May 252012
 

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

SYRACUSE CHIEFS 23-24, 5th place I.L. North, 6½ games behind

Good Corey Brown .381/.426/.929, 6HR, 14RBI in last 10G
Bad Josh Johnson .576 OPS, 7E in 34G
Interesting Yunesky Maya 2-1, 1.35 ERA, 1.013 WHIP in May

HARRISBURG SENATORS 25-21, 2nd place E.L. West, 4 games behind

Good Erik Davis 4-1, 2.17 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 31K in 29IP
Bad Destin Hood .197/.275/.239 in May
Interesting Kevin Pucetas 1.59 ERA, 0.926 WHIP in last 10 appearances

POTOMAC NATIONALS 18-25, 3rd place C.L. North Division, 6½ games behind

Good Justin Bloxom .292/.350/.542 in May (4HR, 14RBI)
Bad Francisco Soriano .173/.276/.267
Interesting Neil Holland 2-0, 0.00 ERA in May (6 appearances)

HAGERSTOWN SUNS 26-19, 2nd place Sally League North Divison, 6 games behind

Good Caleb Ramsey .323/.387/.600, 5HR, 17RBI in May
Bad Justin Miller .175/.237/.310, 38K in 35G
Interesting Ben Hawkins 1.98 ERA, 80% LOB, .157 OBA
May 252012
 
Team Yesterday Today Probable Pitchers
Syracuse Won, 13-4 vs. Columbus,
7:00 p.m.
Lannan (3-4, 5.80) vs.
Huff (2-1, 2.66)
Harrisburg Lost, 5-4 vs. Reading,
7:00 p.m.
Ballard (1-3, 3.30) vs.
Pettibone (3-4, 3.59)
Potomac OFF DAY @ Lynchburg,
6:05 p.m.
Holder (2-0, 6.00) vs.
Martin (5-4, 3.28)
Hagerstown Won, 2-0;
Won, 4-3
@ Lakewood,
6:05 p.m.
Turnbull (1-3, 5.01) vs.
Kleven (3-3, 3.38)

Syracuse 13 Columbus 4
• Duke (W, 5-2) 6IP, 8H, 4R, 4ER, 2BB, 2K, HR
• Bibens-Dirkx 1IP, 0H, 0R, 0BB, 2K
• Bynum 3-4, 3R, 2B, HR, 4RBI
• Brown 3-5, R, 3B, HR, 2RBI
• Solano 2-5, 2R, 2B

Corey Brown was a double short of the cycle as the Chiefs sunk the Clippers by 13-4 count. It was the fourth straight game with a homer for the 26-y.o. outfielder. Syracuse put the game away early with a five-run 2nd and a six-run 3rd, racking up 14 hits with Seth Bynum matching Brown’s three hits and leading the RBI column with four. Zach Duke won for the fourth time in his last five starts, giving up all four Columbus runs on eight hits and two walks. Austin Bibens-Dirkx, Pat Lehman, and Josh Wilkie each tossed a scoreless inning in relief to finish the game. Roster Moves: After a two-month plus absence due to a neck injury, C Jhonatan Solano was activated from the 7-Day DL, with OF Jason Michaels placed on it to make room on the Syracuse roster.

Altoona 5 Harrisburg 4
• Gilliam (L, 1-5) 6IP, 4H, 5R, 5ER, 4BB, 6K
• Pucetas 2IP, 1H, 0R, BB, K
• Perez 2-4, R, SB,
• Mayorson 2-4, RBI, CS

Rob Gilliam had just one bad inning, but that five-run first stood up as Altoona took the series finale from Harrisburg, 5-4. Gilliam composed himself to allow just one more hit over the next five scoreless innings, finishing with five runs allowed on five hits and four walks (one intentional) with six strikeouts over six innings. Kevin Pucetas kept the Sens in it with two more scoreless frames. Harrisburg got the tying run to second with one out, and loaded the bases with two outs, but couldn’t push any across. Eury Perez and Manny Mayorson both singled twice as the Sens notched seven hits total.

