The fireworks after the game got cancelled by the intermittent rain, but there were plenty during the contest as the P-Nats pounded the Hillcats, 6-2 for their fourth straight win over their divisional rival.
Ronald Pena got the start instead of last night’s scheduled pitcher Brian Rauh, which may be part of an upcoming rotation realignment for Potomac, thanks to injuries both actual and perhaps phantom to teammates Nick Lee and Pedro Encarnacion. Today’s rehab starter Doug Fister is also part of the equation, as the P-Nats have yet to replace either pitcher on the roster.
Pena, who’s received the most run support of any Potomac starter as reflected by the team’s 4-0 record despite his 8.04 ERA, would have to work from behind this evening as erratic defense put him in an early 1-0 hole. Lynchburg’s Alejandro Piloto got a gift triple with one out as recently activated Narciso Mesa badly misjudged his flyball to medium center.
With the infield drawn in, Khayyan Norfork laid out to knock down a grounder to the 3/4 hole and keep Piloto on third. But just one batter latter, Jose Peraza’s high-but-shallow fly fell safely between LF, CF, and SS as nobody seemed to call for it, thus nobody got it.
The rain began to fall just as the game became official in the 5th and after a strikeout by Mike McQuillan and back-to-back walks by Stephen Perez and Cole Leonida, for a moment it looked like the elements would win.
Instead, Adrian Sanchez, who’s seen his batting average go from .045 to .189 with an eight hits over his last five games, singled in the tying run with one out while Randolph Oduber got the groove line between 3B and SS for a two-out, two-run single and a 3-1 lead.
Pena started the 6th for the first time this season, but gave up a leadoff hit and was lifted after recording his only stgrikeout of the night in favor of Rauh, who stranded that runner and retired eight of nine batters and seemed poised to finish the game for the long save.
It was put in doubt the good way — by big rally in the bottom of the 8th. Shawn Pleffner, who was making his High-A debut, singled to center for his first hit of the season. He trotted home in front of Brandon Miller’s fifth home run of the season, a rocket to the left of the scoreboard for which the only doubt was how far it went.
Mike McQuillan was hit by pitch and took second when Perez tried to lay down a bunt single. The 24-y.o. DH had to jog a little to score the final run when Leonida hit one off the base of the left field wall for his fifth double in just eight games this season.
With Bryan Harper warming up during the rally, Rauh was still sent out to start the 9th but hit the only batter he faced. The elder Harper brother gave up back-to-back singles to let in the run but rolled a double play ball.
Manager Tripp Keister called on Gilberto Mendez, who hadn’t pitched in a week, to get the final out and did it as efficiently possible without pickoff: one pitch, one out, albeit a deep fly to the warning track in LF to nail it down.
As aforementioned, Fister is the scheduled pitcher for the P-Nats in this afternoon’s game, with Brett Mooneyham (1-1, 3.21) most likely to follow on the mound. The Hillcats will send Greg Ross (1-1, 2.84).