Jul 142012
 

Three Doubledays pitchers combined on a one-hit shutout as Auburn pummeled Aberdeen, 10-0 to complete a three-game sweep.

Nick Lee retired the first nine batters in order before giving up a leadoff single to start the 4th. He quickly erased that baserunner with a nifty 1-3-6-4 pickoff play then finished the inning.

The no-hit bid was an academic exercise by that point as the Doubleday batters were having their way with the Ironbird pitchers, scoring in each of the first four innings and highlighted by Wander Ramos’s two-run shot in the second inning.

The game was blown wide open in the 8th and Ramos was once again in the spotlight, reaching base on a disputed HBP call. Mike McQuillan tripled him in with a liner over the centerfielder’s head for a triple, with Josh Johnson singling him in, then Shawn Pleffner doubling Johnson in, and following a pitching change, Estarlin Martinez finishing the scoring binge with an RBI single ripped up the middle, too hot for the Ironbird SS to hold on to.

The Doubledays pounded out 15 hits, with every batter reaching base and eight of nine batters hitting safely, with Jordan Poole as the “beer man,” though he did draw two walks. Martinez led the hit column with a 3-for-5 night.

Lee lasted six innings, giving up just the one hit and two walks while striking out three. Jack McGeary was the first man out of the bullpen, and worked around a two-out HBP, a stolen base, and a wild pitch by striking out the last of the four batters he faced to preserve the shutout bid.

Cody Davis sealed it by retiring the last six Aberdeen batters in order, striking out the side in the 9th and four overall.

With the win, the Doubledays hit the road and head up I-95 to I-395 to Norwich, CT for three games against the Connecticut Tigers before returning home to Auburn on Tuesday.

Jun 172012
 

After stranding nine baserunners in nine innings, the Suns couldn’t turn the trick one more time — or a double play — and lost to the Power in the bottom of the 10th on an error, 2-1.

There were just four clean innings out of the 20 between the two teams, as both squads had something brewing in nearly every inning.

Hagerstown got on the board first with Matt Skole’s league-leading 62nd walk. Steve Souza followed with a line-drive to left. But as you might have guessed with all those LOBs, the run came around on the more mundane as West Virginia’s Zach Von Rosenberg plunked Brett Newsome and walked Cole Leonida with two outs.

Christian Meza returned the favor by hitting Power DH Dan Gamache to lead off the second before giving up back-to-back singles to give up the equalizer. Skole turned a tag-the-bag, toss-across-the-diamond DP, and after walking the #9 batter and giving up an IF single the leadoff slot, Meza struck out the #2 man to end the inning.

The Suns got leadoff hits in the 3rd, 6th, and 8th innings but couldn’t push across the second. They even loaded the bases in the 9th with one out, but Billy Burns struck out, giving Toastman Rod Blackstone a chance to make yet another, um, crumby joke.

The Power also had chances, getting the lead man on five times before they finally broke through in the 10th, as a single, walk, sacrifice, and an intentional walk set up Jose Osuna. In the 8th, Osuna hit into a 4-6-3 twin-killing, and for just a moment, it looked Greg Holt would escape the jam with a tapper to short that Jason Martinson retrieved and fired over to Cutter Dykstra, who sailed it into the stands on what would have been a close play for the loss.

Christian Meza started but got the no-decision, giving up a run on five hits with three walks, a hit batsmen, and two strikeouts. Lost in the boxscore is Colin Bates’ three scoreless frames with just one hit and one walk allowed to go with four strikeouts. Greg Holt took the loss with a run on two hits and two walks (one intentional) over one and 2/3rds.

With a Greensboro win roughly a half hour earlier, Harrisburg was eliminated from the playoff hunt in the Sally League’s North Division. The two teams meet again this afternoon to finish the four-game series and the first half, with Alex Meyer (6-3, 3.31) taking the hill vs. Nick Kingham (1-4, 5.57).

Jun 112012
 

The annual baseball roadtrip is coming a little early this year (July in 2011, August in 2010), as I head west this year (north in 2011, south in 2010) to Ohio, Kentucky, and West Virginia for the next seven days.

The goal, as always, is to keep the site running as best as I can from the free WiFi of budget motels in the evenings after games and/or the mornings over the “continental breakfasts,” but the News & Notes are likely to be a little thinner and the responses to site comments a bit more sporadic.

For those wondering, the itinerary is the Columbus Clippers, Cincinnati Reds, Louisville Bats, Lexington Legends, and the West Virginia Power (vs. the Suns) with visits to the requisite Americana along the way.

May 272012
 

With home runs from Jose Lozada and Tim Pahuta, Harrisburg opened up a 4-1 lead and survived a late Reading charge to win, 5-4.

