Luke Erickson

Luke Erickson is a season-ticket holder for the Potomac Nationals, but makes a point of seeing games in Hagerstown and Harrisburg at least once a summer. When the PNats are away on the weekend, Luke finds a minor-league game somewhere to watch, and generally attends 70-80 baseball games a year up across several states. A former sportswriter with newspapers in Massachusetts and Oregon, Luke lives in Western Fairfax County with his wife and two sons.

Jun 022012
 
Team Yesterday Today Probable Pitchers
Syracuse Won, 7-5 @ Indianpolis,
7:15 p.m.
Roark (3-6, 5.32) vs.
Locke (3-3, 3.17)
Harrisburg Lost, 10-3 @ New Britain,
6:35 p.m.
Rosenbaum (6-1, 1.69) vs.
Darnell (5-2, 4.39)
Potomac Postponed vs. Lynchburg,
5:35 p.m.
Olbrychowski (1-4, 6.62) and
Hansen (1-2, 6.85) vs.
Delgado (3-1, 3.55) and
J.R. Graham (6-0, 2.37)
Hagerstown Postponed vs. Delmarva,
6:05 p.m.
Turnbull (2-3, 4.46) and TBD
vs. Chalas (4-3, 5.77) and TBD
DSL Nationals N/A vs. DSL Mets1,
10:30 a.m.
TBD vs. TBD

Syracuse 7 Louisville 5
• Maya (W, 4-5) 5IP, 6H, 4R, 4ER, 2BB, 4K, HR
• Gonzalez 1⅓ IP, 0H, 0R, 0BB, 2K
• Teahen 3-5, 2R, 2RBI
• Moore 2-5, R, 3B, HR, 4RBI

Tyler Moore tripled, homered, and drove in four runs in his return to AAA as the Chiefs cracked the Bats, 7-5 — the third straight win for Syracuse. Yunesky Maya labored through five innings, giving up four runs on six hit and two walks to get the win. Mark Teahen led the 10-hit parade with a 3-for-5 night. With the activation of OF Michael Morse, OF Corey Brown was optioned back to Syracuse and OF J.R. Higley was assigned to Potomac. LHP Michael Gonzalez was also activated, but the corresponding move to make room for him has not yet been announced.

New Britain 10 Harrisburg 3
• Mandel (L, 4-4) 6⅓ IP, 14H, 10R, 10R, 2BB, 3K, HR, WP
• Davis 1⅔ IP, 0H, 0R, BB, 2K
• Pahuta 2-4, 2R, 2HR, 2RBI
• McConnell 2-4, R, 2B
• Rahl 2-4

One thing’s for sure: Jeff Mandel was throwing strikes last night (111-71). The only problem was that 13 of them landed safely in fair territory and a 14th cleared the wall as New Britain demolished Harrisburg, 10-3. The Rock Cats sent 11 men to the plate in the seven-run 2nd and five more in the one-run third, but Mandel snapped back to post three straight scoreless innings, saving the bullpen. Tim Pahuta homered twice to lead the Sens offense, which racked up 11 hits but only stranded six while hitting into just one double play.

POTOMAC — PPD
Heavy rains forced yet another postponement, as the three-game series will be compressed into a Saturday-night doubleheader and a Sunday afternoon finale. As mentioned in the Syracuse writeup, J.R. Higley has been assigned to Potomac bu there was no corresponding move announced. Potomac is slated to play in four doubleheaders over the next eight days, which, if anything, will mean some pitchers bouncing on/off the DL and TIL lists over the next few days to cover the 90-plus innings.

HAGERSTOWN — PPD
Same [situation], different affiliate. The Suns and Shorebirds will make up this one with a doubleheader on Saturday.

DSL NATIONALS — OPENING DAY
A whole new bunch of names to learn and/or pronounce. But here are some that won’t be listed in the space this summer, having been released last month: 3B Bienvenido Valdez, OF Edgar Gonzalez, 2B “Fred” Ortega, RHP Daury Vasquez, OF Aladin Reyes, RHP Jorge Hernandez, LHP Brian Escolastico, LHP Jesus Guzman.

Jun 012012
 

Our weekly look at the leaders, trailers, and outliers in the Washington Nationals minor leagues.

