For six and a third innings, the Potomac Nationals pitchers flirted with a no-hitter. Leading 3-0, the game seemed relatively secure. A single, walk, a fielder’s choice and a two-run double later, the focus rapidly shifted from the statistical anomaly to the more basic task of winning the game.
Matt Grace stranded the tying run at second in the 7th as the P-Nats rallied in the 8th to get some breathing room. Rob Wort mowed ‘em down 1-2-3 in the 9th to secure the 5-2 win that gave Potomac its third straight “W” and kept pace with the first-place duo of Lynchburg and Frederick in the Carolina League North.
It was the first start in Woodbridge for Sammy Solis since August 23, 2011 — a four-inning stint against Wilmington as Washington’s 2nd Round pick of the 2010 Draft was finishing up his first full professional season. Solis would pitch another four innings last night, this time while pitching his way back from Tommy John surgery in March 2012.
Like many “TJers,” Solis struggled with his command, racking up a lot of deep counts and walking three over his four innings. The velocity, however, was as advertised — consistently in the 91-93 range, occasionally touching 94 or 95. Unusually, his touch with the secondary stuff was quite good; the 11-5 curve breaking late and over and the changeup sneaking by batters with good separation from the heat.
Solis struck out four, including the the side in the 3rd, and left the game without a hit as the league-worst Salem offense onlt hit one ball solidly, which third baseman Cutter Dykstra snared in self-defense to end the first inning.
Potomac got on the board in the next half-inning with a sloppy first as Billy Burns, returning after a 12-day absence, “singled” and took second on the throw that hit him in the back prior to touching first base, then advanced third on Michael Taylor’s opposite-field single.
Following a Dykstra popup, Taylor was caught leaning towards second and Burns, who scampered home on a similar rundown in his previous game, couldn’t repeat the feat and was thrown out between third and home. Taylor, however, did move up to second and scored on Adrian Nieto’s two-out single.
Burns teamed up with No. 9 man Randolph Oduber in the 5th for the second and third P-Nats runs, with the Groovin’ Aruban walking and Burns dropping down an actual bunt single. The lineup bookends executed a double steal after a Taylor flyout and both scored on Dykstra’s two-run single to extend the Potomac lead to 3-0 after five.
David Fischer got the benefit of the offense, taking over for Solis in the 5th and turning in two hitless innings with two walks and an error before running into trouble in the 7th, letting up a single to end the no-hit bid, walking the next batter, and throwing a wild pitch to set up Salem’s Jose Garcia for a two-run double that sliced the margin from 3-0 to 3-2.
As aforementioned, Grace got the final out of the 7th and retired the side in 8th, getting an assist the hard way with a grounder up the middle that went off his leg and rolled on over to first baseman Kevin Keyes for the third and final out.
Potomac put it away in the bottom of the 8th as Keyes singled with one out, Adrian Sanchez walked with two outs, and Francisco Soriano tripled them home for the 5-2 edge that Wort secured with a pair of strikeouts for the save. The win went to Fischer while the hold went to Grace — the first of the season in each category for both relievers.
The series continues with A.J. Cole (1-2, 4.98) taking the hill tonight against Salem’s Kyle Stroup (2-3, 4.86).