Starter Paul Demny got the win despite just one clean inning and retiring the leadoff batter twice, as the redheaded Texan struggled with his control and allowed seven hits and four walks over five and 2/3rds innings.

His teammates, however, picked him up early as Lozada cranked a one-out solo shot, his second home run of the year to give the Senators an early 1-0 lead. He would single twice in subsequent at-bats to push his batting average to .312, riding an 11-for-24 stretch since being inserted in the #2 spot in the lineup a week ago.

Reading would tie it in the 3rd with a walk, groundout, a wild pitch and and one-out single from former Nat farmhand Tug Hulett.

Tim Pahuta would get the lead back for good in the 4th with a moonshot about 20′ to the right of the Metro Bank Park scoreboard and about 5′ short of clearing the outfield boardwalk — his third HR in seven days.

Two more runs came in the 5th with Eury leading off with the second of his three line-drive singles to center, Lozada pushing him to third with a single and Pahuta smacking an opposite-field flyball deep enough for the 21-year-old centerfielder to score and Lozada deftly moving up to 2nd on lousy throw from the outfield. Chris Rahl skipped a grounder through the 5/6 hole to send in Lozada and open up the lead to 4-1.

Demny was chased in the 6th after giving up a single, homer, and a two-out walk to the #8 batter (the second time for that sin). Both managers made their move, with John Wathan calling for a pinch-hitter and Matt LeCroy summoning Kevin Pucetas.

The big, fashionable man won the matchup and set down eight of nine, four by way of the K, and gave way to Erik Davis in the 9th after Jeff Mandel pinch-hit for him in the 8th.

Devin Ivany tripled to lead off the 6th and came in to score on Perez’s third hit and that insurance run loomed large after Davis gave up a leadoff single and a one-out double to put the tying runs in scoring position. An infield single plated the fourth Reading run then a wild pitch put the go-ahead run at second.

LeCroy ordered an intentional pass to Tug Hulett and Davis escaped the jam with SS Chris McConnell taking the grounder, stepping on second, and tossing across to Pahuta for the game-ending DP.

The loss breaks a two-game skid for Harrisburg and pushed them to within three games of first-place Akron. The two second-place teams meet again this afternoon for Game 3 of the four-game series, with Mandel (4-3, 3.40) taking the hill for the Senators against Reading’s Trevor May (5-2, 4.10).

May 132012
 

They say that history doesn’t repeat itself… but it sure as hell rhymes.

For the second straight game, the Potomac pitchers coughed up nine runs, losing this one 9-1. Walks were the culprit in this debacle — seven given up, six of them coming around to score — as the Mudcats only had two extra-base hits, quite the contrast from Friday night.

The damage came in three big innings… a three-run 3rd, a three-run 7th, and a two-run 8th. All three pitchers were torched touched, with Matt Grace giving up four runs on seven hits, Joe Testa two runs on four walks, and Wilson Eusebio giving up three runs, and both extra-base hits.

It should come as no surprise to learn that Potomac has given up the most runs (earned or otherwise) in High-A baseball.

Offensively, as the “1″ suggests, things weren’t clicking. Justin Bloxom’s solo HR in the 3rd — a monster shot that cleared the high fence in right field was one of just four balls hit out of the infield. Randolph Oduber’s double to left was the second, Zach Walters nearly hit one over the Carolina centerfielder in the 7th (he snagged it on the run, taking two steps onto the warning track), and Bloxom struck again with a single two batters later.

Three hits, seven baserunners, and six left on base, and 0-for-6 with RISP. That was the extent of the offense.

With the loss, Potomac falls to 13-19 and back into 3rd place in the Carolina League North. Paul Applebee (1-0, 4.40) gets the Sunday start this afternoon and the task of helping to avoid a three-game sweep and a 1-6 road trip.

May 122012
 

Friday nights are fireworks nights for the Carolina Mudcats, and they started earlier than usual last night.

With seven runs on six hits — all for extra bases — the Mudcats lit up the scoreboard and cruised to a 9-2 win over Potomac in the teams’ first-ever meeting.

In what’s becoming a painfully familiar refrain for this roadtrip, Carolina’s first seven batters reached base: five doubles, a walk, and a three-run home run. Kyle Winters finally got outs from the #8 and #9 batters, but both grounders produced runs.

To his credit, the 25-year-old veteran did settle down and retired nine of ten before giving up a leadoff double in the 4th, which came around to score on a two-out single. Another leadoff double (the 7th allowed), a wild pitch and a sacrifice fly scored the 9th Mudcat run.

Potomac would get on the board in the top of the 3rd as Blake Kelso directed a grounder past the second baseman into right, took second on a wild pitch, third on a deep fly to right, and trot in on Ricky Hague’s RBI single to left. Kelso and Blake would both single twice on the night.

