Jun 222012
 

With a bases-loaded error, Potomac completed an unlikely comeback from a 4-0 deficit for a 5-4 walkoff win over Winston-Salem to start the second half.

Early on, it looked like an early night for LHP Robbie Ray, who was tagged for three runs on five very hard-hit balls in the first inning, including a leadoff HR by Marcus Semien.

But the southpaw survived the first and got in each of the next two innings, retiring eight of ten batters before the Dash got to him in the fourth, making Ray pay for his second hit batsmen with an RBI double to left to open up a 4-0 lead. Ray would labor through six innings, giving up four runs (three earned) on eight hits and two walks.

Rehabbing Mark DeRosa started the game at third base, but was an uneventful 0-for-2 with a strikeout (looking) and line-out to right field. Defensively, he started the first of the two double plays.

His replacement, however, was the player of the game. Blake Kelso came in for DeRosa in the top of the 6th and broke up the Winston-Salem shutout bid with an RBI single in the bottom of the same inning. In the 7th, Kelso cleared the bases to tie the game at 4-4 with his team-leading third triple of the season.

After Ray, surgically repaired Adam Carr came on in the 7th for his first appearance north of Florida in more than a year. The burly righthander looked a little tentative at times, but allowed just one baserunner (a walk) over an inning and 2/3rds while hitting 92 on the gun with the heat, the low-to-mid 80s with the breaking stuff, and mid-’70s with his hair.

Neil Holland followed Carr with two outs in the 8th and stranded Carr’s baserunner, then tossed two 1-2-3 frames in the 9th and 10th innings to set up one of the more bizarre walk-offs in recent memory.

David Freitas smacked a one-out double down the LF line and was promptly replaced on the basepaths by Francisco Soriano. The next batter, Jason Martinson grounded one to third, but Soriano’s stop-start-stop baserunning helped induce the third Winston-Salem error of the night. A wild pitch moved up the runners and after challenging Michael Taylor, the Dash walked him to load the bases for Stephen King.

King, who had singled and doubled earlier in his first game as a P-Nat since last May, had a shot at redemption for running himself into an out at third following his double. Instead, he chopped the ball slowly to the mound. But the throw from the Winston-Salem reliever was high and wide, and the plate umpire ruled that Francisco Soriano had slid under the catcher’s foot when he lunged after the ball, giving Potomac the 5-4 win on the fourth Dash error of the night.

The three-game series continues tonight (weather permitting) with Trevor Holder (3-2, 3.83) as the starter for Game Two, opposed by Jon Bachanov (5-1, 3.71) for Winston Salem.

Jun 102012
 

Shut out 3-0 in the opener, but a 6-1 bounce back in the nightcap, the Potomac Nationals split the doubleheader with the Salem Red Sox, snapping a five-game home win streak.

Nathan Karns took the hill in Game One, having been hammered in his High-A debut on Tuesday, and gave folks an immediate jot of hope by striking out the side — the last two looking. But the second inning, Salem drew a one-out walk then a single and double plated the game’s first two runs. After another walk, Karns got the break he needed with a soft line drive that the baserunner badly misread for a 4-6 double play.

Karns would right himself in the third with another 1-2-3 inning in the third, and got the first two in the fourth before loading the bases (two singles and a walk). He struck out the #9 batter to escape that jam, then walked the leadoff batter in the 5th before getting another double play that would end his second start.

Paul Applebee came in with the bases empty and lived up his billing on the latest GBI, surrendering a solo shot (#7 in 33 IP), then back-to-back singles before finally getting an out.

Offensively, Potomac was anemic, more like the road version of this team and managed just five hits off Salem’s Matt Barnes, who threw a complete-game shutout.

Chris Marrero provided the lone extra-base hit — an opposite-field smash to right field that he lumbered in to second for a double. Suffice it to say, it looks like his leg injury suffered in the winter leagues this past offseason is still bothering him, a negative sign for a guy that could easily lose a footrace to catcher (or a coach) before he got hurt. Defensively, it did not appear to affect him.

Marrero may not be able to run very well, but he can still hit. His second safety of the doubleheader required just a trot, a line-drive shot over the left-field fence that gave Potomac a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the first in Game Two of the twinbill.