SYRACUSE CHIEFS 25-28, 5th place I.L. North, 8 games behind

Good Zach Duke 5-1, 3.08 ERA, 1.24 WHIP in May
Bad Seth Bynum .189/.241/.297 in May
Interesting Pat Lehman 0.00ERA, 0.75WHIP in May

HARRISBURG SENATORS 28-25, 2nd place E.L. West, 5 games behind

Good Jose Lozada .313/.378/.448 in May
Bad Ryan Tatusko 7.80 ERA, 1.87 WHIP
Interesting Eury Perez 13SBs in last 14 attempts

POTOMAC NATIONALS 21-29, 3rd place C.L. North Division, 6½ games behind

Good Cameron Selik 26K in last 12 appearances (1-0, 7SV)
Bad Blake Kelso .146/.186/.146 in last 10G
Interesting Top 9 Batters by AB at Home .269BA, .419SLG
Top 9 Batters by AB on Road .172BA, .276SLG

HAGERSTOWN SUNS 31-22, 2nd place Sally League North Divison, 7½ games behind

Good Nathan Karns 61K in 44⅓ IP
Bad Hendry Jimenez .162/.238/.189 in May
Interesting Jason Martinson 52RBI (2nd in SAL), 37BB (3rd), 68K (1st)
Jun 012012
 

Justin Bloxom’s two-run moonshot in the sixth inning plus decent pitching from start to finish were the elements for success in Potomac’s 4-2 win over Myrtle Beach.

After getting pounded by the Blue Rocks and clawed by the Hillcats in his last two starts (six runs apiece), starter Matt Swynenberg set down the first seven batters in order to begin the contest before he showed signs of reverting to bad form in the third. A double to left followed by a double to right two batters later plated the first Pelican run.

Meanwhile, the P-Nats picked up where they left off the night before: getting runners on, but getting themselves out. Adrian Sanchez led off the game with line drive down the left field line and coasted into second. Ricky Hague followed with a grounder to short, that Sanchez inexplicably tried to advance to third and was caught for a 6-5 putout. Rehabbing Michael Morse lined out to second, sharply enough for Hague to be doubled off. Wham, bam, thank you ma’am and the P-Nats were done for the first inning.

Zach Walters, who was 4-for-4 on the night, was caught stealing in the second, which Michael Taylor followed with a line-drive single to center — eliciting not cheers from the crowd of 1,429, but a collective groan at what might have been. Through four innings, Potomac had four hits and three left on.

They broke through in the fifth to take a 2-1 lead, as Bloxom doubled to left and went to third on a on opposite-field single by J.P. Ramirez. Randolph Oduber grounded to third to erase Ramirez but beat the relay to get the RBI as Bloxom came in to score. Two batters later, Hague drove in the Groovin’ Aruban to give the P-Nats a 2-1 lead.

Swynenberg couldn’t keep the Pelicans from answering in the 6th, giving up a single and another double (that’s four) to tie the game at 2-2 but bore down to get the next three batters, two by way of the K to finish his night with quality start: two runs allowed, on seven hits and no walks and four strikeouts.

He would get the “W” when Bloxom cleared the Bud Light sign in right field with two outs in the 6th (hence the pic).

Say what you want about the starting pitching, which is starting to come around with three quality starts during the homestand thus far, but the late-inning relief has been a force most of the season; it’s just harder to notice when the team is not in the lead, natch.

Ryan Demmin threw two perfect innings of relief to hand the ball over to Cameron Selik in the 9th. An error started the frame (Walters, his team-leading 14th) but the former Jayhawk rock, rocked the next two batters for caught-looking strikeouts and induced a grounder to second to chalk up his 8th save, the third-best total in the Carolina League.

With the win, Potomac earns a series split and improves to 21-29. First-place Lynchburg comes to town for the weekend, with Adam Olbrychowski (1-4, 6.62) set to take the hill tonight, weather permitting.

Jun 012012
 
Team Yesterday Today Probable Pitchers
Syracuse Postponed @ Indianpolis,
7:15 p.m.
Maya (3-5, 3.36) vs.
Karstens (0-1, 6.23
Harrisburg Lost, 7-2 @ New Britain,
6:35 p.m.
Mandel (4-3, 3.64) vs.
Hirschfeld (3-4, 3.28)
Potomac Won, 4-2 vs. Lynchburg,
7:05 p.m.
Olbrychowski (1-4, 6.62) vs.
Delgado (3-1, 3.55)
Hagerstown Won, 12-0 vs. Delmarva,
7:05 p.m.
Turnbull (2-3, 4.46) vs.
Chalas (4-3, 5.77).

