Nov 012010
 

The half system one of the best things ever conceived for minor-league baseball. It’s an acknowledgment that player movement during the season affects the standings and helps generate interest in the second half. And it’s what helped make the 2010 Potomac Nationals’ pennant run possible.

The first-half Potomac team struggled to muster a consistent offensive attack, getting shut out seven times and scoring 10 or more runs five times, stumbling along to a 31-39 record — 10 games behind Frederick. The second-half team also started slowly, losing seven of its first 12 games before they headed up to Frederick, tied for last place. And then they swept the Keys to go to 8-7. After a split in Salem, Potomac returned to Woodbridge at 9-8. Despite having a rehabbing Jordan Zimmermann on the mound, they lost 3-1 to fall back to .500.

But a funny thing happened in that game. Potomac’s first baseman doubled in the lone run, his first game back after being benched in the second game of the doubleheader in Salem. The next afternoon, he homered. The night after that, he hit a grand slam and doubled twice. You know the rest of that story, but the hitting became contagious. Bill Rhinehart hit .281 in July after a .226 June. Michael Burgess went from .183 in June to .286. Sean Rooney, as part of the ripple effect of the Matt Capps trade that reassigned catchers from A+ to AAA, dropped down from Harrisburg, where he had been struggling as a backup, and picked up where he left off in ’09 and hit .308 in July.

Appropriately, this is a good time to take a look at how the Potomac bats compared to the rest of the Carolina League…

HITTING

TEAM AB R H HR BB SO AVG OBP SLG GPA SB
Potomac 4641 665 1166 109 539 1081 .251 .334 .402 .251 96
Lg. Avg. 4664 629 1212 90 435 1038 .260 .330 .388 .246 105

Bold = League Leader

PITCHING

TEAM IP ERA R/G WHIP HR BB SO H/9IP BB/9IP K/9IP K/BB
Potomac 1227.0 3.98 4.62 1.354 101 393 1082 9.3 2.9 7.9 2.75
Lg. Avg. 1221.1 3.92 4.53 1.349 90 435 1038 8.9 3.2 7.7 2.39

The batting numbers are what you might expect from a team that went 70-69 overall: slightly above or slightly below the league averages. Unfortunately, while it’s easy to find splits on individual players, it’s a little harder for teams, thus I can’t easily demonstrate just how much better the team was on offense in the second half versus the first. Also skewing the results are the Winston-Salem Dash, who were sensational on offense, hitting .288 as a team and averaging nearly a full run per game above the league average (5.31 vs. 4.53). Potomac would finish second to them in HRs and total bases.

In terms of pitching, Potomac’s only true calling card was avoiding the free pass, finishing second behind the Salem Red Sox for fewest walks allowed. Unfortunately, that was offset by allowing the third-most HRs and hitting the most batters. In prototypical fashion, the starters were young, the relievers were not, but unlike the bats, they were not the oldest group in the league (Frederick).

In keeping with the format we’ve established, here’s a look at the Top 16 batters in terms of plate appearances, followed by the Top 16 pitchers in terms of innings. Full statistics for the team can be found here.

Name Age Position(s) G @ Pos Fld% Err PA GPA
Tyler Moore 23 1B 116 .990 11 553 .282
Steve Lombardozzi 21 2B 107 .989 6 507 .269
Michael Burgess 21 RF/LF 99/1 .981 3 491 .265
Derek Norris 21 C 69 .988 7 399 .293
Jose Lozada 24 SS/1B/2B/LF 95/3/1/1 .938 27 385 .236
Robby Jacobsen 25 LF/3B/C/1B/P 59/26/10/2/2 .964 8 375 .221
Bill Rhinehart 25 LF/RF/1B 30/26/17 .978 5 346 .264
Nick Moresi 25 CF/RF/LF/P 49/15/14/1 .978 3 325 .213
Chris Curran 22 CF 70 .981 3 275 .209
Dan Lyons 25 3B/2B/SS 53/5/1 .959 7 274 .235
Brian Peacock 25 C/3B/LF 41/4/2 .994 2 235 .241
Wilberto Ortiz 25 3B/SS/2B 25/19/1 .931 12 187 .223
Sean Rooney 24 C 19 1.000 0 170 .244
Tim Pahuta 26 3B/1B 22/4 .931 8 155 .296
Francisco Soriano 22 2B/SS 21/7 .932 10 117 .219
Josh Johnson 24 3B/SS/2B 12/12/1 .966 3 113 .297