Potomac put the game away in the second in what Twitter followers know as “This is A ball.”

A walk by Michael Taylor, followed by a sacrifice bunt and an error by the pitcher, then a bunt for a base hit by recently activated Brent Greer that the pitcher misplayed, then a wild pitch. Two batters later a drag bunt up the first-base line by Francisco Soriano, which the Salem first baseman gloved than shotputted over the head of the catcher, enabling two runs to score for a 5-1 lead.

Justin Bloxom launched his 11th home run in the fifth to cap off the scoring.

The tines were in the spine of Salem because Grace was on last night. After giving up moonshot in the first inning, he allowed just one baserunner (a walk in the third) over the next four and a third innings, helping his own cause with three assists, two of which required some catlike quickness to make the play.

Despite taking a line drive off the leg with one out in the sixth, he finished with a three-hit complete game, just the third thrown by Potomac this season.

With the split, and a Lynchburg sweep of Frederick, the elimination number for Potomac dropped to six with nine games to play (the magic number for the P-Nats to overtake the Hillcats is 12).

Trevor Holder (3-1, 4.42) gets the ball today, the final home game of the first half for Potomac.

Jun 032012
 

Zach Walters (2) congratulates Justin Bloxom on his two-run HR


With three HRs total and a two-hit complete game in the opener, the Potomac Nationals swept a doubleheader from the first-place Lynchburg Hillcats, 6-1 and 4-2.

The wins (Potomac’s third straight) and losses (Lynchburg’s fifth straight), have tightened the race in the Carolina League’s Northern Division. Last weekend, the two teams met in Lynchburg with the Hillcats taking two of three to build an eight-game lead. Since then, Lynchburg has gone 1-5 and Potomac has gone 5-2, shaving the lead to 4½ games. With a win today, Potomac’s chances go from slim to some, but better than a week ago when it was nil and none.

In Game One, Adam Olbrychowski turned in precisely what the team needed: A complete game — especially with this being the first of four doubleheaders in eight days. The 25-year-old veteran gave up just two hits and retired the last 10 batters he faced for his first career complete game.

Zach Walters, who went 4-for-4 on Thursday, continues to swing a hot bat. His first homerun (righthanded) capped off a four-run third that would provide all the support Olbrychowski would need.

In Game Two, Bobby Hansen Jr. made his first start in five weeks and battled through some wildness (three walks) and some long hits (three doubles) to keep the team in the game with a final line of two runs allowed over four innings. He gave up single runs in the second and third innings, but also stranded four baserunners, firing a 90-mph heater for his sole strikeout to end the second and getting a groundout and popup to end the third.

Like Thursday night, the P-Nats put up crooked numbers in consecutive innings to overcome an early (2-0) deficit. Walters homered again (lefthanded) to get the rally going while Michael Taylor singled, took second as Kevin Keyes got hit by a pitch, and scored on Francisco Soriano’s RBI single to tie at 2-2 after four innings.

Justin Bloxom, who was named the Offensive Player of the Month by the Booster Club between games, lived up to the billing with another two-run homer, a pulled shot 15′ fair, 250′ high and 350′ over the right field fence.

Sidewinders Joe Testa and Neil Holland got the win (Testa’s 1st) and save (Holland’s 2nd) as they combined to pitch three shutout innings to complete the doubleheader sweep.

Robbie Ray (1-2, 6.66) has the start this afternoon as Potomac guns for its first three-game series sweep and a chance to slice the Lynchburg lead down to 3½ games, opposed by soap-opera-named Blaine Sims (0-0, 5.26).

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.

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 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 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.

May 202012
 

It’s tempting to write this as a valiant ninth-inning comeback, the third during this homestand. But the reality is that the Potomac Nationals had numerous opportunities to win this game sooner and took advantage of a very, very critical mistake.

Going into the 9th, the P-Nats had drawn four walks, stolen five bases, and left on 10 baserunners. They got off to a good start as Mudcats closer Jesus Flores committed the one of the cardinal pitching sins by walking the leadoff batter, Ricky Hague.

