With three and a 2/3rd scoreless innings of relief from Trevor Holder and three RBI from Justin Bloxom, the Potomac Nationals rallied from a 4-1 deficit to take a 6-5 win from the Winston-Salem Dash, splitting the four-game series.
The game also marked the 2012 debut for Robbie Ray, and early on, it looked like the reinforcement that the fans had been hoping more. Ray set down the first seven batters straight, including four strikeouts, before the Dash began to figure him out.
Bear in mind, this is a 21-y.o. pitching against the #1 offense in the Carolina League. Ray wasn’t wild in the sense that he was working long counts or issuing walks, but it’s something we see every year: High-A hitters have just that much more of an idea of the strike zone… and when a fastball is left up, they almost always do something with it.
Ray would give up a pair of runs in the 3rd on four straight hits, with Michael Taylor gunning down one runner on one of two throws to the plate during the inning. Both throws were strong, but neither were terribly accurate — both missing the cutoff man and the second making it all the way to the backstop.
The Dash would tack on two more in the 4th, with Dan Black singling to lead off the inning and Brady Shoemaker following with a two-run shot to left-center.
Ray would leave with one out in the 5th and runners on the corners. Holder would come in but couldn’t hold on to the throw on a would-be 3-6-1 double play. Still, the veteran righthander stranded one of the two and got 11 outs in 11 batters faced, giving Potomac the chance to come back.
With two out in the bottom of the 5th, Justin Bloxom delivered his second and third RBI, courtesy of a two-run shot to right field to tie the game at 5-5. It would be his seventh hit in the last seven games, improving his home splits to .268/.354/.463.
After threatening in the 6th and 7th innings, the P-Nats delivered the gamewinner in the 8th with a little help from the Dash. Zach Walters led off with a opposite-field flare to left-center and stole second. Blake Kelso sacrificed him to third to bring up the big man Kevin Keyes.
With one out, the Dash elected to draw in the infield to cut down a runner at the plate. Against most any other hitter, that would make sense. But Keyes grounds out about twice a week because soft contact isn’t part of his game. When he connects, it’s usually a moonshot, and if it happens to go on the ground, it usually gets to the outfield on the third hop.
Sure enough, Keyes was able to ground one just past the reach of the second baseman, who might have had a chance to snag it on the first hop if he’d played it halfway.
With Cameron Selik unavailable, Rob Wort got the call to close the game and worked around a one-out double by striking out the side for his second save of the season.
The ten-game homestand finishes over the weekend with a three-game series against the second-place Blue Rocks, one of two teams the P-Nats only play two series against in the first half (the other being the Carolina Mudcats). Matt Swynenberg (2-1, 3.24) gets the start, the first since his complete game on Sunday, opposed by Wilmington’s Yordano Ventura (0-2, 4.43).