About the only thing colder than the weather were the P-Nats bats, held to just six hits in a 7-0 shutout by the Dash.
Coming into the game, Potomac was riding a five-game win streak and attempting its first four-game sweep at the Pfitz since 2007. With a matching of a low-2’s ERA prospect versus a high-6’s ERA journeyman, the odds seemed stacked in Potomac’s favor.
After Robbie Ray struck out the side — all three times looking — in the first, and two more in the second, the odds looked even better. Unfortunately, these were not nine-pitch innings so all those K’s came at a cost.
Indeed, the bill came due in third when Winston-Salem sent seven men to the plate, beginning with a walk and ending with, yes, another strikeout. In between, however, was a double, a strikeout, another walk, and a single. While Ray was able to minimize the damage to just two runs, the inning took its toll as Christian Meza was spotted warming up before Ray registered the third and final out.
With long counts on every man, Ray easily cracked 30 pitches and may have hit the 40-pitches-in-one-inning limit that famously shortened several Ross Detwiler outings in 2008. (Sorry, tracking pitches is the line between fun and work when it comes to keeping score). Thus, he was done after just three innings with two runs allowed on two hits and two walks with nine strikeouts.
Meza was no more effective than Ray, giving up three over the next three on six hits and two walks with three strikeouts. Colin Bates followed with two scoreless innings while Derek Self coughed up a two-out, two-run homer in the 9th to erase any doubt of the eventual outcome.
Of course, as aforementioned the offense was frigid and flat. Except for a leadoff double by Adrian Nieto in the 2nd, there was hardly a hard-hit ball on the night. Billy Burns’s one-out bunt single followed by Michael Taylor’s slap through the 3/4 hole in the 3rd were the only consecutive base knocks, which gave fleeting hopes of tying the game when it was only 2-0.
The chance to answer the Dash was, um, dashed with a 5-C-3 double play off the bat of Cutter Dykstra, who reached based three times with a walk and two singles. It was the first of two double plays turned by Winston Salem, as Dykstra’s leadoff walk was erased in the 6th with a 6-4-3 DP.
Kevin Keyes was the last leadoff man to reach, as the big man drew his sixth walk of the series (and ninth for the year) in the 7th as the next three batters went down in order with a pair of grounders and a popup to end Dash starter Bryan Blough’s winning night with seven strong innings that lowered his ERA from 6.94 to 5.82.
The loss drops Potomac into second place, one game behind Lynchburg in the Carolina League North. Rob Gilliam is scheduled to make his 2013 season debut tonight against Wilmington’s Aaron Brooks (0-3, 4.99) as the last-place Blue Rocks come to Woodbridge for a three-game series.