For the first 25 innings of the 2012 season, Harrisburg had a hard time scoring without the help of a rehabbing Washington National. With an eight-run eighth, the Senators erased the doubt about their offense en route to a 13-3 pounding of the Bowie Baysox.
The genesis of the big inning was somewhat unexpected. Twice before the 8-9 batters had gone down meekly (three groundouts and a strikeout), so the natural presumption was that the Sens would be trying to win against the Bowie closer, particularly with 28-year-old veteran Pedro Viola on the mound.
Instead, Jeff Howell doubled, Josh Johnson tripled to get the tie, and Eury Perez served up an opposite-field single to take a 4-3 lead.
Jeff Kobernus followed with his second safety — that’s three straight multiple-hit games — and stole his fourth base before Jesus Valdez walked. Five batters faced, none retired for Viola.
Sean Gleason was brought in to face Destin Hood (pictured above), a familiar face for the Senator LF as Gleason was Frederick Keys closer for most of the 2011 campaign. He greeted him with a first-pitch, wall-ball double to left-center to break the game open and end an oh-for-the season (10 ABs) dry spell.
All told, 13 batters came up in the inning, seven of them hit safely (Perez singled twice) while the Baysox committed two errors.
Hector Nelo came on to pitch the 8th and was lights out, striking out two looking on 94-96 mph heaters — including Bowie’s star shortstop Manny Machado (4 putouts, 8 assists).
And then things got unnecessarily ugly in the top of the 9th. The first two batters were dismissed easily, but then Tim Pahuta ripped a double to right field. With first base open, Bowie’s Scott Wolf, a 29-year-old journeyman, apparently decided to pay back Chris Rahl with a fastball to the back. The 28-year-old Rahl had homered against Wolf on Thursday night. Pahuta, also 28, started barking at Wolf who came down off the mound to exchange words.
The benches and bullpens emptied but no punches were thrown and nobody was ejected. Harrisburg tacked on three more runs with a one-run Lozada single, a Howell walk, and a two-run single by Johnson before Perez grounded out to (you guessed it) Machado.
Like the top of the inning, Nelo retired the first two batters and got to a 2-0 count before sailing the third pitch about a foot over/behind former National farmhand Edgardo Baez’s noggin. Umpire Kiff Kinkead (really) wasted no time in sending Nelo and Harrisburg manager Matt LeCroy to the showers.
Marcos Frias couldn’t retire Baez (the walk charged to Nelo), and gave up a sharp single to left before striking out Bowie’s Travis Adair to end the game.
The eight-run rally made a winner out of Pat McCoy, who struck out two of the four batters he faced, and gave starter Jeff Mandel a no-decision. Mandel had not started a game since July 2010, but retired the first eight batters he faced and tossed five shutout innings before coughing up a three-run homer with two outs off the right-field pole.
Rick Ankiel went 2-for-2 in his rehab start, taking a hanging curve out in the first inning for a solo shot and hitting the right-field wall and trotting to first in the fourth.
With the win, Harrisburg improves to 2-1 on the season and finishes up the four-game set tomorrow afternoon. Danny Rosenbaum is slated to make his 2012 debut against Cole McCurry for Bowie.