A seven-run 7th which featured five hits, three Salem errors, and multiple Red Sox misplays turned a 1-1 game into an 8-1 goat rodeo as the Potomac Nationals won their third straight and pulled within a 1/2 game of first place in the Carolina League North.
Ryan Zimmerman continued his rehab assignment and appeared in left field for the first time in his professional career. And it showed. Just one ball was hit his way in the five innings he played — a routine line drive to the left-center gap that was not hit particularly hard.
However, the “face of the franchise” broke the opposite way, turning a single into a double as the ball rolled past him towards the warning track. A strong throw — and that it was the leadoff batter in the inning — minimized the misplay, but it’s pretty clear that the specious Robin Yount comparisons ought to stop immediately.
Offensively, Zimmerman went 1-for-3 with a strikeout.
Dakota Bacus got the start and continues to show an ineffable knack for getting himself in and out of trouble. Four times in six innings, the leadoff batter reached — twice by way of double (*ahem*) — but only once did he score.
That was when Stephen Perez did his best imitation of Ian Desmond, ranging behind second base to make the scoop, only to boot it on the transfer for his 15th error in 49 games. To be clear, most other shortstops wouldn’t have gotten to it. Fewer still would have been on their feet and in a position to make a throw. Perez was rated the best defensive IF in the organization by Baseball America, and as much as I rag on BA, they’re not wrong on this one.
Back to Bacus… the 23-y.o. finished with the one unearned run on five hits and two walks while striking out four over five and 2/3rds innings but got the no-decision. After the Perez error, Gilberto Mendez came in and induced a tapper to the 5/6 hole that Khayyan Norfork glided to his left and made the toss across to end the inning.
Norfork, who drove in the first run with a single in the 4th, led off the seven-run 7th with a sharp single to left. Will Piwnica-Worms followed suit with a safety to center. Pedro Severino then laid down what appeared to be a bunt single but was ruled interference for the inning’s first out.
After a Tony Renda walk, Perez got that run back he let in with his error and another with his bat with a two-run single and took second on the first error for a 3-1 lead. Estarlin Martinez, who replaced Zimmerman in the lineup, hit a high fly to shallow right that was dropped and scored Renda for a 4-1 score.
A popup to short was the inning’s second out. Then Shawn Pleffner ripped an opposite-field double to send in Perez, 5-1. A grounder to third by Randolph Oduber was thrown around the diamond like someone gave the Salem defenders the water bottle from the freezer instead of the fridge — two more runs, and perhaps mercifully, just one error as Oduber stood on third when it was over, 7-1.
Salem changed pitchers and the rally was completed when a dropped third strike enabled Norfork to reach first base while Oduber charged home with the seventh run as the Salem backstop elected to go for the force instead of tossing to the pitcher for the less-certain tag play.
Mercifully, both teams played out the string without much drama. Mendez pitched the 8th and worked around a leadoff single to earn the win, his second of the season, while Travis Henke worked the 9th and gave up just a two-out single to end it.
Game three of the four-game series is this afternoon and features a matchup of RHPs — Ian Dickson (1-4, 6.55) vs. Luis Diaz (5-3, 3.42).