Sep 152010
 

The tables were turned on the Winston-Salem Dash as the Potomac Nationals used both the long ball and the big inning to twice overcome one-run deficits for a 5-3 victory. The win evened the Carolina League championship series at 1-1, which will resume tomorrow night in Woodbridge.

Trevor Holder was the stopper for the second time in as many starts with 5⅓ innings pitched, with two runs allowed on eight hits, no walks, and five strikeouts. Zach Dials got the win in relief, allowing hits to the first two batters he faced in the sixth but then retiring the side in the seventh.

Early on, the P-Nat lumber was still in a slumber as Winston-Salem’s Dylan Axelrod faced 10 batters before Derek Norris led off the fourth with a double. After Bill Rhinehart popped put and Tyler Moore struck out, it appeared that he would be stranded until Jamar Walton launched a two-run blast to left to give Potomac its first lead at 2-1.

Dash cleanup hitter Seth Loman chased Holder with a one-out solo shot in the sixth, tying the game at 2-2, and Ozzie Lewis greeted Dials with a triple to center. Jose Martinez followed with a single to left to send in Lewis and return the lead to Winston-Salem at 3-2.

Axelrod was lifted after seven innings in favor of journeyman Brandon Kloess. Francisco Soriano walked and stole second second base. After Nick Moresi struck out, Soriano would score after Dan Lyons and Norris hit back-to-back singles, chasing Kloess. Lefthander Hector Santiago came on to face Bill Rhinehart. Santiago got the out, but the flyball was deep enough for Lyons to score the go-ahead run. Tyler Moore singled to complete the rally.

With a 5-3 lead, Patrick McCoy took the ball in the eighth and let up a leadoff single to Brandon Gilmore, giving the crowd of 4,009 hope for another rally. But the burly lefty crushed any hopes of that by retiring the next six batters to notch the save and send the two teams back to Virginia, in what now amounts to a best-of-three with Potomac as the host.

Sep 092010
 

With the 2-3 format that’s prevalent in the minors and independent baseball, winning Game One is crucial for the visiting team.

Why?

Because it instantly negates the chance of the first-half team, the home team for Games 1 and 2, either sweeping or going on the road only needing to win one game.

Harrisburg was up to the task, responding to a three-run 1st with a five-run 2nd and putting away Altoona with another five-run rally in the 8th en route to a 10-5 victory.

Potomac refused the hospitality of five walks and a two-out error that built an 8-0 lead after its half of the 1st and let the Keys back into the game with a seven-run rally. Instead, the bats napped for the next eight innings until Derek Norris went deep on an opposite-field blast to tie it in the top of the 9th at 9-9. A three-base error by Tyler Moore on a sacrifice gave the Keys the Little-League-esque win at 10-9.

Tom Milone started for Harrisburg and bore down after the first to go 5⅔ innings, with three runs allowed (two earned) on four hits and two walks. He allowed one home run, but struck out seven.

Danny Rosenbaum started for Potomac and lasted just one inning, giving up seven earned runs on four hits and two walks, the big hurt coming on a two-out grand slam by Brian Ward, his fourth professional home run.

For the rest of the highlights…

Team Pitching Star Hitting Star #1 Hitting Star #2
Harrisburg Senators
W, 10-5
Hassan Pena
2IP 0H 0R 0BB 1K
Jesus Valdez
2-5, R, 3RBI
Ofilio Castro
3-5, R
Potomac Nationals
L, 10-9
Pat Lehman
3⅓ IP 5H 2R 0ER 0BB 6K
Jamar Walton
1-4, R, HR, 4RBI
Derek Norris
2-3, 2R, 2BB, HR, RBI
Sep 062010
 

In another so-called meaningless game, the Potomac Nationals took their fans on a roller-coaster of emotion with a 7-6 win to close out the second half of the 2010 season.

Ahead 5-1 in the ninth, and a rested A.J. Morris on the mound, the game looked like it was in the bag. Except someone forgot to tell Kinston, who got an infield single to third and two singles to center pull within three at 5-2.

Morris would get the next five batters to hit the ball on the ground, none would leave the infield by virtue of the bat, but Kinston would emerge with the lead.