The naysayers like to point out the number of 25-year-olds that were on the team, either not noticing (slightly possible) or not knowing (quite probable) that 44% of the plate appearances were made by players 23 or younger. Add in the 24-year-olds (a not uncommon age for the league) and that number swells to 57%. With the exceptions of Bill Rhinehart and Tim Pahuta, none the “old men” on the team were above league average. Thus, it’s ignorant to write off this team’s offense as being too old for the level. That accusation can, however, be applied to the pitching…

PLAYER AGE G/GS W-L, SV ERA IP H BB SO WHIP HBP WP
Adrian Alaniz 26 24/12 8-4, 1 2.61 107 93 26 101 1.112 6 10
Brad Peacock 22 19/18 4-9, 0 4.44 103⅓ 109 25 118 1.297 4 10
Evan Bronson 23 21/16 2-5, 0 3.88 95 107 17 59 1.527 3 5
Marcos Frias 21 20/17 7-5, 0 5.69 91⅔ 105 35 59 1.527 5 3
Pat Lehman 23 21/14 5-4, 0 4.84 87⅓ 87 28 88 1.317 9 4
A.J. Morris 23 23/12 5-3, 2 3.88 72 67 27 61 1.306 6 3
Trevor Holder 23 15/14 3-3, 0 4.09 70⅓ 76 22 52 1.393 4 4
Jesse Estrada 26 22/4 3-2, 1 5.11 56⅓ 73 20 39 1.651 8 1
Clayton Dill 24 40/0 6-7, 1 4.41 51 50 33 48 1.627 1 11
Dan Leatherman 24 31/0 3-2, 11 2.12 46⅔ 31 12 57 0.921 2 2
Pat McCoy 21 30/0 2-1, 6 2.93 46 52 12 44 1.391 1 0
Daniel Rosenbaum 22 8/7 3-2, 0 2.09 43 35 13 31 1.116 0 3
Cory VanAllen 25 36/0 2-3, 1 4.28 41⅓ 49 8 48 1.379 1 3
Justin Phillabaum 24 29/0 0-6, 3 6.87 36⅔ 50 15 28 1.773 6 4
Carlos Martinez 26 18/1 0-0, 1 2.57 35 35 6 14 1.171 1 3
Jimmy Barthmaier 26 9/5 4-1, 0 3.62 32⅓ 36 7 26 1.330 3 3

The bullpen (with one rather obvious exception that should be easy to spot in the list above) was a strong spot for P-Nats all season long, and it should have been because it was almost entirely pitchers that were 24 or older — several with AA experience. Injuries forced Adrian Alaniz and Jesse Estrada into the rotation, but when callups from Hagerstown came, only Estrada was sent back. Alaniz and Barthmaier were considerable factors during the second half, which is not to diminish what Rosenbaum and Holder also meant down the stretch.

I’ve been told that the Potomac roster is the last one to be decided coming out of spring training, with the implication being that at least some of the “old men” are guys that might have otherwise been at Harrisburg, but were the odd man out because player X is at Syracuse and they’d prefer player Y to play every day so he’s going to AA instead of sitting the bench at AAA. The aforementioned trade for Wilson Ramos demonstrated that in practice as Devin Ivany was sent down to Harrisburg and Sean Rooney, in turn, came to Potomac.

I don’t believe, however, that the age of the Potomac roster is entirely explained by that. The tendency to draft college-age players is a factor. The lack of timely development of the high-school-aged prospects is a factor. But I think the days of the team being this old are numbered. Next year’s team will have a lot of the 20- and 21-year-olds from Hagerstown, and should become the youngest roster I’ve personally seen in Woodbridge.

