and five strikeouts. Stevens wasn’t on hand to belt out another one of his familiar admonitions, but Solis wouldn’t need much encouragement with the huge lead.
Solis struggled early, with three-ball counts to nearly every batter in the first inning, and gave up a walk and two singles to fall behind early. He would settle down and settle in to retire 13 of the next 15 batters after giving up the first-inning run, allowing just a two-out single in the third and a swinging bunt single with one out in the 5th.
The velocity was there, as the “big pitch” (6’5″, 230) touched 96 on occasion, but what was more impressive was the huge separation in his pitches as his fastball was in the low 90s but his changeup dipped as low as the mid-70s. The 11-5 (1-7 from the batter’s eye) curve wasn’t as sharp as it was in Hagerstown last month, but it mostly kept the hitters off-balance as six of the seven hits Solis yielded were just singles.
The seventh, however, was another long home run off the bat of John Whittleman, his third HR of the series in as many uniform tops (last night it was #14) as Solis did leave on a somewhat sour note, giving up two runs in his final inning.
Rob Wort and Joe Testa followed Solis out of the ‘pen to combine for three scoreless innings, with Wort scattering three hits and both striking out one batter apiece.
The win improves Potomac to 7-6 in the second half, a ½ game behind first-place Frederick, the next team on the schedule. The Keys and P-Nats are slated for three games today through Friday. Potomac then visits Lynchburg over the weekend and into Monday for three games before returning to the Pfitz a week from today for an eight-game homestand.