SYRACUSE — PPD
Rain postponed the finale of the Bats-Chiefs series, forcing a makeup next week when Louisville visits Syracyuse.

Portland 7 Harrisburg 2
• Demny (L, 4-3) 5IP, 12H, 5R, 5ER, 0BB, 3K, HR
• Perez 3-4, R, 2B, BB
• Ivany 1-3, RBI

A pair of crooked innings in the 2nd and 3rd innings pushed Portland past Harrisburg for a 7-2 win. Starter Paul Demny was touched for five runs on 12 hits and no walks for his third loss of the season. Eury Perez registered his third three-hit contest in the last five games to lead the otherwise moribund Senator offense, which went 1-for-13 with RISP and left on 12 baserunners.

Potomac 4 Myrtle Beach 2
• Swynenberg (W, 4-3) 6IP, 7H, 2R, 2ER, 0BB, 4K
• Demmin (H, 1) 2IP, 0H, 0R, 0BB, 3K
• Selik [SV, 8] 1IP, 0H, 0R, 0BB, 2K
• Bloxom 3-4, 2R, 2B, HR, 2RBI
• Walters 4-4, R, SB, CS, E(14)

A pair of crooked innings overcame a 1-0 deficit and broke a 2-2 tie Last Night In Woodbridge.

Hagerstown 12 Delmarva 0
• Karns (W, 3-0) 6IP, 3H, 0R, 3BB, 4K
• Hawkins 2IP, 1H, 0R, 0BB, 0K
• Miller 3-4, 2R, 2-2B, BB, 3RBI
• Ramsey 3-5, R, 2B, RBI
• Burns 2-4, R, 2B, 3RBI

Jason Martinson and Matt Skole both homered while Nathan Karns tossed another six shutout innings as the Suns scorched the Shorebirds, 12-0. Hendry Jimenez was the “beer man” as eight of nine starters hit safely, with Justin Miller and Caleb Ramsey leading the 13-hit attack with three hits apiece. Nathan Karns improved to 3-0 and lowered his ERA to 2.03 with just three hits and three walks allowed. Ben Hawkins and Chris McKenzie combined with the 24-year-old as the three Suns pitchers allowed just five singles total.

May 312012
 

Potomac picked up where it left off on Tuesday night with a run in the 5th and a run in the 7th and held on for a 5-3 win.

Paul Applebee got the win in relief, but continues to struggle with the long ball. It was just a solo shot, but the fifth the lefty has surrendered in just 27⅓ innings. Cameron Selik was shaky in the 9th, giving up a leadoff double and a walk before bearing down to get the next three batters out for his 7th save, the double coming around to score on a passed ball and a groundout to second.

In the second game, the score was 1-0. For baseball purists, that’s supposed to be something special. This was not.

Potomac wasted numerous chances on offense (eight runners left on) and was sloppy on defense (three errors), wasting the efforts of Trevor Holder (an unearned run on five hits and no walks over six innings).

This (the uneven offense, shaky defense) is particularly frustrating because the starters are, um, starting to show signs progress, with quality starts starting to come every other game instead of (seemingly) every other week. Against a younger, less experienced offense, Holder did precisely what a Carolina League veteran was supposed to: shut them down.

Even worse, is that this happened despite the presence of a major-leaguer on rehab. Likewise, Michael Morse did what you’d expect him to have done: collect a couple hits, including a double off the RF wall.

With the split, Potomac falls to 20-29 for the first half and still trails Lynchburg by 7½ in the Carolina League North division. Matt Swynenberg (3-3, 4.94) is set to pitch the series finale, opposed by Kyle Hendricks (1-5, 2.67).