Despite the surname, it was not for Carolina’s Michael Goodnight. He would be unable to pitch the requisite five innings as Justin Bloxom lined one off his ribcage following Michael Taylor’s one-out single (at-bat in pic above) in the 4th. He would get the painful assist and leave the ballgame.

With both teams going to the bullpen in the middle innings, it was a good night for relief pitching. The Mudcats’ Jordan Cooper and Dale Dickerson both struck out four over the next four and a 1/3rd innings while P-Nats’ southpaw Ryan Demmin fanned three. Demmin was touching 96 on the stadium gun, sporting a nice mix of heat and breaking pitches.

Potomac would score its second run in the 5th on an error, walk, a wild pitch, and a single off the actual first base by Zach Walters. Despite getting a runner on in eight of nine innings, the P-Nats would strand 10 on the night.

The series continues tonight with LHP Matt Grace (2-3, 5.84), coming off a win last Sunday, taking the hill against Carolina’s Brett Brach (0-1, 5.23).

Apr 072012
 


For the first 25 innings of the 2012 season, Harrisburg had a hard time scoring without the help of a rehabbing Washington National. With an eight-run eighth, the Senators erased the doubt about their offense en route to a 13-3 pounding of the Bowie Baysox.

The genesis of the big inning was somewhat unexpected. Twice before the 8-9 batters had gone down meekly (three groundouts and a strikeout), so the natural presumption was that the Sens would be trying to win against the Bowie closer, particularly with 28-year-old veteran Pedro Viola on the mound.

Instead, Jeff Howell doubled, Josh Johnson tripled to get the tie, and Eury Perez served up an opposite-field single to take a 4-3 lead.

Jeff Kobernus followed with his second safety — that’s three straight multiple-hit games — and stole his fourth base before Jesus Valdez walked. Five batters faced, none retired for Viola.

Sean Gleason was brought in to face Destin Hood (pictured above), a familiar face for the Senator LF as Gleason was Frederick Keys closer for most of the 2011 campaign. He greeted him with a first-pitch, wall-ball double to left-center to break the game open and end an oh-for-the season (10 ABs) dry spell.

All told, 13 batters came up in the inning, seven of them hit safely (Perez singled twice) while the Baysox committed two errors.

Hector Nelo came on to pitch the 8th and was lights out, striking out two looking on 94-96 mph heaters — including Bowie’s star shortstop Manny Machado (4 putouts, 8 assists).

And then things got unnecessarily ugly in the top of the 9th. The first two batters were dismissed easily, but then Tim Pahuta ripped a double to right field. With first base open, Bowie’s Scott Wolf, a 29-year-old journeyman, apparently decided to pay back Chris Rahl with a fastball to the back. The 28-year-old Rahl had homered against Wolf on Thursday night. Pahuta, also 28, started barking at Wolf who came down off the mound to exchange words.

The benches and bullpens emptied but no punches were thrown and nobody was ejected. Harrisburg tacked on three more runs with a one-run Lozada single, a Howell walk, and a two-run single by Johnson before Perez grounded out to (you guessed it) Machado.

Like the top of the inning, Nelo retired the first two batters and got to a 2-0 count before sailing the third pitch about a foot over/behind former National farmhand Edgardo Baez’s noggin. Umpire Kiff Kinkead (really) wasted no time in sending Nelo and Harrisburg manager Matt LeCroy to the showers.

Marcos Frias couldn’t retire Baez (the walk charged to Nelo), and gave up a sharp single to left before striking out Bowie’s Travis Adair to end the game.

The eight-run rally made a winner out of Pat McCoy, who struck out two of the four batters he faced, and gave starter Jeff Mandel a no-decision. Mandel had not started a game since July 2010, but retired the first eight batters he faced and tossed five shutout innings before coughing up a three-run homer with two outs off the right-field pole.

Rick Ankiel went 2-for-2 in his rehab start, taking a hanging curve out in the first inning for a solo shot and hitting the right-field wall and trotting to first in the fourth.

With the win, Harrisburg improves to 2-1 on the season and finishes up the four-game set tomorrow afternoon. Danny Rosenbaum is slated to make his 2012 debut against Cole McCurry for Bowie.

Apr 032012
 

It’s another trip to New England to visit family, but a short one — leaving today, back on Friday.

The plan is to update the site in the evenings, cheap motel WiFi willing. I know this is horrible timing in terms of the “roster rollout,” but I think last night’s missive is a clue that folks will need to adjust their expectations.

It appears that lot of players are going to start ’12 where they left off in ’11, and it would not surprise me if the “Auburn” roster (a.k.a. Extended Spring Training) is going to be nearly full. We’ll know more when the next batch of released players hits the streets.