POTOMAC — OFF DAY
After getting swept by second-place Wilmington, the P-Nats head to Lynchburg for a weekend series against the first-place Lynchburg Hillcats, needing a sweep to have any chance at making up the seven-game deficit with a little more than three weeks left in the first half.

Hagerstown 2 Lakewood 0 — GAME ONE
• Hill (W, 4-3) 6⅓ IP, 3H, 0R, 2BB, 7K
• Barrett (SV, 4) ⅔ IP, 0H, 0R, 0BB, K
• Skole 1-3, R, 2B, RBI
• Martinson 1-2, BB

Taylor Hill ended his winless streak of four starts as the Suns shut out the Blue Claws, 2-0 in the opening game of the doubleheader. Hill went six and a 1/3rd innings but back-to-back walks chased him from the game. He allowed just three hits and struck out a career-high seven batters. Aaron Barrett stranded both baserunners for his fourth save. Matt Skole’s RBI double and Caleb Ramsey’s sac fly in the 4th were the difference as the two teams combined for just seven hits.

Hagerstown 4 Lakewood 3 (8 inn.) — GAME TWO
• Encarnacion (ND) 5IP, 3H, 2R, 2ER, 2BB, 2K
• Bates (BS, 1; W, 1-0) 3IP, 2H, R, ER, 2BB, 3K, HR
• Burns 3-4, R
• Dykstra 3-4, 2R, 2SB

Matt Skole struck again, singling in the go-ahead run in the top of the 8th as Hagerstown took the nightcap, 4-3. Billy Burns and Cutter Dykstra combined for six hits while Jason Martinson and Skole combined for four RBI as the four batters accounted for all the Suns offense (nine hits, one walk). Pedro Encarnacion got the spot start and weathered a two-run first to go five innings. Colin Bates gave up the tying run on a leadoff homer in the 7th but retired six of the last seven batters he faced to earn his first win of the season.

May 242012
 
Team Yesterday Today Probable Pitchers
Syracuse OFF DAY vs. Columbus,
7:00 p.m.
Duke (4-2, 4.02) vs.
Berger (1-1, 2.65)
Harrisburg Won, 5-3;
Won, 3-2
@ Altoona,
10:30 a.m.
Gilliam (1-4, 4.68) vs.
Martis (2-0, 2.00)
Potomac Lost, 3-0 OFF DAY N/A
Hagerstown Lost, 8-6
(10 inn.)
@ Lakewood,
6:05 p.m.
TBD and TBD vs.
Stewart (0-4, 3.40) and
Hollands (0-1, 4.91)

SYRACUSE — OFF DAY
The Chiefs return home after a 5-3 road trip to start a four-game set tonight against the Columbus Clippers.

Harrisburg 5 Altoona 3 — GAME ONE
• Rosenbaum (W, 6-0) 5⅔ IP, 7H, 3R, 3ER, 3BB, 4K, BK, WP; 1-2, RBI
• Garcia (SV, 6) 1⅓ IP, 3H, 0R, BB, 2K, 1-1 IR-S
• Pahuta 2-3, 2R, 2B, HR, RBI
• Rahl 1-3, R, 3B, E

Danny Rosenbaum ran his record to 6-0 despite a pedestrian (this year at least) pitching line in a 5-3 Harrisburg win over Altoona. The 24-year-old southpaw gave up all three Curve runs on seven hits and three walks over five and 2/3rds innings — all season-worsts for him. The Senators scored in three consecutive innings to build a 5-1 before the Curve struck for two in the 6th while chasing Rosenbaum. Christian Garcia let in one inherited runner but got out of the 6th and worked around two hits in the 7th for his sixth save.

