May 262011
 

Contrary to popular belief, it’s not easy to write about a blowout like this one (a 13-7 Potomac loss to Kinston, their fourth straight). You can be mean-spirited and lay into the poor pitching, piling on, kicking a man when he’s down (is there a better time?). Or you can cherry-pick the one or two good performances in the losing cause (Jose Lozada, 3-for-4 with two doubles, Justin Bloxom, 3-for-5), glossing over the contradictions (both had throwing errors).

Neither approach really serves you, the reader, all that well.

Potomac’s record is 18-27, a .400 winning percentage. They’ve scored 195 runs, allowed 234, which is fourth-best and dead last in the Carolina League, respectively. Their pythagorean projection has them at .392 or .409, depending on which formula you use. I’m not very good at math, but you can split the difference and see that .4005 is pretty damn close to .400.

As Bill Parcells famously once said “You are what your record says you are.”

Mitchell Clegg started this game with two quick outs and then loaded the bases with walks on either side of a hit batsmen. He then surrendered a bases-clearing triple and finally got out of the inning after pitching to the ninth batter. The second inning saw an error (Lozada’s) followed by a homer, a single (the only one surrendered), a long double to dead center, a flyout to center, a strikeout, then another long double to center.

Clegg was lifted with two outs, and his ledger filled when reliever Joe Testa was treated much the same with a double to… wait for it… center (don’t blame CF J.R. Higley — These balls were launched). The ‘pen may have faltered, but it was 8-0 after two, and it’s hard to pin much on group that has been asked to go one more inning or take one less day off more often than not

As the 13-7 score indicates, the P-Nats were able to muster some offense; unlike football, there’s no prevent defense. Joining Lozada and Bloxom in the hit parade was Eury Perez, who went 2-for-2 with sacrifice hit and a sacrifice fly and two RBI. Only Steve Souza went hitless as the team collected 13 total. On most nights, that would be more than enough.

Today is a badly needed day off for Potomac, the last scheduled off day of the first half. The homestand resumes on Friday with four games against the last-place Lynchburg Hillcats (doubleheader on Saturday).

May 252011
 

Good pitching beats good hitting, but just a couple of errors can make it all for naught.

That was the story, plain and simple for the P-Nats on Tuesday night. Three errors equaled three unearned runs in a 4-3 loss. For a team that’s streaky on offense, a shaky defense is unacceptable.

Let’s fast-forward to the seventh, where things fell apart. Tied at 1-1, starter and losing pitcher Danny Rosenbaum let up a long double to left to lead off the inning. Rosenbaum turned a sacrifice attempt into another baserunner with a throwing error, setting up a single to shallow right and a 2-1 Kinston lead, runners on 1st and 3rd and still nobody out.

Things went from bad to worse when a dropped pickoff attempt plated the third run, enabling the Indians to sacrifice again, moving a slow-footed catcher to third with their #9 batter. A tapper down the line sent in the fourth run, which would prove to be the gamewinner.

Offensively, the P-Nats would get 14 baserunners — six hits, six walks, two errors — but only once in seven tries could they get the clutch hit with runners on 2nd or 3rd. Twice they would have runners thrown out. Steven Souza’s leadoff home run to dead center in the second inning and Sandy Leon’s double to right were the highlights of the night.

With the loss, Potomac falls to 18-28, nine games behind and just a ½ game out of last place in the Carolina League Northern Division.

May 242011
 

For any pitcher, a leadoff walk is a bad thing. Two of them to start an inning, deadly. Follow it with a home run, and it’s a recipe for disaster.

That’s what happened in the first inning to Cameron Selik in a 5-3 loss last night. But while it was an “L” in the standings, how Selik responded to the adversity was the proverbial “W.”

After the three-run homer, Selik set down the next seven batters. Just two more runners reached base, both with two outs — neither by a base on balls. Five went down on strikes. His final line: 5IP 3H 3R 3ER 2BB 6K 1HR.

Selik was still leaving his pitches up, so as a convert from catcher, he still is learning the craft. But he was touching 92 on the gun and getting good separation on his breaking pitches.