Doug Pickens would be safe on an error by Tyler Moore that the scorekeeper saw otherwise (if at all) to load the bases. The next batter, Donnie Webb, would reach base by virtue of Nicol’s unsuccessful attempt to put out Pickens, the throw sailing past Francisco Soriano into foul territory for a two-base error that saw Webb take third, and three runs come in to score for a 5-5.

The next three grounders to short would result in outs, but Webb was able to score on the second to get the go-ahead run and give Kinston a 6-5 lead.

But this is a veteran Potomac team, an adjective that’s somewhat pejorative with minor-league fan(boy)s, but in this case it simply means they carried themselves like they’ve seen this before.

Derek Norris flew out to right to open the inning, but Bill Rhinhart singled to put the tying run on base, speedster Chris Curran taking his place at first base to score on a long hit that stayed in the park. Tyler Moore, who had homered to open the scoring way back in the second, struck out. Jose Lozada fell behind 0-2 but plunked a single to shallow center to push Curran to second.

Both managers went to their reserves for a better matchup, Potomac summoning Jamar Walton to bat from the left side and Kinston calling for Matt Langwell to replace a tiring Tyler Sturdevant. Like Lozada, Walton fell behind quickly, but battled back to work the count full and then draw the walk to load the bases.

Next came up 26-year-old Robbie Jacobsen, backup catcher, corner infielder, left fielder, and twice this season, bullpen-saving reliever. Again, Langwell got the drop, getting ahead 0-2, but couldn’t get the swinging strike as Jacobsen fouled off the nibbles, and wouldn’t chase the pitcher’s pitches to work the count to 2-2.

The battle ended with a two-out drive to left field that brought in Curran and Lozada, gave the P-Nats a 7-6 win, and secured a winning overall record at 70-69. But perhaps more importantly, the veteran delivered that perceptible-but-immeasurable momentum going into the Mills Cup playoffs against the Frederick Keys, beginning on Wednesday.

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 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 202010
 

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

SYRACUSE 62-57, 3rd place IL North, 7½ games back

Good Leonard Davis .282/.331/.518 since All-Star Break
Bad Atahualpa Severino 0-2, 6.14ERA since All-Star Break
Interesting Brian Bixler .372/.400/.465 since acquisition on 8/9

HARRISBURG 64-59, T3rd place, 7 games back, EL (1 game behind wild-card)

Good Tom Milone 10-5, 2.87ERA, 12QS in 24G
Bad Adam Fox .156/.240/.265 in 54G
Interesting Steve Lombardozzi .345/.406/.414 since promotion (8G)

POTOMAC
29-22 in 2nd Half, 1st place by 1½ games in CrL North

Good Patrick McCoy 1-0, 3SV, 0.56ERA, 23K in last 10 appearances (16IP)
Bad Nick Moresi .172BA, 12K in last 10G
Interesting Signing Jamar Walton (.200/.239/.293) to replace Mike Burgess

HAGERSTOWN
22-31 in 2nd Half, last place in SAL North, 9½ games back

Good Eury Perez .412BA, 6SB in August
Bad Paul Demny 0-4, 5.82ERA in August
Interesting Josh Smoker .143 OBA, 3.00ERA as reliever

VERMONT
30-27, 1st Place Stedler Division of NY-Penn League, 1½ games ahead

Good Wade Moore .455BA in August
Bad Matt Swynenburg 13R, 19H allowed in last three starts (13⅔ IP)
Interesting Mark Herrera 30K in 23#8532; IP in 12G

GCL NATIONALS
19-28, 5th place GCL East Division, 12 games back, Eliminated

Good Christopher Manno 0.95WHIP, 1.42ERA, 21K in 12⅔ IP
Bad Rashad Hatcher .222/.263/.222 in 24G
Interesting 25th Rd. Pick Christian Meza 1.83ERA, .174OBA, 20K in 19⅔ IP

DSL NATIONALS
34-34, 5th place B.C. South Division, 10 games back, Eliminated

Good Edgar Gonzalez 39BB in 58G, .406 OBP
Bad Carlos David Alvarez 53G, 214PA
Interesting Adalberto Mieses 33BB, 5HR, 57H in 63⅓ IP = 2.98ERA?