Harrisburg 3 Altoona 2 — GAME TWO
• Tatusko 2⅓ IP, 3H, 2R, 2ER, BB, 0K, HR
• Erik Davis (SV, 2) 1⅓ IP, H, 0R, 0BB, 0K, 2-0 IR-S
• Valdez 1-2, R, 2B, BB, RBI
• Perez 1-3, R, 2SB

All five runs scored in the course of two bizarre half-innings, as the Sens edged the Curve 3-2 to take the doubleheader. Spot starter Ryan Tatusko breezed through the first two innings with just an IF single but gave up a leadoff HR and a double to start the 3rd. After Altoona’s pitcher Brandon Cumpton botched a bunt for the first out (batter’s interference), Tatusko was lifted after walking the next batter. The Curve greeted Pat McCoy with a single to take a 2-0 lead. After setting down the first nine batters in order, Cumpton was lit up for back-to-back singles by Eury Perez and Jose Lozada and an RBI double by Jesus Valdez to score Perez. After a shallow fly to CF, the Sens tied the game when Lozada was hit in the back trying to score on a grounder to third, then took the lead on a balk. Both teams threatened in the final three innings, but the 3-2 score after four stood as the final.

Wilmington 3 Potomac 0
• Grace (L, 2-6) 7⅓ IP, 8H, 3R, 3ER, 3BB, 2K
• Holland ⅔ IP, 0H, 0R, 0BB, 2K
• Soriano 1-3, 3B, BB
• Bloxom 1-3, 2B, BB, E(8)

For the second time in as many games, the Potomac pitcher turned in his best outing of the season only to watch his counterpart silence his teammates as the Blue Rocks completed the three-game sweep with a 3-0 shutout. Matt Grace pitched into the 8th, allowing all three Wilmington runs on eight hits and three walks while striking out two. The P-Nats were limited to five hits and couldn’t take advantage of the five walks they drew, stranding nine baserunners and hitting into two double plays.

Greensboro 8 Hagerstown 6 (10 inn.)
• Meyer (ND) 5IP, H, R, ER, 2BB, 8K, HR
• McKenzie (BS, 1) 2⅔ IP, 4H, 4R, 4ER, 2BB, 2K
• Henke (L, 0-1) 2IP, 4H, 3R, 3ER, BB, K
• Ramsey 2-3, 2R, BB, 2HR, 5RBI
• Martinson 2-4, R, BB
• Skole 1-4, 2R, BB, HR, RBI

Caleb Ramsey’s second HR of the game tied the game at 5-5 after eight innings, but the Suns ‘pen imploded in the 10th as Hagerstown lost the game 8-6 and lost the series 2-1. Starter Alex Meyer had his fourth non-decision despite allowing just a home run and two walks over the first five innings, tying his season-high for Ks with eight. Chris McKenzie and Travis Henke suffered the blown save and loss respectively, giving up the last seven runs in the ‘Hoppers four-run 8th and three-run 10th. Matt Skole also homered as all six Suns runs came via the longball. Roster moves: RHP Brian Dupra assigned to Auburn, replaced by RHP Colin Bates from Auburn; LHP Todd Simko placed on the 7-Day DL (effective May 22), RHP Travis Henke assigned to Suns from Doubledays.

May 232012
 

This used to be a much more enjoyable task, but the nature of the beast is this: In the “lower” independents, it’s been fairly brutal the past few years.

The Can-Am League is down to just five teams plus a travelling squad (and its official developmental league, the New York State League is on hiatus). The North American League — the merger of the former Northern League, United Baseball League and Golden Baseball League — is on the verge of collapse (though more likely, the United League will be reborn from its ashes).

As always, there’s talk of some new leagues, but as noted in this story about the Freedom Pro Baseball League, an upstart similar to the tiny Pecos League, indy ball has proven to be an especially hard sell in the Western U.S.

I’ll spare you the speculation as to why this is (the economy, growth in collegiate wood-bat leagues) and cut to the chase: There are fewer places for “our guys” to end up after they get released, with the Atlantic League tilting heavily towards 4A’s and the rest tilting towards the non-drafted free agents and guys released after one or two seasons of short-season ball.