Defensively, the P-Nats were a wreck last night. On a better night, it’s safe to say that they might have pulled this out. Only one of the four errors didn’t come back to haunt them — a pickoff throw in the first that moved up the first runner to second base before the second walk.

But the second and fourth errors directly led to the last two Kinston runs, with J.P. Ramirez dropping a flyball with two outs in the sixth and Steve Souza unable to make the scoop on grounder to short in the ninth.

Offensively, the P-Nats started slowly, going down in order the first three innings before Eury Perez blooped one over the second baseman’s head and Jeff Kobernus followed with a Texas leaguer to shallow center in the fourth. Kinston escaped the jam with a Destin Hood strikeout, and grounders to first and third with an intentional walk to Steve Souza sandwiched between.

Perez and Kobernus would both get on base and score in the sixth. Perez reached by way of a drag bunt up the first base line and scored on a double off the top of the left field wall by Kobernus, who himself came in when Ramirez redeemed his error with an RBI single to right.

A Jose Lozada infield single, followed by Cutter Dykstra double to right and a Perez sacrifice fly capped the scoring for Potomac. Just as the first nine batters were retired to start, the last eight would make outs to finish, with kudos to Kinston relievers Adam Miller and Preston Guilmet in the eighth and ninth innings.

With the loss, Potomac falls to 18-25 for the season, dropping its second straight decision and falling to eight games behind first-place Wilmington. Opening Day starter Danny Rosenbaum (2-1, 3.12) is scheduled to take the mound tonight against Clayton Cook (3-3, 3.98).

May 152011
 

The next time folks complain about the umps taking away any chance of winning, you might want to remember this Saturday night.

Down 4-2, with a steady rain falling, the P-Nats were allowed to bat in the bottom of the eighth. Following a Destin Hood whiff, Justin Bloxom lifted the spirits of the announced crowd of 4,973 with an opposite-field shot to right field to pull within one. Back-to-back singles by Steven Souza and J.P. Ramirez put the tying run on second.

Somehow, Sandy Leon beat out a groundball that should have ended the inning, and for all intents and purposes, the game. Francisco Soriano drew a walk to load the bases, to set up Eury Perez’s two-run, two-out single that pulled the P-Nats ahead. It was the only hit with RISP for the night, but it proved to be the gamewinner, as the umps ordered the tarp pulled after the 8th and eventually called the game.

The improbable victory took the edge off another butt-ugly game by the defense. The first three runs would score in the top of the first without a clean single to the outfield, with “singles” to shortstop, third, and second and two errors charged before Danny Rosenbaum would take matters into his own hands and strike out the eighth batter of the inning to end it.

Rosenbaum would get a no-decision for his seven innings of work. He still hasn’t quite shaken his walking ways, issuing three for the night, but retired the leadoff batter in five of the next six innings and worked out of a 1st-and-2nd-no-outs jam in the sixth. He was charged with all four Wilmington runs on 10 hits and struck out five.

Dean Weaver would get the win for his efforts in the eighth, in which he hit a batter that was erased by Sandy Leon, and struck out a batter.

With the win, Potomac improves to 13-21 and sends out Mitchell Clegg (1-2, 6.29) to face Wilmington ace Jake Odorizzi (3-0, 1.97), who’s coming off a 13K performance against Salem last Tuesday.

May 142011
 

The box score does justice to the outcome of the game — way too much justice.

The first-place Wilmington Blue Rocks pounded the P-Nats for 17 hits, most for extra-base hits, but some that should have been caught. It’s not to say that the outcome would have been different, but the differential could have been closer than 13-4. Much closer.

Destin Hood was not charged with any errors but looked lost and out of position for the six innings he was in right field. He did not slip. He did not fall. He simply was in the wrong place to field the ball more often than not.

Hood was not alone in this department, but with the one putout out of a half-dozen or so balls hit to his “zone,” he was the most noticeable. Officially, the Potomac defense was charged with four errors, but the mental errors were easily double that number.

