Aug 312010
 

Despite late-inning heroics, the Potomac Nationals couldn’t take both games of the doubleheader and had to settle for a split to open up the last regular-season road trip of 2010 with a 5-2 win and a 3-2 loss.

GAME ONE
In opening game, Potomac pounced on Salem’s Michael Lee, connecting for three doubles on their first three hits as Derek Norris, Jamar Walton doubled before and after a two-out walk to Tyler Moore to take a 2-0 lead in the first.

Dan Lyons got double number three to lead off the second and came in on an RBI single by Francisco Soriano, who in turn scampered in when Chris Curran tripled him in. Bill Rhinehart would single after a walk to Norris to complete the rally and the scoring for game one.

Zach Hammes came on in relief of Lee and stifled the P-Nats bats over the next four innings while Salem picked away at the Potomac lead, which began with two runs in the bottom of the second off starter Jimmy Barthmaier, who went five innings and gave up five hits.

Rob Wort came on in relief in the sixth and failed to retire a batter, issuing two walks around a double. A.J. Morris preserved the lead with a first-pitch double play that plated the third Salem run and got the final out in the sixth.

The seventh, however, was a little different as Morris issued two walks and knocked down a ball that went for an infield single but also got two strikeouts and a flyball to earn his second save for Potomac and preserve the 5-3 win.

GAME TWO
Pitching on two days’ rest, Pat Lehman got the nod to start the nightcap and sailed through the Salem lineup with just two base runners allowed over the first three innings. In the fourth, Alex Hassan and Oscar Tejeda hit back-to-back jacks to erase an early 1-0 lead that came courtesy of a Norris solo HR in the first. Lehman would finish the inning, allowing five hits over his four innings of work with no walks and two strikeouts.

But like the first game, Potomac’s offense was the long hit or no hit at all. After the Norris big fly, the next five batters would go down in order. Then Robby Jacobsen committed the cardinal sin of making the first out at third by trying to stretch a leadoff double into a triple in the fourth, then six batters went down in order until Jamar Walton doubled with one out in the 5th.

Thus, the 2-1 lead looked almost safe as Salem veteran Mark Holliman went for the complete game and started the seventh. Bill Rhinehart doubled high off the RF wall to lead off the inning and Tyler Moore made a loud out to chase Holliman. Sean Rooney greeted Sox reliever Cesar Cabral with a double to left to cash in “Dolla” Rhinehart and pinch-hitter Jose Lozada singled to left, but too sharply for Rooney to come in from second. The rally was then killed when Cabral got Sean Nicol to roll (hey, that rhymes) into a 6-4-3 double play.

Justin Phillabaum, who had pitched the sixth, came out to pitch the seventh and immediately surrendered a leadoff single that Salem turned into a double as pinch-runner Ryan Dent stole second.

Potomac seemed for just a brief moment to have fortune on their side when a towering popup to shallow center caught Dent in-between as Chris Curran sprinted in after misjudging the arc of the ball and got the double-play call. But a walk and an error kept the inning alive, and .

With the top of the order coming up (and a lefthanded batter), Gary Cathcart summoned Joe Testa to escape the jam. The lefty-on-lefty matchup was rendered moot with a walk, loading the bases. And the game was lost when a 3-2 fastball was deemed too inside for the walkoff walk, and a 3-2 Potomac loss.

With the split and a Wilmington win, the Potomac lead is down to 1½ games (two in the loss column). The series continues tomorrow with Marcos Frias set to take the mound against Miguel Gonzalez.

Aug 312010
 

If you came here for some exciting names, look elsewhere. As the picture suggests, the Nationals were uninspired in their choices for who’s going to Arizona for the fall league. Without further ado…

  • C Derek Norris
  • OF Michael Burgess
  • IF Steve Lombardozzi
  • LHP Sammy Solis
  • RHP Cole Kimball
  • RHP Adam Carr

This is not to disrespect the likes of Cole Kimball and Adam Carr, which we can infer that the front office clearly believes are near-term-future relievers. But like nearly everything Tim McCarver says in a Fox broadcast, that was already painfully obvious. Perhaps more will come out in the next few days about the rationale, but all I can see is that some younger, more promising prospects (Peacock, Milone) were passed over… and I don’t mean Bryce Harper. For those of you who claim that Rizzo said that Harper might play in the AFL, he never explicitly said that it would be the fall of 2010.