Without further ado, here’s a list of the guys I was able to spot in my tour through the available rosters of the North American League, American Association, and the Can-Am League:

Kyle Morrison, Newark Bears (Can-Am)
Daryle Ward, Newark Bears (Can-Am)
Matt Chico, New Jersey Jackals (Can-Am)
Nick Serino, Worcester Tornadoes (Can-Am)
Alex Caldera, Fargo-Moorhead Redhawks (Am. Assoc.)
Mitchell Clegg, Sioux Falls Pheasants (Am. Assoc.)
Trevor Lawhorn, Sioux Falls Pheasants (Am. Assoc.)
Christian Guerrero, Sioux Falls Pheasants (Am. Assoc.)
Ben Graham, Wichita Wingnuts (Am. Assoc.)
Jack Spradlin, Amarillo Sox (Am. Assoc.)
Marcel Prado, El Paso Diablos (Am. Assoc.)
Osvaldo Rodriguez, El Paso Diablos (Am. Assoc.)
Mark Herrera, Grand Prairie Air Hogs (Am. Assoc.)
Russell Moldenhauer, Lake Erie Crushers (Frontier)
Justino Cuevas, London (Ontario) Rippers (Frontier)
Patrick Arnold, Gateway Grizzlies (Frontier)
Chad Mozingo, Schaumburg Boomers (Frontier)
Matt Rogelstad, Edmonton Capitals (No. Am.)
Lou Santangelo, Edmonton Capitals (No. Am.)

I’m sure I’ve probably missed a few (last month proved as much), but bear in mind that without a searchable database at Pointstreak, it’s too time-consuming to do much more than an eyeball test. This concludes the series.

May 232012
 
Team Yesterday Today Probable Pitchers
Syracuse Won, 3-1 OFF DAY N/A
Harrisburg Postponed @ Altoona,
10:00 a.m.
Rosenbaum (5-0, 0.62) and
Gilliam (1-4, 4.68) vs.
Irwin (0-1, 4.76) and
Cumpton (5-3, 3.72)
Potomac Lost, 4-2 @ Wilmington,
11:05 a.m.
Grace (2-5, 7.34) vs.
Sample (0-5, 6.00)
Hagerstown Won, 5-4;
Lost, 8-4
vs. Greensboro,
10:35 a.m.
Meyer (2-3, 4.70) vs.
(3-1, 3.95)

Syracuse 7 Toledo 0
• Atkins (W, 4-3) 6IP, 2H, 0R, 2BB, 3K
• Arnesen (SV, 1) 3IP, 2H, 0R, BB, K
• Brown 2-5, R, HR, 5RBI
• Michaels 2-4, 2R, RBI

Mitch Atkins and Erik Arnesen each gave up two hits to combine on a four-hit Syracuse shutout of Toledo, 7-0. The Chiefs did their damage with two big innings — a four-run 2nd and a three-run 7th as the Chiefs plucked the Mud Hens pitchers for 12 hits. Corey Brown remains an offensive force, driving in five runs (all with two outs) while smacking his 10th HR. Syracuse finished its Ohio swing with a 5-3 mark and gets an off day today before returning to action on Thursday.

HARRISBURG — PPD
Rain postponed Game Two of the four-game series and will be made up as a doubleheader this morning.

Wilmington 4 Potomac 2
• Ray (ND) 5⅔ IP, 5H, R, ER, 2BB, 8K
• Wort (L, 0-2) 1⅔ IP, 2H, 2R, 2ER, BB, 2K
• Selik (BS, 1) ⅔ IP, 2H, R, ER, 0BB, 0K, 2-2 IR-S
• Bloxom 2-4, R, 2B
• Keyes 1-4, R, RBI, SB

Robbie Ray turned in his finest outing thus far for Potomac, pitching into the 6th with eight strikeouts and a run on five hits and two walks. The Blue Rocks, however, pulverized the Potomac ‘pen for three runs in the last of the 8th, turning a 2-1 deficit into a 4-2 win for Wilmington. Rob Wort took the loss when Cameron Selik couldn’t strand the two runners he inherited. Wort was charged for his first earned run in more than a month while Selik suffered his first blown save in six opportunities. Justin Bloxom continues to swing a hot bat, going 2-for-4 with a double and a run scored to lead the P-Nat offense.