But an older roster shouldn’t diminish what this team accomplished. They still had to beat out a loaded Wilmington team to win the half. They still had to beat the Frederick Keys, which also had a lot of older pitchers and was in the Top 3 in most offensive categories. And they faced one of the most powerful lineups in organized baseball and kept them from scoring their customary 5+ runs a game for the entire series, one that yours truly even thought may have been just too much to contain.

OBLIGATORY TOP 5 LISTS
Most of the “repeats” are pitchers, and before folks start chirping, I’ll explain #5. Marcos Frias was one two pitchers that went to the GCL and came back a changed pitcher. His overall numbers were horrid, but he finished the regular season strong and it carried over to the playoffs. That performance basically bumped Pat McCoy off the list, but I mention him here because the line is that close. Tyler Moore’s place is simply indicative of the fact that his weaknesses haven’t been put to the test at AA. Chris Curran gets the nod over Francisco Soriano due to his speed and defense, though Soriano has the better bat and a stronger arm.

Batters
1. Derek Norris
2. Steve Lombardozzi
3. Michael Burgess
4. Tyler Moore
5. Chris Curran

Pitchers
1. Brad Peacock
2. Daniel Rosenbaum
3. A.J. Morris
4. Trevor Holder
5. Marcos Frias

Sep 132010
 

Winston-Salem’s Stephen Sauer pitched masterfully for eight innings to lead the Dash to a 4-0 victory over the Potomac Nationals in Game One of the Mills Cup Finals.

Sauer was perfect through five innings, keeping the ball down and in the infield with four strikeouts, a lineout, a popup, and nine grounders. The 24-year-old would eventually give up five hits and no walks before turning the ball over to closer Tyson Corley for a 1-2-3 ninth and a combined shutout.

Danny Rosenbaum got his second Game One series start and almost immediately got into trouble with the first of two errors by Robby Jacobsen and a walk before rolling a double-play ball and striking out Winston-Salem’s cleanup hitter Seth Loman. After a scoreless second, and two-hit third, Winston-Salem got on the board first with an Ozzie Lewis solo HR to take a 1-0 in the fourth.

Rosenbaum would last for 4⅓ innings before leaving with runners on 1st and 3rd in the fifth, an unusually quick hook by manager Gary Cathcart who called upon A.J. Morris to clean up the mess, which he did with by returning a tapper back to the mound to Derek Norris and inducing a liner to short.

The sixth inning was not as kind to Morris as shaky defense combined with timely hitting loaded the bases and the Dash grinded (grounded?) out two runs in the process to take a 3-0 lead. Joe Testa took the hill in the seventh and gave up the fourth and final Dash run with a leadoff double by Kenny Williams Jr. and an RBI single by Loman.

Jose Lozada collected the first Potomac hit with a leadoff single in the sixth and took second on a Nick Moresi swinging bunt and third on Chris Curran single to right. Sean Nicol, however, grounded out to end the threat. Tyler Moore became the second runner stranded after he narrowly missed an opposite-field home run in the seventh. And in the eighth, back-to-back singles by pinch-hitter Sean Rooney and Curran went for naught as pinch-hitting Francisco Soriano couldn’t get the clutch hit.

Trevor Holder will be asked to split the series as the Game Two starter against Winston-Salem’s Dylan Axlerod takes the hill with hopes of giving the P-Nats the poison pill and a trip to Woodbridge with 2-0 lead.

Sep 122010
 

A four-run 3rd by the Altoona Curve broke open a 3-2 lead and sent the Senators to a 10-5 loss to end their 2010 season. But the beat goes on in Potomac with a 10-3 win over the Frederick Keys, as the P-Nats advance to the Mills Cup finals for the second time in three seasons.

Tanner Roark was taken deep three times in less than three innings, accounting for all seven runs he surrendered, as the 23-year-old also struggled with his command in walking three over 2⅓ innings. Five relievers followed but only Rafael Martin and Cole Kimball would go scoreless as the Curve put 12 hits on the board.