May 312012
 
Team Yesterday Today Probable Pitchers
Syracuse Won, 2-1 @ Louisville,
7:05 p.m.
Maya (3-5, 3.36) vs.
Villarreal (2-1, 3.70)
Harrisburg Lost, 3-2;
Won, 5-2
vs. Portland,
10:30 a.m.
Demny (4-2, 4.11) vs.
Balcom-Miller (2-4, 5.25)
Potomac Won, 5-3;
Lost, 1-0
vs. Myrtle Beach,
7:05 p.m.
Swynenberg (3-3, 4.94) vs.
Hendricks (1-5, 2.67)
Hagerstown Lost, 5-3 vs. Delmarva,
7:05 p.m.
Karns (2-0, 2.35) vs.
Rodriguez (1-1, 2.43)

Syracuse 2 Louisville 1
• Lannan (W, 4-5) 6IP, 5H, R, ER, 3BB, 3K, 0HR
• Pena (H, 2) 2IP, H, 0R, 0BB, 0K
• Lehman (SV, 1) 1IP, 0H, 0R, BB, K
• Negrych 2-4, 2B
• Hoffpauir 2-4, RBI
• Rivero 1-2, RBI

Carlos Rivero’s pinch-hit RBI single in the 7th was the difference as Syracuse edged Louisville, 2-1. Starter John Lannan turned in six strong innings, walking three and striking out three but allowing just the one run on five hits, none of which left the park. Jim Negrych and Jarrett Hoffpauir both went 2-for-4 to lead the Chiefs offense, which managed seven hits total. Pat Lehman pitched the ninth to earn his first AAA save.

Portland 3 Harrisburg 2 — GAME ONE
• Ballard (ND) 6IP, 5H, R, ER, 0BB, 2K, HR
• Davis (BS, 2; L, 4-2) 1IP, 2H, 2R, 2ER, BB, 2K, HR
• Perez 3-3, R, 3SB
• Lozada 1-1, R, 2B, BB, RBI

Portland’s Billy Buckner (no relation) gave up two first-inning runs to Harrisburg, but stifled the Senators for the next six as the Sea Dogs won Game One, 3-2. Starter Mike Ballard was nearly as good, giving up just a run on a third-inning HR but got the no-decision when Erik Davis gave up the tying and go-ahead runs in the 7th. Eury Perez singled and stole second three times while Jose Lozada doubled, but the rest of the lineup went 0-for-18.

Harrisburg 5 Portland 2 — GAME TWO
• Tatusko 3IP, 2H, R, ER, 3BB, 3K
• Nelo (SV, 5) 1IP, 1H, 0R, BB, 2K
• Van Ostrand 2-3, R, RBI
• McConnell 1-3, R, 3B, 3RBI
• Perez 1-3, RBI, SB (17)

A five-run 4th broke up the string of nine scoreless innings as the Senators took the nightcap, 5-2. Chris McConnell struck the decisive blow with a three-run triple while newly signed Jimmy Van Ostrand singled twice to lead the seven-hit attack. Christian Garcia got the win in relief of spot starter Ryan Tatusko, who gave up a run over three innings. Hector Nelo got the save while (as usual) working around multiple baserunners. Prior to the doubleheader, RHP Rafael Martin was activated from the Temporary Inactive list and assigned from Syracuse to Harrisburg while 2B Jeff Kobernus was placed on the 7-Day DL, retroactive to May 24.

Potomac 5 Myrtle Beach 3 (Comp. of Susp. Gm.)
• Grace 4⅔ IP, 3H, 0R, 2BB, 3K
• Applebee 3⅓ IP, 2H, 2R, 2ER, 0BB, K, HR
• Selik (SV, 7)1IP, 1H, 1R, 0ER, BB, K
• Ramirez 1-4, 2RBI
• Freitas 1-4, RBI
• Sanchez 1-3, 2R, 4SB

Myrtle Beach 1 Potomac 0 — GAME TWO
• Holder (L, 2-1) 6IP, 5R, 1R, 0ER, 0BB, 3K
• Wort 1IP, 0H, 0R, 0BB, K
• Oduber 2-3, 2B
• Morse 2-3, 2B

Potomac finished what it started in Game One, but never got it going in Game Two of the “doubleheader” Last Night In Woodbridge.