Aug 252010
 

Down 4-0 after 4½ innings, things were looking dismal for the Potomac Nationals. It was the sixth game of a six-game homestand that had begun with an eighth-inning meltdown against playoff-bound Winston-Salem and was threatening to send Potomac on the road down 1½ games, relying on other teams for help in their quest to make the postseason.

Like most rallies that begin in the lower half of the lineup, the big inning started slowly with a one-out walk. Then a hit batsmen. Then an error. Suddenly the bases were loaded and the top of the order was coming to the plate.

Leadoff hitter Francisco Soriano fell behind 0-2 after the first two pitches, but then worked the count full, and took the walk to send in the first run. Derek Norris would follow with a sky-high popup, and it looked for just a brief instant that yet another rally would fall short. Wilmington’s manager nevertheless made the call to the bullpen for some help to face Bill Rhinehart.

“Dolla” had doubled to left-center in the first inning, the first of just two hits up to that point. Hit no. 3 went just a little farther: A towering shot just to the right of the scoreboard for a grand slam that gave Potomac a 5-4 lead.

Marcos Frias would come on in relief of Jimmy Barthmaier in the very next inning (the sixth) and cough up the tying run on, of all things, a two-out wild pitch — the third that had eluded the grasp of catcher Derek Norris.

Norris would get his chance for redemption — be it the bases-loaded popup or the wild pitches — in the bottom of the 7th, blasting a ball just a few feet short of Rhinehart’s fifth-inning blast for a two-out double that put Potomac ahead for good at 6-5.

Both teams first man out of the bullpen would make a mistake then settle down for two-plus innings, but Wilmington’s second man out was not so lucky: surrendering an insurance run on a walk and two singles to give Potomac a 7-5 lead in the bottom of the eighth.

A.J. Morris came on in the ninth to pitch a scoreless inning to earn his first professional save and ice the win, which put Potomac back in first place by ½ game and a one-game lead in the loss column. Tomorrow is the teams first scheduled off day since the August 1, and it will be badly needed to prepare for a three-game road series against Frederick this weekend, then a five-game series in Salem next Tuesday through Friday.

Aug 242010
 

The World Cup came to Woodbridge on Monday Night, as the Wilmington Blue Rocks scored twice in the final minute ninth to tie it at 3-3 and then broke through for three more in extra time innings for a 6-3 win over the Potomac Nationals.

The 14-inning game took three hours and 51 minutes to play, much of it in a light rain, and featured just 25 baserunners over the 28 frames. Wilmington’s Ernesto Mejia was one-man wrecking crew for the Blue Rocks, driving in five of the six runs on a single, triple, and home run, including the two game-tying runs in the ninth and the first two go-ahead runs in the 14th.

Former Washington Nationals draftee Aaron Crow did not make his scheduled start, as he reportedly claimed to have “a strained oblique muscle in his back,” which is odd because the obliques are, in fact, located in the abdomen.

Nevertheless, the weather was fit for a duck, the game started on time in a light rain and the game quickly turned into a pitcher’s duel. Mejia got the Blue Rocks on the board first with a towering shot off the scoreboard in the second, Potomac responded one inning later with back-to-back doubles by Nick Moresi and and Francisco Soriano that would tie the game, while Derek Norris would break an 0-for-7 skid with an RBI single to give Potomac the lead at 2-1.

Robby Jacobsen would put the P-Nats up by two in the fifth with a Little-League home run of a triple to center and a relay that went into the stands.

Starter Danny Rosenbaum, who despite his final line, labored with his control but got the key groundballs when they were needed to go six innings with the one run allowed, one walk and four strikeouts. Rob Wort would hold the lead with two scoreless innings to deliver the ball to Justin Phillabaum in the ninth.

