It took six innings for the P-Nats bats to show signs of life, but it was too little, too late as the Salem Red Sox withstood four runs late to win this one, 5-4.
Of course, credit for the offensive coma should go to Salem’s Keith Couch, who tossed six scoreless innings and allowed just three hits, no walks, and struck out seven to even his record at 8-8. In his previous start, he’d scattered ten hits over nine innings for a one-run complete game.
Conversely, Matt Grace was charged with the loss and ended a modest two-game win streak. The 23-year-old southpaw was charged with five runs on seven hits and two walks over five innings.
The bulk of the damage came in two big innings, as Grace’s propensity to give up long, loud hits returned — a home run and a double in the three-run 3rd, a double sandwiched between two sharp singles in the two-run 4th.
Potomac awoke in the 7th as the team’s two Steves (Souza and King) combined to break up the shutout bid. Souza had pulled up lame in Sunday’s contest, but the strain was not evident when the big fella (6’3″, 220) launched a shot to the warning track in center and cruised into third with an easy triple. Two batters later, King bounced one back up the middle to push Souza across the plate for a 5-1 tally.
The P-Nats added two more in the 8th when Michael Taylor singled to center and came around to score on an RBI double by Ricky Hague. Reliever Pete Ruiz gift-wrapped the second run by botching a tapper back to the mound that was incorrectly ruled a hit, then threw past the first baseman for an error that sent in Hague and took away an RBI chance for Souza, who singled for his third hit of the night (he had doubled in the 5th).
Following Grace from the ‘pen, and helping to make this drama possible, was a solid relief outing by Matt Swynenberg: Four scoreless innings, one hit, two walks, and one hit batsmen. It wasn’t pretty — just one 1-2-3 inning — but it got the job done.
Potomac rallied for the third straight time in the final frame, as Kevin Keyes lined a single to left and J.P. Ramirez hit a flyball that was ruled a single despite the shortstop standing flatfooted and missing the catch. Taylor struck out and Sanchez bounced one to second that erased pinch-runner Francisco Soriano. Hague drove in Keyes with another hit, an RBI single to left that cut the lead to one.
It was everything that a fan could hope for: a comeback from five runs down, two men on, two man out, and the cleanup hitter at the plate. Well, except for the strikeout by David Freitas that ended it .
With the loss, Potomac falls to 19-19 in the second half, but remains tied with Lynchburg for first place and a ½ game ahead of second-place Wilmington and 1½ games ahead of third-place Frederick in the Carolina League’s Northern Division