Greensboro 5 Hagerstown 3
• Purke (L, 0-1) 5IP, 7H, 5R, 5ER, 5BB, 1K, HR
• Holt 3IP, 2H, 0R, BB, 0K
• Nieto 2-3, BB
• Goodwin 2-4, R, SB
• Souza 2-4, R

Matt Purke’s pro debut left much to be desired as the southpaw was rung up for five runs on seven hits and five walks in a 5-3 loss to Greensboro. The game, which was conveniently coincidentally was not broadcast by either team on the radio, was reportedly fraught with poor umpiring, according to a dispatch from MASN’s Byron Kerr. Brian Goodwin, who was ejected for arguing balls and strikes, Adrian Nieto, and Steve Souza combined for six of nine Suns hits, but Hagerstown was woeful in the clutch: 2-for-11 with RISP and 10 LOB. To make room for Purke, who was assigned from the Potomac Nationals to Hagerstown, RHP Brian Dupra was placed on the 7-Day DL; RHPs Travis Henke and Pedro Encarnacion swapped places on the Suns and Doubleday rosters.

May 302012
 

It’s a hell of a way to lose a streak.

Matt Grace — win or lose, for better or worse — had gotten the “W” or “L” in every start until last night, which he began strong: retiring eight of the first nine batters he faced and picking off the first batter to get a hit off him to end the third.

This was big because Potomac had scored in the inning prior and old-time baseball folks will always tell you that not letting the other team answer in the next half inning is what a pitcher strives for.

For three straight innings, the P-Nats had scored a single run — posting a picket fence, another old-time term I’m trying to keep alive — but by the time J.P. Ramirez had knocked a grounder off the Pelican pitcher’s ankle for his 2nd, it was apparent that there would a race to end the game before the rains came.

For two batters in the top of the fifth, Grace looked like he was going to make it to the finish — a popup to short right that 2B Adrian Sanchez snagged despite the swirling winds, a grounder to third for the second out.

But baseball is a funny game, and wouldn’t you know, the ninth-place batter — .154-hitting Josh Richmond — singled to prolong the inning. The scorecard was already starting to get wet and when I looked up after penciling in _8, the downpour had begun. Odubel Herrera worked the count to 2-0, but wisely took his time and sure enough, the umpires halted play and eventually the game got called.

It’ll be continued tonight at 6:05 p.m. followed by a seven-inning game. Michael Morse, who drawn a first-inning walk, and struck out in the third (though his presence enabled Sanchez to steal second and third without much resistance, leading to the game’s second run) is expected to play again.

May 302012
 

Team Yesterday Today Probable Pitchers
Syracuse Won, 6-2 @ Louisville,
7:05 p.m.
Lannan (3-5, 6.12) vs.
Tomko (0-5, 3.18)
Harrisburg Postponed vs. Portland,
6:00 p.m.
Tatusko (0-1, 9.00) and
Ballard (1-4, 3.31) vs.
Buckner (3-3, 3.28) and
Pimentel (1-1, 4.44)
Potomac Winning, 3-0
(Susp., Top 5th)
vs. Myrtle Beach,
6:05 p.m.
Holder (2-0, 6.20) vs.
Tepesch (3-3, 3.88)
Hagerstown Lost, 4-2 @ Greensboro,
10:45 a.m.
Purke (A- debut) vs.
Conley (5-1, 2.63)

Syracuse 6 Louisville 2
• Duke (W, 6-2) 6IP, 10H, R, ER, 0BB, 3K; 1-1, SAC
• Severino 2IP, 1H, 0R, 2BB, 2K
• Teahen 2-5, 2R, 2B
• Carroll 2-4, R, 2B, RBI
• Hoffpaiur 2-2, RBI

Syracuse snapped a four-game losing streak with a 6-2 win over Louisville. Zach Duke won his team-leading 6th game, helped by the defense that turned three DPs as he allowed one run on 10 hits over six innings. The Chiefs made the most of their offensive chances, going 3-for-6 with RISP and executing four sacrifices (two hits, two flyballs) while registering 11 hits. The Twins have offered back Rule 5 pick OF Erik Komatsu, who has been assigned to Syracuse. The move puts the Chiefs roster back to the limit of 25

HARRISBURG — PPD
Rain postponed last night’s contest in Harrisburg and will be made up tonight with a pair of seven-inning games. The Nationals signed Jimmy Van Ostrand from the Sugarland Skeeters of the Atlantic League and assigned him to Harrisburg, putting the Senators roster back to the full 25.