Enjoy this afternoon’s tuneup against the Red Sox. “News & Notes” returns on Thursday.

Mar 282012
 

Came across some stuff this morning that deserves to be shared while we await the minors to start up.

…The folks in Winchester are still pursuing their dream of attracting the Suns, and it’s not a one-way street. Of course, details about when the facility would be built or what the franchise would do in the interim are lacking, as it’s highly unlikely that a facility could be built in time for April 2013 and equally improbable that a stadium standards waiver would be granted to a relocated franchise.

…Since you’ve seen my “Road Trips” tab, you know that I love hitting the road for some games — even when it’s not for a Nationals affiliate. So if you’re looking to live vicariously, check out A Minor League Season. Their ambitious plan is to hit 119 cities from April 5 to September 3, focusing on the full-season MLB affiliates.

…In the course of flipping through that site, I came across another, run by an uber-fan Malcolm McMillan, who has done some excellent writeups on MLB and MiLB ballparks. As it so happens, he’s been to all five of the current Nats affiliates so far (like yours truly). So I pass his MLB blog entries for your perusal: Auburn, Hagerstown, Potomac, Harrisburg, and Syracuse. If you’re interested in other ballparks, I’d recommend his personal website, theballparkguide.com.

Jan 042012
 

While we await the news on Prince Fielder, I thought I’d dust off this classic for an “encore presentation.” Unlike last year, you can now visit the “Road Trips” tab to see some pics from the past two summer sojourns. This piece was actually the first one I filed for the site back on January 5, 2010 and reruns with some, um, minor edits.

One of the joys of following minor-league baseball is going to see your favorite team on the road. As a fan of the Potomac Nationals, I’ve been to the stadiums of all seven opposing teams in the Carolina League, and have visited the Nationals’ affiliates in Auburn, Hagerstown, Harrisburg, and Syracuse (pictured above). With the move of the Kinston franchise to Zebulon (Carolina Mudcats), I have to make another trip to North Carolina this summer to maintain the claim. Oh, the horror!

With the recent cold snap in the D.C. area, I thought I’d share some of my tips for taking and making the most of a baseball road trip, to help ease the time until pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training.

Take The Interstate
There’s nothing wrong with taking the secondary route to get there, especially if you want to see the countryside. But the Interstates are your best bet because they’re faster, there are more places to stop for food and fuel, and should you have car trouble, you’re a better position to get the help you need quickly. Also, quite a few teams are situated close to the freeway anyway (e.g. The Frederick Keys).

Consider The Dominant Travel Pattern
My favorite night to shoot for is a Saturday night. People that are going to the beach or the mountains are likely already there, so you’re not fighting them. If you must travel on a Friday, try to leave either mid-morning or mid-afternoon, i.e. after rush hour or after lunch. Likewise for Sundays, watch out for afternoon games that will have you on the road between 5 and 8pm, a.k.a. when the weekend throngs are coming back. This is why some teams have opted for a start time of 4 or 5 pm — it’s not quite as harsh on the players, and enables the opposing team to leave with some daylight.

Parking
It’s an overlooked detail, so do your homework — especially with clubs in older ballparks or teams that are very popular. If you’re able to walk, think about the money you’ll save if you park a few blocks away or more importantly, the time you’ll save as you walk past the folks jockeying to get out. I like to look for libraries and schools for this strategy. One notable exception is…

Promotions
…Fireworks night. They’re great for packing them in, and most people stay. Translation: While the masses ooh and ahh, you can make a break for your car and get out ahead of them. You can use the promotions calendar two ways: To get the freebies you want, or avoid the folks that care more about the giveaway than the game (e.g. bobbleheads).

Midweek Day Games
These are big moneymakers for minor-league clubs. They’re often dominated by schools and/or summer camps, but they almost always sit in the cheap seats. Despite the crowds, it seems that most venues are shorthanded, relying on the groups’ chaperones for crowd control. This also makes it harder to get concessions and nearly guarantees long lines. But if you don’t mind eating before or after the game, you can generally get great seats up close.

Don’t Forget To Wear Sunscreen…
…and drink plenty of fluids, by which I mean water and soda. One of the unfortunate things I’ve noticed is that minor-league stadiums with a roof aren’t being built anymore. To me, that’s penny-wise and pound-foolish because a roof provides cover from both the sun and the rain. Maybe that’s part of the reason why I love the WPA-era parks so much, but I can’t help but notice that in the places where there is a roof, people tend to stick around when the elements aren’t favorable. For everywhere else, it’s a good idea to notice where the shadows fall and try to get those seats when the weather will be a factor.