Chris Marrero (2-for-5) and Jhonatan Solano (3-for-4) were the heart of the Harrisburg offense, each homering while combining for five of the seven Senator hits and four of the five runs driven in. Micahel Burgess contributed the other RBI and threw out a runner at third, but went an abysmal 0-for-13 with three walks and five strikeouts during the series. Josh Johnson only reached base twice but was the offensive MVP for the Sens in the series, batting .417 with seven walks and four runs scored.

For the bullet-point folks…

Team Pitching Star Hitting Star #1 Hitting Star #2
Harrisburg Senators
L, 10-5
(Eliminated 3-1)
Rafael Martin
1IP 0H 0R 0BB 1K
Jhonatan Solano
3-4, R, HR, 3RBI
Chris Marrero
2-5, 2R, HR, RBI
Potomac Nationals
W, 10-3
(Advances 3-1)
Rob Wort
1IP 1H 0R 1BB 0K
Chris Curran
3-4, 2R, 3B, 2RBI
Bill Rhinehart
2-4, R, 2B, 3RBI
Sep 112010
 

Four big innings on offense and four innings of solid bullpen work were the, um, keys to beating Frederick as Potomac would go on to 10-3 win and return to Carolina League’s Mills Cup championship for the second time in three seasons.

Seven batters would combine for 11 hits, led by Chris Curran who tripled and singled twice for a 3-for-4 night, finishing the series at 7-for-12. Bill Rhinehart would drive in three for the second straight night, his six RBIs leading the team in the series. Potomac would score twice in the second, twice in the third, and three times in the fourth to build a 7-1 lead through four innings.

Marcos Frias would go five-plus innings to log the win, charged with three runs on six hits and two walks while striking out three. The first man out of the bullpen, Carlos Martinez, was greeted with a single to load the bases with no outs in the sixth, and then gave up a double, but Chris Curran and Jose Lozada combined to gun out the last runner by a healthy margin to get the first out. Martinez struck out the next batter and got a tapper back to the mound to end the inning, the lead cut to 7-3.

Potomac’s response would come in the bottom of the seventh, plating three runs on two hits and a groundout and took advantage of three walks — the seventh, eighth and ninth that the Keys would issue — to stretch the lead to 10-3.

Zach Dials and Rob Wort would follow Martinez, each tossing a scoreless inning to seal the deal. For the series, the bullpen would pitch 15⅔ innings, allow four runs, one earned, on 18 hits and three walks, and strike out 11.

As expected, the P-Nats’ opponent will be the Winston-Salem Dash. The double-half winner swept the Kinston Indians in the other half of the playoff bracket and will host Potomac for Games 1 and 2 on Monday and Tuesday. The series finishes at Potomac, resuming for Game 3 on Thursday, with Games 4 and 5 (if necessary) slated for Friday and Saturday.

Sep 102010
 

Harrisburg was unable to avoid the split, while Potomac earned it, as both teams head home tonight with their playoff series tied at 1-1.

Aaron Thompson last pitched against last night’s opponent in a 3-2 loss on September 2nd, but the familiarity outpaced the extra rest as the Curve touched him for three runs over four innings en route to a 6-4 loss in Altoona. First man out of the bullpen, Adrian Alaniz, was also ineffective in pitching a three-run bottom of the fifth that followed a Senator rally in the top of the inning that had tied the game at 3-3.

The 7-8-9 batters paced the offense for the Potomac Nationals, combining eight of the 11 hits the P-Nats collected, including a double and two triples.
Zach Dials was perfect in relief, retiring all nine batters he faced to earn the save. Trevor Holder started and went the first five innings allowing four runs (one earned) on six hits while walking one and striking out four. Rob Wort pitched a scoreless sixth to get the win.

Harrisburg would outhit Altoona 10-7 but went an abysmal 1-for-12 with RISP, stranding 10 runners as the Senators couldn’t take advantage of two errors and five walks.