Potomac 3 Myrtle Beach 0 — Suspended, Top 5th, Two Outs
• Grace 4⅔ IP, 3H, 0R, 2BB, 3K
• Ramirez 1-2, 2RBI
• Freitas 1-2, RBI

Potomac fell one batter short of beating the downpour Last Night In Woodbridge.

Greensboro 4 Hagerstown 2
• Hill (L, 4-4) 7IP, 7H, 3R, 3ER, 2BB, 4K, HR
• Henke 1IP, 3H, R, ER, 0BB, 0K
• Skole 1-3, BB
• Martinson 1-4, R, HR, 2RBI

Jason Martinson broke up the shutout bid with a two-run HR in the 9th, taking the edge off an abysmal offensive night for Hagerstown, which fell 4-2 to Greensboro. The Suns hitters managed just four hits on the night and drew just one walk as the Grasshopper pitchers were their master, striking them out 14 times. Starter Taylor Hill went a season-high seven innings, allowing three runs on seven hits and two walks but gave up a two-run HR in the Greensboro’s three-run 5th. Byron Kerr is reporting that Matt Purke will make his regular-season debut this morning in Greensboro. No corresponding move has been announced, but readers of the maroon italics should be well aware that this development does not mean that a promotion for another pitcher is forthcoming.

May 292012
 

After hitting five HRs in five consecutive games, there was little doubt that recently promoted Syracuse Chiefs OF Corey Brown would be named the International League Player of the Week for period of May 21-27.

Brown played in just four games during the week, but went 9-for-19 with five runs scored, 4HR, two triples and 10RBI. He also currently has a six-game hit streak.

This is the first POTW honor for the Syracuse Chiefs this season.

May 292012
 

So far this season, a return to the Pfitz has been the cure for Potomac’s road woes but last night the home cooking had the same recipe: good pitching coupled with bad luck and worse hitting in a 3-2 loss to the Myrtle Beach Pelicans.

Robbie Ray’s third home start was the best of the three so far, and almost as good as his last time out in Wilmington. He went six and 2/3rds and gave up three runs (two earned) on six hits and two walks. But he struck out just two versus eight, and still has not fanned a left-handed batter thus far this season. This is always troubling because southpaws are supposed to negate the other team’s lefties — especially when the lineup had five of them.

Of course, Ray’s counterpart was the Rangers’ #6 prospect Cody Buckel and the undersized righty lived up to his billing, flashing low-90s heat, a 12-6 curve that he reportedly learned from Barry Zito (sure looked like it) and devastating change.

Last time he pitched here (April 28), Potomac touched him for three runs in the second pass through the lineup, but the best that you could say is that they were able to make the 19-year-old work hard for his nine strikeouts, as they managed just three hits against him in six innings.

Ray gave up single runs in the 2nd, 4th, and the 7th. That last run was the most painful, not just because it was the margin of victory but because it came when it was obvious that Buckel was done and with the 4-5-6 men coming up, this was their chance to make some hay. Instead, the defense faltered again (the 4th inning run came after SS Zach Walters threw a bullet 5′ over Justin Bloxom’s glove) unable to snag a flyball to short RF for a leadoff double.

But Ray was not blameless, as it was his wild pitch that sent in the run with runners on 1st and 3rd and one out.

Potomac finally got on the board in the last of the 8th, as Justin Bloxom shattered his bat for broken-bat popup to CF that fell in for a single and Adrian Sanchez tripled him home. But as mentioned previously, luck was not on the Woodbridge Nine’s side as strikeout and a line drive back to the mound (for a 1-5 double play) ended the 8th.

J.P. Ramirez led off the 9th with nifty piece of place hitting, as the noticeably trimmer left-fielder legged out an opposite-field double. He showed off that newfound average speed to take third on a deep flyout to CF and slid home safe on ball that went off the Pelican pitcher’s glove that David Freitas lumbered to first for an infield single.

Francisco Soriano was called upon to pinch-run for Freitas and was promptly picked off 1st for the inning’s second out while Walters compounded his fielding miscue with his third strikeout to end the game.

The loss put Potomac back in the Carolina League North cellar, 8½ games behind division-leading Lynchburg and tied with Frederick. Matt Grace (2-6, 6.70) takes the hill for Game Two of the four-game series while the offense should get a badly needed jolt of energy with the addition of Michael Morse in the lineup on a rehab assignment.