The misplays weighed upon starter Cameron Selik, who was making his first start in Woodbridge, as he looked haggard by the end of his outing, which ended with one out in the fifth and ten hits charged to his line, six of which went for extra bases (see above). He walked just one and struck out four, featuring, at times, a slow curve that was at least 10 mph slower than his fastball.

As the score suggests, neither reliever was particularly effective though Evan Bronson did retire six of the last seven batters he faced, an error (really) breaking up the string. Adam Olbrychowski was charged with a one or more runs for his sixth consecutive outing, letting in the last two runs in the ninth.

Offensively, the PNats had one good inning — the first, in which they scored three of their four runs and all with two out as Justin Bloxom and Steve Souza hit back-to-back doubles and Wilmington’s Tim Ferguson simply dropped J.P. Ramirez’s flyball to left. Otherwise, they flailed for 15 strikeouts with only veteran infielder Jose Lozada reaching base more than once.

With the loss, Potomac falls to 12-21 and back into the Carolina League North cellar, seven games off the pace. Danny Rosenbaum (team-best 1.16 WHIP) takes the hill tonight for the tenth home game of the season, opposed by Tyler Sample (1.48 WHIP).

May 052011
 

It was hard to tell which was colder: the windchill or the Nats bats, as the Potomac Nationals were shut out 3-0 on a blustery Wednesday night in Woodbridge.

Potomac batters pushed just three balls out of the infield (all flyouts), while Myrtle Beach starter Joe Wieland was sensational in striking out 13 in six innings, with 67 of 92 pitches thrown for strikes. He had a no-hitter going through four and a third until J.P. Ramirez lifted a popup that Wieland himself misplayed. Thanks to the scorekeeper’s indifference to questionable interpretation of Rule 10.05a(4), the error was ruled a hit.

Infield singles to second base by Eury Perez in the sixth, via a cricket swing on a ball in the dirt, and Cutter Dykstra in the eighth were the only other hits on the night for Potomac.

But the game was not without moments of fire, as two P-Nats were ejected. The first came in sixth inning as Trevor Holder took exception to field umpire Matt Jones’s call of safe on the footrace between him and Leury Garcia to the first base bag. There was a small scrum as both Holder and first baseman Steve Souza took turns jawing, while players attempted to pull them away but ultimately Holder spiking the ball was the tipping point and sent him packing.

Jeff Kobernus was the second to be ejected, upset with the same umpire’s call made from across the diamond (Cutter Dykstra was on second base at the the time) on a slow roller to third that he appeared to have beaten out. Much like Holder, Kobernus throwing down the helmet made the umpire’s decision to listen or eject a moot point.

With the loss, Potomac drops to 10-15 for the season and heads out for yet another road trip, swinging through North Carolina to face Kinston for four games tonight through Sunday, then Winston-Salem on Monday through Wednesday before heading home next weekend to host Wilmington.

May 032011
 

The Potomac pitchers limited the Myrtle Beach to just eight singles on Tuesday afternoon. The problem were those eight doubles, two triples, and five home runs as the Myrtle Beach lineup had their way with 23 hits in a 20-6 assault and battery.

The trainwreck tenor of  the game was set immediately as the top three Pelican hitters tripled, singled and doubled for a 2-0 lead before a single out was recorded. That out was an ill-advised attempted steal of third with nobody out, the first of three would-be base thieves Sandy Leon would thwart.

After a flyout to the cleanup hitter, there was a brief hope that maybe starter Mitchell Clegg would escape with just a couple of runs. Instead, it was single, double, triple, double for three more runs and a 5-0 deficit.

After extending the lead to 6-0 with a leadoff triple and a sac fly, Potomac returned the favor with a five-run second inning with two singles, two doubles,  a triple, and a couple of run-scoring outs to pull within one at 6-5.

But the hits (and the runs) just kept coming, capped by a grand slam in the fourth that ended Clegg’s outing. Though the last four runs were unearned, that’s the lipstick on the piggish line of 11 runs allowed on 13 hits with one walk and one strikeout over three and 2/3rds.