It took just four batters for the lead to evaporate as a single, hit batsmen, and a walk loaded the bases for Mejia, who promptly singled to left to tie the game at 3-3. Pat McCoy would come on in relief and limit the damage, but despite having the 3-4-5 hitters up in the bottom of the ninth, Potomac would go down 1-2-3.

McCoy would pitch the 10th and 11th innings, giving way to Pat Lehman who delivered two scoreless innings before the Blue Rocks would rally for three in the 14th on a double, sacrifice, and a Mejia triple to take the lead. Mejia would later come around on a wild pitch.

Potomac would stage a two-out rally in the bottom of the 14th as Bill Rhinehart and Sean Rooney both singled, but Jose Lozada couldn’t get the clutch hit, as the P-Nats went down in defeat by the final count of 6-3.

With the loss, Potomac’s lead falls to just a ½ game (one in the loss column) as the two teams meet for game two of three-game series tonight (weather permitting). Trevor Holder and Will Smith are the announced starters.

Aug 222010
 

Baseball is a game of failure, lots of it, actually. It’s also a game that offers a chance at redemption. It might come on the next play, the next inning, or the next night, but it almost always comes.

On Friday night, Derek Norris was asked to advance the tying run to third via the bunt with no outs in the ninth inning, and he popped it up halfway down the first base line. Regardless of whether it was a poor decision to ask him do it (and it was), the sting of failure still hurts because the cat-calling casual fans don’t understand.

Fast-forward to Saturday night, and in his next at-bat, Norris comes up with one on and one out, the P-Nats down 2-0. With one swing of the bat, Friday night was forgotten as the game was tied with one swing of the bat.

Tyler Moore would single, Sean Rooney would double him in, and the P-Nats would take the lead at 3-2 and never look back as both Norris and Moore had a night to remember, combining for seven hits, seven runs, and… wait for it… seven RBI as Potomac would pound Winston-Salem for a 9-2 victory.

Moore would homer twice to tie the franchise record at 28 and drive in five runs to eclipse the century mark in RBIs, the first player to do it since Troy Farnsworth in 2000 (113) and the sixth overall, according to the P-Nats website. He went 4-for-4 on the night, doubling, and homering twice after his first-inning single.

Norris would walk and double, scoring all four times he reached base, his on-base percentage raised to .426, second only to since-promoted Eric Hosmer of Wilmington in the Carolina League.

Starter Adrian Alaniz picked up his seventh win of the season, laboring through five innings against the league’s very best offense but would not give up another run after the first inning — a flat fastball that Dash cleanup hitter Seth Loman lined over the right-centerfield wall for both Winston-Salem runs — allowing six hits total, walking two, and striking out five.

The win combined with a loss by Wilmington extends the Potomac lead to 2½ games and three in the loss column. The Blue Rocks come to town on Monday for the final three games between these two teams. The recently signed IFA and former Cuban National team pitcher Yuniesky Maya is the announced starter for today’s game, opposed by Winston-Salem’s Terry Doyle, who has pitched twice against the P-Nats at Winston-Salem, allowing three runs over 13 innings.

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.

Jul 172010
 

Folks who showed up an inning late, missed a whole lot of action. So did the folks who went home early, as the Potomac Nationals somehow prevailed 8-7 despite spotting the Kinston Indians three runs early and two runs late.

Rehab starts are overrated. It’s not just a snarky tag, it’s a cold, hard truth about minor-league baseball. Tyler Walker was the latest to victimize the fans at Woodbridge put teeth into this saw, walking four and striking out two while facing just seven batters in the top of the first inning. He was charged with three runs, as reliever Patrick McCoy walked one and struck out one in his brief, and undoubtedly unexpected appearance.

To their credit, the P-Nats showed their mettle by immediately loading the bases on a Josh Johnson single, a double by Steve Lombardozzi and a walk by Derek Norris. T.J. McFarland, a Carolina League All-Star, got taken to the woodshed by Tyler Moore, courtesy of a grand slam to left-center to give Potomac a 4-3 lead.

Marcos Frias, the announced starter online, came on to start the second and sporting a much-improved changeup, blanked the Kinston nine for the next three innings. McFarland reverted to form and matched Frias’s goose eggs.