Back-to-back RBI triples by #7 hitter Robby Jacobsen (4-for-4) and #8 hitter Sean Nicol (2-for-3), followed by a sacrfice fly by #9 hitter Chris Curran (2-for-3) would tie the game at 4-4 in the top of the fifth, an immediate response to the three-run rally by the Keys in the bottom of the fourth. Curran would double in Jacobsen in the top of the seventh for the go-ahead (winning) run.

Harrisburg hosts Altoona for the next two nights with the “Guz Two” — Ryan Tatusko (3-1, 1.72) and Tanner Roark (1-1, 2.50) — scheduled to pitch against Justin Wilson (11-8, 3.09) and Tony Watson (6-4, 2.67) respectively. As frequent commenter Souldrummer reminds us, Game 5 (if necessary) would be played in Altoona on Sunday.

Potomac hosts Frederick for at least the next two nights, and possibly on Sunday afternoon. Veterans Jimmy Barthmaier (4-1, 3.62) and Zach Clark (2-3, 5.25) square off tonight, with Marcos Frias (7-5, 5.69) and Luis Noel (3-2, 6.18) scheduled to pitch tomorrow — a matchup that could potentially change with the outcome of tonight’s game, as the P-Nats could opt for Evan Bronson to negate lefties Xavier Avery and Billy Rowell while the Keys could ask the likes of Jose Duran and/or Brett Bordes to start in favor of Noel, who was pounded in his previous outing against them in late July.

Rain is in the forecast for both Altoona and Woodbridge on Sunday afternoon.

For the bullet-point folks…

Team Pitching Star Hitting Star #1 Hitting Star #2
Harrisburg Senators
L, 6-4
Brad Peacock
2IP 0H 0R 1BB 3K
Josh Johnson
2-2, 2R, 2B, 3B, 2BB
Chris Marrero
2-5, R, RBI
Potomac Nationals
W, 5-4
Zach Dials (SV, 1)
3IP 0H 0R 0BB 3K
Robby Jacobsen
4-4, 2R, 3B, RBI
Chris Curran
2-3, 2B, SF, 2RBI
Sep 072010
 

Our final 2010 look at the leaders, trailers, and outliers in the Washington Nationals minor leagues, with a focus on the level where the prospects shone the brightest, not counting some guy who made a tour for service-time reasons (*ahem*).

SYRACUSE 76-67, 2nd place IL North, 11 games back

Good Bat: Danny Espinosa .295/.349/.463 in 24G
Arm: Josh Wilkie 2.45ERA, 1.13WHIP, 2HR in 69⅔ IP
Bad Bat: Chris Duncan .191/.274/.302 in 82G
Arm: Collin Balester as a starter: 11.57ERA, .385OBA
Interesting Bat: Boomer Whiting .372OBP, 36/48 SB
Arm: Erik Arnesen 1.29WHIP, 3.95ERA in 107IP

HARRISBURG 77-65, 2nd place, 5 games back, E.L. West Division Wild Card

Good Bat: Chris Marrero .294/.350/.450 in 141G
Arm: Tom Milone 12-5, 2.85ERA ( in ’09, 12-5, 2.91ERA), 155K in 158IP
Bad Bat: Sean Rooney .165BA in 31G
Arm: Aaron Thompson 4-13, 5.80ERA, 1.59WHIP
Interesting Bat: Steve Lombardozzi .295/.373/.524 in 27G
Arm: Tanner Roark 1.22WHIP, 2.50ERA in 6 starts since acquisition

POTOMAC
39-30 in 2nd Half, 70-69 overall — 2nd-Half CrL North Division winner by 2½ games

Good Bat: Tyler Moore 31HR, 111RBI, .552SLG
Arm: Dan Leatherman 0.92WHIP, 57K in 46⅔ IP in 31G w/ 11SV
Bad Bat: Chris Curran .226/.293/.305 in 74G
Arm: Justin Phillabaum 0-6, 6.87ERA (13.17 at home), 1.77WHIP in 29 appearances
Interesting Bat: Derek Norris .300/.535/.575 with RISP; .210/.359/.347 bases empty
Arm: Brad Peacock 5.1K/9 at A+ in ’09; 10.27K/9 in ’10