Ryan Demmin followed Clegg, retiring the last batter of the fourth and getting through the fifth and sixth, but anyone wondering if perhaps luck was being pushed had their suspicions confirmed with a leadoff homer to start the seventh. Demmin would finish the frame after a walk to the second batter, for a final line of 3.1IP 2H 1R 1ER 1BB and 3K, his best outing of the year.

Adam Olbrychowski, coming off a blown save last night, was asked to pitch the eighth, but fared even worse with three runs allowed on three hits and a walk. In the ninth, Jose Lozada took one for the team (and saved the bullpen), allowing the last five runs on five hits without a walk or a strikeout.

The loss drops Potomac to 10-14 for the year and ties the series at 1-1. Trevor Holder (1-2, 6.75) will be tasked with pitching the team to a series victory tomorrow night, opposed by Myrtle Beach’s Joe Wieland (1-2, 2.52)

Apr 142011
 

Midweek doubleheaders are a tough go, especially when the first game goes longer than seven, so I apologize in advance for folks looking for a hands-on writeup for both games…

On a chilly night the Potomac Nationals and Winston-Salem Dash played 17 innings and scored 10 runs, with each team taking a 3-2 decision.

In Game One, the two teams traded goose eggs for the first three innings, as the P-Nat bats started cold for the second straight game and starter Paul Demny allowed just a two-out single in the first.

A leadoff single in the Dash fourth was quickly erased by Sandy Leon (his second CS in six attempts) before Demny allowed a two-out walk and single before escaping the jam with a groundout.

The P-Nats broke up the no-no three innings earlier than Monday night with a Rick Hague single to left. Steve Souza put a coat on a hanger for a two-run shot three batters later for his third home run of the season to give the Pfitz tenants a 2-0 lead.

Demny was lifted with two outs in the sixth and a runner on first in favor of Ryan Demmin who returned the fourth-inning favor with a curve that didn’t that was smacked by Dash’s veteran first baseman Ian Gac for a game-tying two-run shot.

Bad baserunning erased the last true threat of the night for Potomac in the sixth as J.P. Ramirez attempted to take third base from first base on an infield single by Destin Hood. Walks to Leon and Francisco Soriano in the seventh and eighth and a leadoff bunt single by Souza in the ninth was the extent of the offense the rest of the way.

Adam Olbrychowski followed Demmin on the mound and turned in two solid innings of relief with a just a walk allowed and a two strikeouts. Carlos Martinez took the loss in the 10th inning on a lucky break as a grounder up the middle bounced off his ankle towards right field, away from second baseman Jeff Kobernus who was tracking the ball behind the bag. Unable to reverse direction fast enough, the would-be groundout turned into a game-winning single.

The P-Nats took the nightcap in the regulation seven innings with a 3-2 win. Starter Mitchell Clegg turned in four innings, allowing both Winston-Salem runs on four hits and a walk. He also struck out three. Josh Smoker got the win in relief for his 1-2-3 inning while Pat Lehman did likewise for two more for this first save of the season.

With the split, Potomac now stands at 2-3 and has its lone scheduled day off in April before heading up the highway to visit Wilimington for the weekend, coming back next Monday-Wednesday for three-game set against the Frederick Keys.

UPDATE
Byron Kerr is reporting that Rick Hague has injured his shoulder during Game One. This was seen by yours truly but he did not come off the field in apparent distress, so it was attributed to simply playing it safe and giving the bench some playing time. This morning, when looking through the boxscores, I knew something was awry when Dykstra was put in at third base, an unusual move given his defensive struggles.

Apr 122011
 

The first seven innings took 90 minutes to play. The last two inning took 75 minutes.

Such is the nature of minor-league baseball, where a 2-0, possible no-hitter can turn into a 7-5 slugfest with a couple of bad relievers and a few errors to boot.

Winston-Salem’s Cameron Bayne allowed just two baserunners through 6⅔ innings (both walks), before Destin Hood ripped a double to LF to set up Steven Souza with 2nd-and-3rd and two out. While not unimpressive, the tendency for the P-Nats to swing at the first pitch took a little bit of the shine off Bayne’s effort, which saw him strike out just three.