The Indians would lead off the fifth with back-to-back singles, then went small-ball with a sacrifice bunt and a high chopper to first to tie the game at 4-4. Norris and Moore would go back-to-back with doubles to reclaim the lead at 5-4.

Kinston chased Frias in the sixth with two more runs, but the 21-year-old nearly escaped the jam. A single, walk, and a sacrifice-turned-single loaded the bases with nobody out. Frias only struck out three in his 4⅔ innings, but two of them came in this inning when he needed them most. A pitch-to-contact pitcher, Frias couldn’t get the grounder he needed from Kyle Bellows who singled to put the Indians ahead, 6-5.

“Dolla” Bill Rhinehart tied the game with a leadoff home run to right-center in the bottom of the sixth which is where it would stay until two outs in the ninth… when lightning was spotted and play was halted for 36 minutes.

The folks who remained were then treated to an improbable tenth inning. The Indians took the lead at 7-6 on a walk, sacrifice, and a single and nearly went up by two, but for Robby Jacobsen gunning down a runner for the third out.

With one out, the PNats got runners on first and second via a hit batsmen and a walk, and then the weirdness set in. Rhinehart grounded to first for what would have ordinarily been a 3-6-1 double play, except Kinston first baseman Nate Recknagle struck the runner at first base, Jacobsen, and the ball rolled into left field, allowing the lead runner to tie the game at 7-7.

Kinston’s throw from left was cut off and Rhinehart was caught in a rundown, the putout going 7-6-3-1. Jacobsen, who had taken third after the ball hit him, took home just as Rhinehart was tagged out, leaving the Indians on the short end of an 8-7 score.

With the win, Potomac goes two games over .500 for the first time the season at 11-9, three games behind Wilmington. Brad Peacock (3-9, 4.09) makes his first start since his complete-game shutout on July 5th (his turn had been missed at the Fenway Futures game rainout) as the Nationals look to take the series. Joey Mahalic (3-4, 4.15) takes the ball for Kinston.

Jul 162010
 

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

SYRACUSE
51-41, 2nd place IL North, 3 games back

Good Jason Jones 0.99WHIP in 24⅓ innings
Bad Chris Duncan .136BA since May 31
Interesting Atahualpa Severino 1.15ERA vs. LHB

HARRISBURG
45-47, 4th place, 11 games behind

Good Chris Marrero 51K in first 51G, 28K in last 42G
Bad Ross Detwiler 1.69WHIP, .353OBA
Interesting Marvin Lowrance .375/.479/.425 in July

POTOMAC
10-9 2nd Half; 41-48 Overall

Good Derek Norris, 45BB in 51G
Bad Chris Curran, .161BA in July
Interesting Dan Lyons, .395 OBP over last 10G

HAGERSTOWN
8-13 2nd Half; 44-47 Overall

Good Jeff Kobernus .356/.400/.441 in July
Bad Luis Garcia 0-2, 8.53ERA in July
Interesting Justino Cuevas, RHB – .056 vs. LHP, .340 vs. RHP

VERMONT
19-7, 1st Place Stedler Division of NY-Penn League

Good Colin Bates 2-0, 1.62ERA, 0.96WHIP in 6G (1 start)
Bad Backup Catchers: .167BA, .197SLG
Interesting Shane McCatty 5.11ERA as reliever, 0.00ERA as starter

GCL NATIONALS
7-13, 5th place GCL East Division, 5½ games back

Good Randolph Oduber .450/.542/.650 since debut
Bad Mike Gallo, 8.18ERA, 1.73WHIP in 6 appearances
Interesting Jeremy Mayo .297/.435/.514 in 15G

DSL NATIONALS
21-18, 4th place B.C. South Division, 3 games back

Good Edgar Gonzalez 27BB in 35G (.404 OBP)
Bad Jean Valdez’s 2HR leads the team
Interesting 20-y.o. Adalberto Mieses team-highs for BB (23), HRs allowed (4) yet has a 2.72ERA
Jul 152010
 

Jordan Zimmermann threw four solid but not spectacular innings of work, but took the loss last night thanks to poor defense and a weak offense. No, that’s not a cut & paste from a ’09 WaPo game recap, but it sure seems like one, doesn’t it?