Hague stole second to reduce the odds of another double play, as the Woodbridge nine had done in the 7th and 8th innings. But David Freitas struck out for the inning’s first out. Zach Walters worked another base on balls, Potomac’s sixth, to set up 1st and 2nd with one down.

Michael Taylor drove in the tying run with a single to left while Carolina’s LF Anthony Gallas airmailed it past the catcher to allow Walters to take third, Taylor to take second.

Here’s where the critical mistake took place.

With first base open, the Mudcats decided to take their chances with Kevin Keyes, rather than issue the intentional pass and see if they can get another twin-killing with Adrian Sanchez, who had already hit two infield grounders.

The big man from Texas does indeed strike out quite often. And after getting ahead 1-2, the gamble appeared to be on the verge of paying off.

But Keyes also hits a fair amount of flyballs and that’s all that the P-Nats would need as he connected for a drive to medium center to send in Walters with a sacrifice fly with the gamewinner and a 6-5 final.

Keyes’ 23rd RBI (and yes, he does have 23 hits) made a winner out of Cameron Selik, the last of three relief pitchers that combined for six and 2/3rds innings of stellar relief.

Early on, this game had the feel of three of the previous four Carolina-Potomac matchups: A big inning in the 3rd that should have been much smaller that turned a 1-0 lead into a 5-1 deficit.

Spot starter Trevor Holder gave up a leadoff double to left-center followed by a single to left and a stolen base. Holder got the first out on grounder to second with the IF drawn in halfway, and should have had the second out on another grounder, but Freitas was late with the tag on a ball that beat the runner by 10 feet for the first Mudcat run. Another single and an error plated two more runs and another double followed for a fourth, and Holder was out — his scoreless inning streak snapped at 11.

Paul Applebee gave up the fifth Carolina run on a two-out double, but sporting a funky new motion, retired nine of the next 10 for a line of three and 2/3rds with one walk and one strikeout.

Meanwhile, Potomac answered the five-run Mudcat rally with back-to-back RBI singles from Freitas and Walters in the 3rd and a nifty double steal in the 4th that enabled Francisco Soriano to ease Potomac to within one at 5-4 with a grounder to 2nd. Potomac would leave on two in the 5th, one in the 6th, and as previously mentioned, hit into DPs in the 7th and 8th innings.

Rob Wort followed Applebee and worked around a one-out triple by striking out the #3 and #4 batters before turning in a 1-2-3 eighth for his sixth straight appearance without allowing a run of his own, all of them with three or more Ks. Selik worked around his own error (plunking the baserunner on a tapper back to the mound) with a pair of strikeouts in the ninth.

With the win, Potomac improves to 17-22, percentage points behind second-place Wilmington but still 4½ games behind division-leading Lynchburg. Ryan Demmin (0-1, 4.67) gets another turn in the rotation as the P-Nats shoot for the series win and attempt to close out the homestand with a 5-2 mark.

May 202012
 
Team Yesterday Today Probable Pitchers
Syracuse Won, 8-5 @ Toledo,
2:00 p.m.
Maya (3-4, 2.76) vs.
Crosby (4-2, 4.79)
Harrisburg Lost, 2-1 vs. Bowie,
2:00 p.m.
Demny (2-2, 4.91) vs.
B. Bundy (2-6, 5.27)
Potomac Won, 6-5 vs. Carolina,
1:05 p.m.
Ryan Demmin (0-1, 4.67) vs.
TBD
Hagerstown Lost, 9-1 vs. Delmarva,
1:05 p.m.
Turnbull (1-2, 5.27) vs.
D. Bundy (0-0, 0.00)

Syracuse 8 Toledo 5
• Wang (ND) 5⅔ IP, 7H, 4R, 4ER, 3BB, 6K, HR
• Wilkie (SV, 3) 1IP, 1H, 0R, 0BB, K
• Hoffpauir 3-5, 2R, 2RBI
• Bynum 2-5, R, 2B, RBI

A four-run 8th turned a 5-4 deficit into an 8-5 lead as Syracuse defeated Toledo. Chien-Ming Wang, making what appears to be his final start before heading to DC, was touched for four runs on seven hits and three walks over five and 2/3rds innings. Atahualpa Severino, who stranded both runners he inherited from Wang but gave up the go-ahead Toledo run in the 7th, got the win while Pat Lehman and Josh Wilkie each turned in a scoreless inning for the hold and save, respectively. Jarrett Hoffpauir led the 10-hit Chiefs’ attack with a 3-for-5, 2RBI night.