But that third strikeout came against Souza.

Marcos Frias took the loss, but the true culprit was Alex Caldera, who surrendered a solo shot in the 7th and three runs on five hits in eighth to dig the hole from 0-1 to 0-5 for the Nats batters.

Much like the Suns teams from early 2010, this group seems to be able to put up the big crooked number late. Stephen King led off with a walk, while Sandy Leon and Cutter Dykstra both singled to load the bases. Eury Perez beat out a double play for the first run while Jeff Kobernus tapped a slow grounder for the first two runs and Rick Hague went deep to drive in the last two runs to cut the Dash lead to 5-4.

Rob Wort took the mound in the ninth and started with a strikeout, but walks bookended around a single loaded the bases with one out. Rick Hague booted the ensuing groundball to send home two more, the fourth Potomac error of the night.

The P-Nats would rally for one more in the 9th, as Hood led off with his second double in as many at-bats, took third on a sharp, one-out single to RF, and came in on a sacrifice fly by Dykstra. Perez had runners on 1st and 3rd with two two out but came up empty after fouling off multiple pitches, eventually striking out.

The loss tumbles Potomac to 1-2 and as of this writing, today’s schoolday special has been postponed by rain. It will be made up on Wednesday at 6:05pm as a doubleheader.

Apr 102011
 

The P-Nats got big innings in the first and ninth, but it wasn’t enough to make up for the mistakes in between, as they fell 6-5 to the Lynchburg Hillcats.

Danny Rosenbaum’s third inning was emblematic of the evening. He struggled with his control early, which is not unusual for him, but battled through it and only walked one while striking out four through the first seven batters. But a walk, an error, and another walk loaded the bases for Philip Gosselin, the only batter to make solid contact against him in the first pass through the lineup.

Rosenbaum fell behind again but snapped a curve on a hitter’s count. It was a good pitch, but Gosselin guessed right and deposited it into left-center, clearing the bases and turning a 2-0 lead into a 3-2 deficit. Rosenbaum would retire the last eight batters he faced, but that one bad inning was his undoing and hung the “L” on his pitching line of 5IP 2H 3R 2ER 3BB 4K.

The first two runs came on an odd combination of speed, luck, and power. Eury Perez provided the speed, steering a grounder into right field and then stealing second and third. Jeff Kobernus tapped a dribbler down the third base line that was thrown away but ruled a hit (luck of the hometown scorekeeper), though Perez would have scored in either case. Rick Hague blasted a double to set up runners on 2nd and 3rd, and after a J.P. Ramirez strikeout, Destin Hood tapped another “run-scoring grounder” to third for the P-Nats second run.

Like Rosenbaum, Lynchburg’s Arodys Vizcaino settled down, retiring 10 straight with mid-90s heat, a low-80s curve, and high-70s change until walking Destin Hood with one out in the fourth. The Hillcats botched a double play ball off the bat of Steve Souza, who took second on the overthrow to first, but a strikeout to Stephen King ended the only other threat against Vizcaino, who finished with six in five innings.

The score remained 3-2 until the top of the 8th, when reliever Adam Olbyrchowski, who was stellar in the seventh, fell to earth to a single, two walks, and three wild pitches to score three runs, capped off by a double steal that saw Jeff Kobernus decide to throw home despite having a play at second and Sandy Leon standing still on the five-feet-wide-of throw back to home plate. Olbryshowski managed to strike out the last batter, but the damage was done.

Down 6-2 in the Potomac 9th, Rick Hague led off with a single and went to second on a Destin Hood single to left. Steve Souza brought the announced crowd of 4,318 to its feet with a “oppo boppo” for three runs. After another Stephen King groundout, Sandy Leon drew a two-out walk, but with speedy Francisco Soriano pinch-running Cutter Dykstra struck out on a check swing to end it.

Game Two of the abbreviated series is today with Trevor Holder taking the hill against Zeke Spruill.