Hagerstown 5 Greensboro 4, 10 inn. (comp.)
• Karns 1⅓ IP, H, 2R, 2ER, 4BB, K
• Meza 4⅔ IP, 0H, 0R, 3BB, 5K, 2-1 IR-S
• Barrett (BS, 1; W, 3-1) 2IP, 4H, R, ER, BB, K
• Nieto 2-4, R, 2B, BB, 2RBI
• Souza 2-4, R, BB
• Skole 2-5, 2R, RBI

Adrian Nieto’s RBI single in the bottom of the 10th gave the Suns a 5-4 win over Greensboro in the completion of Monday night’s suspended game. Christian Meza got the spot “start,” and turned in four and 2/3rds innings of relief, letting in one of two inherited runners while walking three and striking out five. After Hagerstown rallied for two in the last of the 8th, Aaron Barrett couldn’t nail it down in the 9th, giving up a two-out double to tie it at 4-4 but pitched a scoreless 10th to earn the win. Nieto, Steve Souza, and Matt Skole each had two hits as the Suns rapped out nine total.

Greensboro 8 Hagerstown 4 — GAME TWO
• Dupra (L, 2-4) 1⅔ IP, 6H, 8R, 8ER, 4BB, K, 2HR
• Hawkins 3⅓ IP, 5H, 0R, 0BB, K
• Burns 2-3, R, 2B, 3B, BB, SB, RBI
• Goodwin 1-3, R, BB

Brian Dupra’s struggles with the long ball continue with two more given up in an 8-4 loss to Greensboro. The righthander has given up five in his past two starts, along with 10 hits, 12 runs and five walks. Billy Burns walked, doubled, tripled, stole a base, scored a run, and drove in a run to lead the Suns on offense, which collected seven hits total but left nine runners on base.

May 222012
 

[Ed. Note:] This is Part Two of a Three-Part series leading up to the Nationals 2012 Draft next month. Part One can be found here.
There are four major figures that have great influence over the Nationals draft: General Manager Mike Rizzo, Scouting Director Kris Kline, Director of Player Procurement Kasey McKeon, and Assistant GM and VP of Player Personnel Roy Clark, .

Mike Rizzo – Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations and General Manager
Our fearless leader since Jim Bowden’s resignation in March of 2009, Mike Rizzo is still an interesting specimen from a drafting perspective. He previously served as the Arizona Diamondbacks’ Scouting Director from 2000 to 2006. Overall (between both Arizona and DC), Rizzo has leaned heavily towards college players (75% of top 10 round picks) and pitchers (60%).

Kris Kline – Scouting Director
Kline was promoted by the Nationals to Scouting Director in 2009 after serving as Assistant Scouting Director and National Crosschecker in 2009 and originally joined the Nats in 2006 from Arizona. There’s unfortunately not a whole lot of information out there concerning Kline (or McKeon for that matter) that I could create any useful conclusions from.

Kasey McKeon – Director, Player Procurement
The son of legendary manager Jack McKeon and a former minor-league catcher, Kasey served as the scouting director for Cincinnati from 2001-02 and was an assistant to Rockies GM Dan O’Dowd for seven seasons up until being named Nationals Director of Player Procurement in 2011. While in Cincinnati, the top 10 rounds of his drafts leaned towards college players (67%) and pitchers (57%).

Roy Clark – Assistant General Manager and Vice President, Player Personnel
Clark served as the Atlanta Braves’ scouting director from 2000 up until being named Nationals Assistant GM and VP, Player Personnel in 2009. He is credited for procuring many top Braves talents (past and present) such as Brian McCann, Tommy Hanson, Adam Wainwright and Jason Heyward. While in Atlanta, the top 10 rounds of his drafts were pitching heavy (61%) but pretty even between college (55%) and high schoolers (45%). The number dropped drastically over the years, too, with only 22% of his top 10 draftees coming out of high school in his last three years in Atlanta.