Bowie 2 Harrisburg 1
• Ballard (L, 1-3) 7IP, 5H, 2R, 2ER, 0BB, 6K, HR
• Davis 2IP, 1H, 0R, 0BB, K
• Hood 2-4, R
• Rahl 1-4, RBI, SB

“Missed opportunities” were the two key words to describe the Sens’ 2-1 loss to the Baysox. Harrisburg went 0-for-10 with RISP and did not take full advantage of the four Bowie errors. Mike Ballard was the hard-luck loser, giving up both runs on a two-run shot in the 4th and just five hits total over seven innings with no walks and six K’s. Destin Hood had two of the five Harrisburg hits while Chris Rahl drove in the lone Senator run and stole a base.

Potomac 6 Carolina 5
• Holder 2⅓ IP, 5H, 5R, 5ER, BB, 2K
• Applebee 3⅔ IP, 1H, 0R, BB, K, 2-1 IR-S
• Freitas 2-4, BB, 2RBI
• Taylor 2-5, RBI

Kevin Keyes’ sac fly in the 9th cashed in the last of several opportunities to win Last Night In Woodbridge.

Delmarva 9 Hagerstown 1
• Hill (L, 3-3) 6IP, 9H, 4R, 4ER, BB, 2K
• Encarnacion 3IP, 4IP, 5R, 4ER, 3BB, K, 2HR
• Dykstra 2-4
• Ramsey 1-2, R, BB, OF assist at HP

Pedro Encarnacion, assigned from the GCL Nationals on Friday night, got a rude welcome to the Sally League on Saturday night with a pair of HRs in the 7th as the Shorebirds eclipsed the Suns, 9-1. Starter Taylor Hill took the loss with four runs given up on nine hits and a walk over the first six innings. Cutter Dykstra was the sole Hagerstown batter to get multiple hits as the Suns were held to five hits and five walks and had their six-game win streak snapped. Brian Goodwin had an RBI double in his second game back from the disabled list. J.P. Ramirez went back and forth to “Auburn” as he was assigned to the SS-A roster on Friday to make room for Encarnacion and returned to the Low-A roster on Saturday with Chris Curran taking his place (but likely not leaving town, either).

May 182012
 

For the second straight night, it’s a walkoff in Woodbridge, with David Freitas driving in two with two down in the 9th for a 10-9 Potomac win over Frederick.

While the outcome was pretty, the game was ugly — ten walks, six unearned runs, four errors, two passed balls over nearly three and a half grueling hours. Never mind the loudmouth lout with a face made for radio heckling the umps and the Keys.

Potomac rallied three times for three runs, with the first two aided by three Frederick errors for five of the six unearned runs. Still, staked to a 6-2 lead, it should have been smooth sailing in the middle innings for Kyle Winters.

Instead, he labored to get through five innings and turned it over to Shane McCatty, who blew the save in the 7th with back-to-back walks, a single, and a would-be sacrifice bunt that he fielded then air-mailed over Justin Bloxom’s head and bounced into the stands. It was the fifth time in six appearances he had been scored upon.

The four-run seventh was the fourth straight inning in which the Keys scored, turning that 6-2 deficit into a 9-7 lead.

Potomac would go in order in the 7th and 8th innings, thus the few that gutted out the 9th were in for an unexpected treat. Randolph Oduber singled to lead off the inning and took second on Blake Kelso’s one-out single. Oduber took third on flyout to right. Bloxom singled for third time to drive in Oduber, sending Kelso to third.

Bloxom took second on defensive indifference, a critical move because despite having first base open, the Keys decided that they might get Freitas for a fourth time versus taking their chances with Michael Taylor (3-for-4, 2B, 3RBI). The big backstop lined one into left to send home Kelso with the tying run and Bloxom with the gamewinner.

With the win, Potomac took the series 3-1 and won their third straight. Tonight, LHP Matt Grace gets the start against Carolina, looking to improve over his last outing last Saturday night in Zebulon.