HAGERSTOWN
29-41 in 2nd Half, 65-75 overall

Good Bat: J.P. Ramirez .296/.341/.470 in 132G
Arm: Danny Rosenbaum 2.32ERA, 1.22WHIP in 18G
Bad Bat: Adrian Nieto .195/.291/.253, 13E in 60G
Arm: Josh Smoker 7.38ERA, .319OBA as starter
Interesting Bat: Justin Bloxom .309/.355/.476 in ’10; .228/.346/.303 in ’09 at Vermont
Arm: Rob Wort 2.08ERA, 185OBA; 3.91ERA, .247OBA in ’09 at GCL

VERMONT
36-38, 3rd Place Stedler Division of NY-Penn League, 2 games back

Good Bat: David Freitas .307/.408/.450 in 62G
Arm: Neil Holland 1.04WHIP, 37K in 32⅔ IP in 19G
Bad Bat: Hendry Jimenez .218/.291/.279 in 51G
Arm: Chris McKenzie 1.97WHIP, 8.54ERA in 26⅓ IP over 8G (6GS)
Interesting Bat: Wade Moore .287/.394/.392, ’10 D-2 draftee
Arm: Mark Herrera 1.18WHIP, .220OBA, ’10 Juco draftee

GCL NATIONALS
24-32, 4th place GCL East Division, 13 games back

Good Bat: Randolph Oduber .366/.434/.569 in 39G
Arm: Nick Serino 1.01WHIP, 3.16ERA in 25⅔ IP
Bad Bat: Rashad Hatcher .200/.241/.218 in 32G
Arm: Mike Gallo 8.38ERA, .291OBA in 19⅓ IP
Interesting Bat: Angel Montilla .285/.350/.383 in 51G
Arm: NDFA Billy Ott 0.83WHIP, 1.17ERA in 23IP

DSL NATIONALS
36-35, 5th Place, Boca Chica East, 10 games back

Good Bat: Victor Chavez .309/.420/.412 in 46G
Arm: Wirkin Estevez 1.04WHIP, .233OBA in 82⅔ IP
Bad Bat: Yamaicol Tejeda .042BA in 48AB over 32G
Arm: Jorge De La Cruz 9.88ERA in 11G
Interesting Bat: 18-y.o. Paul Chacin .281/.355/.336 in 50G
Arm: Adalberto Mieses 1.42WHIP, 33BB, 5HR, 2.98ERA
Aug 222010
 

The Winston-Salem Dash reasserted themselves as the class of the Carolina league with a 9-8 victory (and a series win) over Potomac today. But with a four-run eighth and the tying run being cut down at the plate in the ninth to end the game, Potomac let it be known that this may not be the last time these two teams meet in 2010.

The allure of a rehabbing pitcher is a great marketing tool to draw casual fans to a minor-league, but regular readers of this space already know that rehab starts are overrated. This Sunday was no exception.

Despite the threat of rain, Yunesky Maya took the mound in Potomac and looked every bit the pitcher who hadn’t faced experienced professional hitters in more than a year. And make no mistake: This Winston-Salem team can hit. As a team, they’re averaging a line of .287/.351/.432 in a league where the median is .260/.330/.386

Maya’s command was spotty, but he got hitters out the first time through the lineup while fiddling with both his pitches (fastball, slider, curve) and his arm angle (overhand and three-quarters). At times his motion was fluid, but more often than not, he was slow and deliberate. The most impressive of his pitches was his curve, which he threw at two distinctly different speeds.

The second time through the lineup, the Dash took advantage of Maya’s rust as the first six batters reached base in the fourth inning before he retired the No.9 hitter by strikeout, as the Dash scored five runs on five hits and two walks during the inning. The fifth inning wasn’t any better, as the cleanup hitter smacked a long solo HR to right field and the second batter walked before he was lifted with no outs by manager Gary Cathcart.

Maya’s final line: four-plus innings, six runs (all earned) on seven hits, with three walks and four strikeouts.