I recently read Scout’s Honor by Bill Shanks, essentially an account of how the Braves scouted their way to the top of the NL East. While it was written in 2005, there is still plenty of good intel inside, including an entire chapter dedicated to Roy Clark. One of the major philosophies that Clark stressed in Atlanta is thorough scouting. He is not afraid to go off the board for a player he likes (similar with Rizzo with Jordan Zimmermann). That’s how Clark got Kevin Millwood in the eleventh round in 1993. Other teams lost interest in Millwood when his velocity was down at the beginning of his senior year in high school, but Clark knew it was because that Millwood had been playing on his school’s basketball team and couldn’t make it to baseball workouts. It worked out pretty well, as in the eleventh round of the 1993 draft, the other three guys to reach the big leagues (Glen Barker, Steve Rain and Tom Fordham) combined for -0.7 WAR in their careers. 2011 Nats tenth-rounder RHP Manny Rodriguez is a recent example of a pick based more on scouting, as he is a converted third baseman coming from a small school (Division II Barry University) who is still learning how to pitch.

Clark also emphasizes the importance of makeup, which he defined in Scout’s Honor as “the guy you want at home plate with the game on the line and he wants to be there.” He ties it in with the thorough scouting point as well, noting that “to get a good read on a kid’s makeup you can’t see him just one game or one time… I like to see a guy at his best and I like to see a guy at his worst. I like to see how he handles adversity.”

The book in general is a bit of a crusade against Moneyball, but Clark seems to lie somewhat in the middle of the stats vs. scouting argument. Excellent stats will get a player noticed by Clark quicker and mediocre stats will cause red flags, but neither will make or break a player’s draft status in Clark’s eyes. He uses himself as an example, as he was the MVP on his high school team over Lou Whitaker, who went on to enjoy an 18-year MLB career full of all-star appearances and gold gloves. I personally side with this philosophy (to some degree at least) because quality of competition and small sample sizes can skew the stats of both high school and college players alike.

The last major point Clark makes about the draft revolves around signability. The process of signing draftees has significantly changed in the seven years since the book was published, but the idea of it remains the same: Do these players want to be Washington Nationals? If yes, draft them. If no, do not. Clark’s philosophy does not suggest chasing guys with signability question marks, Matt Purke not withstanding.

Next week: A look at some potential targets for the Nationals in the 2012 Draft

May 222012
 
Team Yesterday Today Probable Pitchers
Syracuse Won, 3-1 @ Toledo,
10:30 a.m.
Atkins (3-3, 3.55) vs.
Oliver (3-2, 3.25)
Harrisburg Lost, 4-2 @ Altoona,
6:30 p.m.
Rosenbaum (5-0, 0.62) vs.
Irwin (0-1, 4.76)
Potomac Lost, 7-0 @ Wilmington,
6:35 p.m.
Ray (1-1, 11.25) vs.
Ventura (2-3, 2.97))
Hagerstown Losing, 1-0
(Susp., Top 2)
vs. Greensboro,
5:05 p.m.
TBD vs. TBD

Syracuse 3 Toledo 1
• Roark (W, 3-5) 5IP, 2H, 0R, BB, 4K
• Pena (SV, 1) 1IP, 1H, 0R, 0BB, 0K
• Brown 2-4, 2R, HR, RBI
• Hoffpauir 1-3, SF, RBI

Tanner Roark returned to the starting rotation and extended his scoreless inning streak to 14 with five more in a 3-1 Syracuse win over Toledo. The 25-y.o. allowed just two hits and a walk while striking out four. For the second straight game, Corey Brown led off the game with a HR, and went 2-for-4 with two runs scored to lead the Syracuse offense, which struggled otherwise (1-for-10 with RISP, 10 LOB). Hassan Pena was the last of four relievers to follow Roark, pitching around a two-out IF hit to earn his first save of the season.

Altoona 4 Harrisburg 2
• Mandel (L, 4-3) 6IP, 4H, 3R, 2ER, 3BB, 6K, WP
• Pucetas 1IP, 0H, 0R, 0BB, 0K
• Perez 2-4, BB, RBI
• Lozada 3-4, R, 3B

The Sens out hit the Curve 8-5 but lost the game 4-2. Altoona committed two errors to Harrisburg’s one, but two runs scored on the Senator error, a bases-loaded, one-out grounder that went through Manny Mayorson’s legs. The Sens were DOA with RISP, going just 1-for-7 with 9 runners left on. Jose Lozada and Eury Perez combined for five of the eight hits. Starter Jeff Mandel took the loss despite a quality start of three runs allowed (two earned) on four hits and three walks.