As many minor leaguers do against rehabbing major leaguers, once they realize that they have no hope of getting ahead in the count — which was evident when Zimmermann dispatched Kinston’s leadoff hiter Lucas Montero on three pitches — they sit on the fastball and hope for the best. The next batter doubled, took third on a groundout to first, and came in on an error charged to shortstop Jose Lozada on an olé by Tyler Moore.

Zimmermann retired six of the next seven batters with ease before running into a little bit of trouble in the fourth. Back-to-back singles put runners on first and second with one out, but Zimmermann caught the lead runner leaning and got a break on some high-school-ego baserunning. Jeremie Tice doubled to the wall in right-center but speedy CF Chris Curran was just a step behind and gunned the ball to Steve Lombardozzi, who threw a one-hop seed to catcher Derek Norris. Kinston’s manager saw this and put up the stop sign, but Juan Diaz ran through it and was out by 25 feet.

As was the case in the previous rehab start in Woodbridge, Zimmerman’s velocity was there, his control was decent, but the pitches were just a little up in the zone — enough for High-A hitters to get decent wood on them.

The change of pace from fireballer (Zimmermann) to control artist (Alaniz) did not disrupt the Indians in the fifth, as the first three batters he faced tripled, doubled, and singled off him for the second and third runs of the night. Alaniz would settle down and pitch three scoreless innings, finishing the night with a halfway decent line of two runs allowed on six hits over four innings.

The PNats got their lone run in the bottom of the sixth, as a Derek Norris was hit by a pitch (you already know it was on his left arm, right?) and took second on wild pitch. Tyler Moore drove him in with the only solidly hit ball of the night, an opposite-field double to right.

With the loss, Potomac falls to back to .500 at 9-9 in the second half. A.J. Morris is projected to make his return to the rotation, opposed by Kinston’s Austin Adams for today’s noontime tilt.

Jul 042010
 

The Potomac Nationals returned home last night to host the Wilmington Blue Rocks for their traditional cash cow 4th of July festivities and sent the reported crowd of 5,908 home happy with a 4-2 win.

Jordan Zimmermann returned to Woodbridge for the first time since early 2008, pitching two scoreless innings in a rehab start from last year’s Tommy John surgery. The surprise #5 starter in the ’09 Washington rotation threw 25 pitches, 16 for strikes. His velocity appeared fine, but his location was a little lacking.

Zimmermann was quoted by Robert Daski in the News & Messenger as believing that he’ll be with the team for a total of three or four appearances, which would have him pitching on the road in Frederick and against Salem in Boston, then again in Woodbridge against the Kinston Indians on Wednesday, July 14th.

Adrian Alaniz, a teammate of Zimmermann’s in ’08 at Potomac, followed the righthander with six solid innings of relief, allowing just two unearned runs on three hits with one walk and five strikeouts.

The offense would leverage the mistakes of the Wilmington Blue Rocks pitchers to score a pair of runs in the third, with Dan Lyons and Steve Lombardozzi drawing walks and Derek Norris driving them in with a double over the head of the centerfielder to take a 2-0 lead.

They would take advantage of poor Blue Rocks defense in the fifth. With a runner on first and one out, Lombardozzi would lay down a bunt to the third baseman, who threw wide of first, enabling the runner to score and Lombardozzi to take second. After a passed ball and a walk, Mike Burgess bounced a hard grounder over the Wilmington first baseman for an RBI single that would give the PNats a 4-1 lead.

They would return the favor for the game’s final run in the top of the 8th as a two-out error and triple broke up a streak of eight batters set down by Alaniz, but Zach Dials snuffed any hopes of a comeback by striking out the side in the 9th to earn the save.

With the win, Potomac improves to 4-5 in the second half, 1½ games behind Wilmington and Frederick for the Northern Division lead. The two teams will meet again tonight, with Marcos Frias taking the hill for the PNats against John Lamb for the Blue Rocks.