Put in a 6-1 hole by a rehabbing pitcher, the Potomac offense did not, however, roll over. They would mimic their opponents in the sixth with a walk and four singles sandwiched around a strikeout by Jose Lozada, who smacked a would-coulda-grand slam for a very loud strike one, to cut the lead to 6-3.

Winston-Salem answered right back with three runs in the seventh to go back up 9-3. Like a punch-drunk boxer, the response would come late, in the bottom of the eighth. With one out, Lozada doubled, Jerome Walton singled to score him for a 9-4 tally, then Francisco Soriano walked to load the bases for Chris Curran.

Curran blistered a ball down the first base line that the first baseman was unable to handle — a questionable ruling as an error — but a play that sent home both Walton and Soriano to narrow the gap to 9-6. Sean Nicol’s infield single off Dash closer Tyson Corley would complete the four-run rally, Winston-Salem 9, Potomac 7 after eight full innings.

In the bottom of the ninth, Potomac would rally once again with one out. Sean Rooney doubled to left, Lozada singled to move him to third, and Walton singled to score Rooney. Soriano would fly to right, Lozada tagging to take third. A wild pitch sent Lozada scampering home for the possible game-tying run, but the catcher got a strong rebound and gunned it to Corley for the tag, the third out, and a 9-8 final in favor of the Dash.

The loss, combined with a Wilmington win in Lynchburg, reduces the Potomac lead back to 1½ games as the Blue Rocks come to town tomorrow for a three-game showdown. Trevor Holder is set to take the hill against Aaron Crow, the Washington Nationals No. 9 draft choice that went unsigned in 2008.

Aug 122010
 

Baseball players are creatures of habit and routine; the process often matters as much as the results. Upset that process, though, and an adverse effect on results is nearly inevitable.

Such was the case last night with Danny Rosenbaum. Pitching for the first time in 11 days, the interruption was noticeable over the course of his start as the 22-year-old struggled with his command and was unable to locate his offspeed pitches. That he only gave up three runs is actually a testament to his skill; it should have been more, with eight hits allowed over 4⅓ innings.

Of course, with the offense reverting to its feast-or-famine form, it would have required a shutout to beat the Hillcats, as Lynchburg handed Potomac a 4-1 loss.

Take the fifth inning as an example of the offense’s futility. Sean Rooney led off with a walk, followed by a Jose Lozada double to right-center. With nobody out, Rooney was held to give the P-Nats runners on second and third. That’s two chances to score by making an out, and three overall. Chris Curran taps to third for out #1. Francisco Soriano pops out in foul territory by third base for out #2. Dan Lyons strikes out swinging. Inning over, two runners stranded.

That LOB number would swell to nine before Tyler Moore doubled for the 38th time this season in the bottom of the eighth and Bill Rhinehart singled him in, pulling Potomac to within two at 3-1. Lynchburg would get it right back with a double to LF, an error by Rhinehart, and a sacrifice fly, and then set down the P-Nats 1-2-3 in the ninth to seal the deal.

With the loss, Potomac remains two games ahead of Wilmington for first place in the second half with a 25-19 mark. Tonight, Trevor Holder (0-2, 4.36) takes the hill against Chase Ware (1-3, 4.05) in the series and season finale between these two teams.

Aug 102010
 

Thunder and lightning suspended this game at 8-2 last week, and Potomac used every bit of that anomaly to come away with an 8-7 score-that-counts-as-a-win in the first game played last night in Woodbridge.

Lynchburg’s three pitchers that took the mound on Monday shut down the Potomac offense, limiting them to just four hits and two walks by (who else?) Derek Norris while striking out nine batters.

Meanwhile, Marcos Frias, who had been pitching last Wednesday, resumed the game and immediately gave up two runs to cut the deficit from 8-2 to 8-4. He would settle down and retire eight of nine before surrendering a solo home run in the sixth, his team- and league-leading 16th of the season. It was now 8-5, Potomac.