Wilmington 7 Potomac 0
• Swynenberg (L, 3-2) 4⅓ IP 9H, 6R, 5ER, BB, 6K
• Hansen 2IP, 0H, 0R, 0BB, K
• Taylor 1-2, 2B, BB
• Hague 1-4

Wilmington’s Greg Billo and Leondy Perez combined on a two-hit shutout of Potomac by a 7-0 count. Starter Matt Swynenberg took the loss, giving up six runs (five earned) on nine hits and a walk. Ricky Hague’s single in the 1st and Michael Taylor’s double in the 2nd were the two Potomac hits. Taylor’s walk in the 5th was the third and final P-Nat baserunner. Roster moves… OF J.P. Ramirez was assigned from Hagerstown, while OF Wade Moore was assigned to Extended Spring Training. RHP Adam Olbrychowski was activated from the DL while RHP Kyle Winters was released.

Greensboro 1 Hagerstown 0 — SUSP.
Rain halted play during the second inning last night, forcing a suspension of play. Play will resume tonight at 5:05 p.m. to complete the suspended game in nine innings, followed by second game of seven innings. RHP Brian Dupra was activated from the Temporary Inactive List, taking the place of Ramirez on the Suns’ 25-man roster.

May 212012
 
Team Yesterday Today Probable Pitchers
Syracuse Lost, 5-2 @ Toledo,
10:30 a.m.
Roark (2-5, 4.38) vs.
Weber (3-1, 2.18)
Harrisburg Won, 4-0 @ Altoona,
6:30 p.m.
Mandel (4-2, 3.45) vs.
Baker (2-4, 5.18)
Potomac Won, 4-2 @ Wilmington,
6:35 p.m.
Swynenberg (3-1, 3.95) vs.
Billo (3-3, 5.58)
Hagerstown Lost, 3-1 vs. Greensboro,
7:05 p.m.
Karns (1-0, 2.10) vs.
Fernandez (4-0, 1.91)

Toledo 5 Syracuse 2
• Maya (ND) 7IP, 2H, R, ER, 2BB, K
• Wilkie (BS, 1; L, 0-2) ⅔ IP, 4H, 4R, 4ER, 0BB, K, HR (3R)
• Brown 1-4, R, HR, RBI
• Teahen 1-4, R, 2B

A pinch-hit, two-out, three-run home run by former Chief Brad Eldred ended this one in walkoff fashion as Toledo rallied for four in the 9th to beat Syracuse, 5-2. Josh Wilkie blew his first save, charged with four runs on four hits over 2/3rds an inning. The implosion spoiled another fine start by Yunesky Maya, who allowed just two hits, two walks, and one run over the first seven innings. Corey Brown drove in the first Chiefs run with a leadoff HR in the 1st while Brett Carroll’s sac fly in the 7th broke a 1-1 tie. Pat Lehman and Corey VanAllen divvied up the 8th, each earning a hold.

Harrisburg 4 Bowie 0
• Demny (W, 3-2) 8IP, 2H, 0R, 3BB, 4K
• Garcia 1IP, 1H, 0R, BB, K
• Rahl 1-3, R, HR, 2RBI
• Pahuta 1-4, R, HR, 2RBI

Paul Demny’s MBP demons were nowhere to be found as the 22-y.o. turned in his best outing of the season with eight scoreless innings in a 4-0 Harrisburg win over Bowie. Tim Pahuta and Chris Rahl both smacked two-run shots in the four-run 4th, as the Senators prevented a BaySox sweep and stopped a three-game tailspin. Christian Garcia worked around two 9th-inning baserunners (walk, hit) to preserve the shutout and lower his ERA to 1.65.

