After an hour’s rain delay to a game that had been postponed the night before, the Potomac Nationals shut out the Carolina Mudcats by a 5-0 count in the opening game of a doubleheader.
Blake Schwartz was making his second start in High-A but against the same team. Last week, Schwartz tossed six shutout innings against Carolina but was overshadowed by Kevin Keyes’s display of lights-out power.
Just as it’s important to not get too excited when a pitcher breezes through the lineup the first time through — watch how often mediocre-to-bad pitchers get hammered in the middle innings, you’ll see what I mean — it’s a good idea to temper expectations when a team gets to see him for a second start.
Well, Schwartz only went five shutout innings this time, giving up the same number of hits and walks (three and one) but striking one more (six vs. five). Early on, it looked like things might be different. A couple of long counts to the tablesetters (doing their job), resulting in a walk and a strikeout. But a popup behind home plate and a little help from speedster Billy Burns quashed that rally.
Indeed, the next few batters seemed to be trying to ambush Schwartz, jumping on first pitches, hoping for a fastball. Instead, they popped up or fell behind.
He didn’t throw particularly hard… or straight, with both cutting and sinking movement spotted. But he mixed in a change that had serious separation (at least 10 mph slower) and a curve that broke more like a southpaw’s.
Meanwhile, Carolina’s Shawn Morimando, who was Schwartz’s opponent last week, was nearly as good the last time out, setting down the first six with ease. But an opposite-field flare from Adrian Sanchez followed by a wall-ball RBI double to right-center by Caleb Ramsey put him in a 1-0 hole in the Potomac 3rd. After retiring two of the next three batters, Cutter Dyktra’s two-out slice through the 5/6 hole produced all the offense the P-Nats pitchers would need.
Potomac would tack on three in the 5th with back-to-back singles from Ramsey and Randolph Oduber, with Michael Taylor plating two on a single to left (though Oduber ran through manage Brian Daubach’s stop sign and the throw in was 10′ off the plate) and Jason Martinson hitting a sacrifice fly deep enough for the two runners on the corners to move up.
Matt Grace came on in the 6th and closed out the game, working out of a 1st-and-2nd with one out jam with a little help from the “D” on double-play ball in his first inning and stranding a two-out single with a flyball to center to end it.
With a win in the nightcap, Potomac evened its home record to 6-6 and its season record to 12-13, two games off the pace in the Carolina League North Division. Robbie Ray (2-1, 1.55) is slated to pitch tonight’s game against Carolina’s Joseph Colon (0-1, 4.15). Ryan Zimmerman, who bowed out of last night’s doubleheader due to less-than-optimal field conditions, is expected to appear tonight on a rehab assignment.