Clayton Dill would follow Frias on the mound in the eighth and surrender a double to right, and suffer an error by Jose Lozada before getting a double play ball, which plated another run, shaving the lead to 8-6 for Potomac.

Justin Phillabaum took the ball in the ninth, and also gave up a leadoff double. But like Dill, he got two groundball outs, the first sending the runner to third, the second scoring him on a bullet down the LF line that Dan Lyons snared and fired across the diamond for out #2. After a two-out single, Phillabaum induced a fly to right field and sigh of relief from the stands, with the game in hand for an 8-7 victory.

Garrett Mock took the hill in Game Two, and did little to disprove the NationalsProspects.com mantra that rehab starts are overrated, coughing up a two-out, two-run blast to admittedly red-hot Denis Phipps (home run #8 since being demoted from AA Carolina) in the first inning, hitting two batters and surrendering eight hits over our innings. He also gave up a run in the fourth, his final inning of work.

It could have been worse were it not for a terrific relay on a two-out double to deep CF by Lynchburg’s Justin Greene. Speedsters Chris Curran and Francisco Soriano showed off their arms with a strong throw from the warning track to shallow and a bullet to the plate. Norris blocked the plate, absorbed the hit, and then glared at the baserunner — opposing catcher Jordan Wideman, who broke the catcher’s code by not sliding — before flipping the ball towards the mound, the body language roughly translated as: Is that all you got?

Unfortunately, the great defensive play did not spark the offense, which went down 1-2-3 for the next four innings. Newly acquired reliever Joe Testa worked the final the final three innings, the last of which saw him get roughed up for two runs on three hits.

With the split, Potomac’s lead over second-place Wilmington drops to just one game again. Adrian Alaniz is the scheduled starter for Potomac in today’s noontime barbeque ballgame, opposed by Curtis Partch for Lynchburg.

Aug 012010
 

Smart baserunning might get you an extra base, maybe an extra run. But dumb baserunning will kill rallies and cost runs.

Such was the case in the second inning last night in Woodbridge. It began with the No. 7 man in the lineup, Jose Lozada, leading off with a single and getting caught stealing. A calculated risk, given that the nos. 8 and 9 batters were up next. After both men singled, Steve Lombardozzi drew a walk to load the bases.

With one out, Will Ortiz lifted a foul fly to medium-shallow right, with the rightfielder, second baseman and first baseman converging. Nick Moresi wisely saw that perhaps an infielder would get to it and tagged up from third. When the rightfielder caught it (read: facing towards home plate, with forward momentum), Moresi unwisely started toward home. Though he only made it down the line about twenty feet, it was enough for two strong throws to catch him in a rundown for the inning-ending double play.

It was that kind of night for Potomac. Though in the end it was only eight men stranded on the night, five of those came in the first two innings. The lost chances wasted another fine effort by Danny Rosenbaum, who pitched five innings and allowed just one run on three hits and two walks.

But it could have been worse. The picture above captures the moment that made the crowd gasp and then roar with approval.

With a runner on first, and two outs in the fifth, Xavier Avery launched a rocket to right-center field. Chris Curran read it perfectly and took off on a dead run. And then he leapt, his body seemingly parallel to the ground, his left arm stretched out ahead him at a 45-degree angle. It was do or die, because Avery is a triple waiting to happen when outfielders are on their feet, never mind on the ground.

After sliding headfirst on the warning track, Curran rolled over and pointed his glove to the sky. Inning over. He did.

Curran would lead off the next inning — because that’s how the baseball gods roll — and come around to score on a two-out single by Ortiz, tying the game at 1-1.

Unfortunately, things fell apart after that. Frederick got the run back the very next inning to go back up by one at 2-1. They extended to 4-1 with two in the top of the 8th and added another in the ninth for the final score of 5-1. Potomac managed only two leadoff singles in the final four innings.

With the loss, Potomac missed a chance to reclaim first place and remains one game back of Wilmington in the Northern Division. They have an off day today before embarking on a seven-game roadtrip against Lynchburg for three games and Myrtle Beach for four games before returning home next Monday.