Potomac 4 Carolina 2
• Demmin 4IP, 2H, 0R, 3BB, 5K
• Holland (SV, 1) 2IP, 1H, 0R, 0BB, 0K
• Oduber 2-3, R, HR, 2B, 2RBI
• Bloxom 1-3, R, HR, RBI

Justin Bloxom and Randolph Oduber both homered Sunday Afternoon In Woodbridge.
Byron Kerr passes along news that Matt Purke continues to be the sirloin that the local diner will have on special “next week,” as the southpaw is set to go Thursday in Viera after pitching last Thursday. If activated (and not reassigned) for his next turn in the rotation, that would be during the next Potomac homestand on May 28 to June 3.

Delmarva 3 Hagerstown 1
• Turnbull (L, 1-3) 5IP, 6H, 3R, 2ER, 2BB, 2K
• McKenzie 3IP, 1H, 0R, 0BB, 1K
• Souza 0-1, SH, SF, RBI, E
• Skole 1-4, 2B
• Ramirez 1-2, 2B

The Suns were the latest victims of Shorebirds teenage phenom Dylan Bundy, who was perfect for four innings before Matt Skole led off the 5th with a double, as Delmarva beat Hagerstown, 3-1. J.P. Ramirez also doubled while Brian Goodwin singled, as the Suns were held to just three hits and one walk (neither by Billy Burns, ending his on-base streak at 30 games; Kerr gets the blame for the curse ;-). Steve Souza drove in the sole Hagerstown run with a 7th-inning sac fly.

May 202012
 

Justin Bloxom and Randolph Oduber continue to terrorize the Mudcats, as both went deep in a 4-2 Potomac win over Carolina.

Potomac got on the board in the bottom of the 1st for the fifth time in the last seven games, posting a three-spot. Francisco Soriano drew a one-out walk and stole second and third, waltzing home with the first run when Carolina’s Tyler Cannon overshot the third baseman. Bloxom connected two batters later for his first HR batting righthanded to drive in the second run

Michael Taylor followed with a double to deep right-center. After a Kevin Keyes walk, Oduber drove in the third Potomac run. Three innings later Oduber cleared the LF fence as Bloxom did. The two combined for four HR’s and eight hits for the series, scoring five runs and driving in five runs.

Ryan Demmin took his second turn in the rotation and struggled with his control. His stuff was there — a nice mix of 90s heat combined with low-80s breaking balls — but the command was spotty as the southpaw walked three and struck out five. But with some help from his defense (a nifty 5-C-3 DP by Blake Kelso in the 2nd), he stranded four baserunners and gutted his way through four scoreless innings.

Shane McCatty was the first man out of the ‘pen and wasn’t much better than his previous outing. He walked three and struck out but also gave up a HR to Cleveland’s #13 prospect Ronny Rodriguez, unable to get his fastball past him despite multiple warnings that were hit hard, far, and foul down the LF line. He would get the rulebook win despite giving up a run in his fourth straight appearance, pitching the 5th and part of the 6th.

Joe Testa, another reliever that’s been struggling, stranded the two runners he inherited from McCatty to end the 6th. But got into trouble after giving up a leadoff double to start the 7th and then firing a seed on a sacrifice attempt that handcuffed an inexperienced Soriano at 1B as the throw glanced off Soriano’s wrist, scoring the second Carolina run. He would finish the inning on defense, but eventually left the game.

David Freitas, who was getting the usual rest for an everyday catcher (day game after a night game) showed little signs of rust as he returned to the position he played as a schoolboy and deftly handled all four chances he had over the last two innings, as sidewinding Neil Holland closed out the game with just a one-out single allowed in the 9th for his first save of the season.

After getting swept last weekend, Potomac took two of three from the Mudcats finished the homestand with a 5-2 mark, keeping pace with both Lynchburg and Wilmington. With less than a month left, the six-game roadtrip that starts tomorrow will make or break the P-Nats’ chances for the first half.

It starts with a three-game series against the second-place Blue Rocks, a team that Potomac took two of three from at home two weeks ago. After a previously misreported (*ahem*) unnoticed off day on Thursday, it’s a weekend set against the Hillcats — a team that (rather handily) beat Potomac five times in six April meetings.

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.