May 122013
 

The rain that stayed away on Friday came back on Saturday, just three outs before becoming an official game.

It was just moments after the Potomac turned a Winston-Salem no-hitter into a 4-1 lead by sending nine men to the plate and stringing together four straight two-out hits. Adrian Nieto got the rally started with a one-out double and took third when Kevin Keyes grounded to first.

Down 1-0, the hope then was to tie the game before rains came. After a two-run homer by Justin Miller, an infield single by Randolph Oduber and an RBI double by Billy Burns, it became a matter of “OK, let’s get back out there and get three outs to make this game official.”

Michael Taylor, however, would not “cooperate” by drawing a two-out walk. The team’s two fastest baserunners then showed as much with a double steal to give Cutter Dykstra a chance to push the lead to 6-1 with the inning’s sixth hit.

Alas, it did not come; instead, a deep line drive right to the Dash centerfielder that ended the frame. The Woodbridge nine had barely gotten on to field in the top of the 5th when the downpour started, going from lawn sprinkler to car wash in less than a couple minutes.

After 92 minutes, officials called it a night. The game will be continued at noon followed by a seven-inning game.

May 112013
 

For the third straight game, Potomac won in its final at-bat. This time, however, it was the reclamation of a lead lost and a swift finish as Jason Martinson led off the bottom of the 9th with a solo HR for a 5-4 win over the Winston-Salem Dash.

The blast, which was the Texan’s seventh, took Richie Mirowski off the hook and “earned” the reliever the dreaded blown-save-win as he gave up the lead with two-out, two-run shot to dead center off the bat of Chris Curley. It was the fourth home run Mirowski has surrendered in just 14⅓ innings.

Early on, this was an exercise in frustration for the opposing offenses. It’s tempting to call a 1-1 game a pitcher’s duel, but the combined 15 baserunners left on through the first five innings beg to differ.

Both A.J. Cole and the Dash’s Chris Bassitt got themselves into and out of jams. Cole walked three, hit a batter, and balked a baserunner but got the final batter out with the strikeout four innings out of five. The lone run he allowed was by no means “cheap,” as Kevan “Don’t Call Me Silent Bob” Smith led off the 4th with triple to the right-center gap and scored on a sacrifice fly.

Twice Bassitt let up back-to-back singles with two outs, but twice the P-Nats were unable to hound him for a third hit as Adrian Nieto tapped out to short in the 1st and Cutter Dykstra popped out with the bases loaded in the 4th.

Potomac needed a couple of miscues to score against Bassitt as Kevin Keyes stole third as part of a double steal with two out and chugged home with the run when toss to first on the dropped third strike was botched for an error.

Both starters were done after five, with Cole finishing his night with one run on five hits and striking out seven. Bassitt gave up seven hits, but just one unearned run with five K’s.

After leaving on nine runners through five, Michael Taylor ended that streak with a two-run home run off the left field foul pole to give Potomac a 3-1 lead. Colin Bates, who set ‘em down in order in the 6th, was touched for a run in the 7th as he was unable to strand a one-out triple, giving up a two-out double to plate the second Winston-Salem run.

Potomac got it back in the 8th as Francisco Soriano led off with a triple and came around to score after Billy Burns walked and stole second (no, I don’t have that on autofill, but I maybe I ought to). The double play taken away, Michael Taylor got the RBI on a fielder’s choice as Soriano sacmpered home with the fourth Potomac run.

Christian Meza, who had pitched a scoreless 8th following Bates to earn the hold, gave way to Mirowski in the 9th. The 24-year-old got the first two on a whiff and a grounder to first but issued a two-out walk that set up Curley for the game-tying blast.

With the win, Potomac improves to 18-16 but remains a game behind Frederick and percentage points behind Lynchburg in the Carolina League North. Weather permitting, game two of the four-game series will feature a matchup RHP Taylor Hill (3-1, 2.21) for the P-Nats and RHP Chris Beck (2-4, 1.50) for the Dash.

May 052013
 

Potomac scored in each of its first three turns at bat but couldn’t keep up with Myrtle Beach, as the Pelicans scored the last eight runs of the game to hand the P-Nats an 11-5 defeat.

Brian Dupra took the hill in a spot start created by Monday’s rainout, but fell victim to his own mistakes. With a little luck, one or none of the first three runs might not have scored.

Tip your cap to Myrtle Beach for making him pay for a two-out walk with a two-out double in the 1st. Gnash your teeth at the wild-pitch strikeout that put the leadoff man on in the 3rd. But give the Pelicans credit for stealing second to take away the double play, and exploiting the extra out with a two-run home run to the fourth batter of the inning.

At the time, neither mistake seemed critical. Three extra-base hits in the bottom of the 1st erased the 1-0 deficit as Michael Taylor doubled with one out, Jason Martinson tripled with two down, and Adrian Nieto plated Martinson with an opposite-field, ground-rule double that might have gone for an inside-the-park job had it not bounced out of play. Pelican RF Preston Beck dove and missed and was slow to get up and was eventually removed from the game, though three K’s in three AB’s might have been a factor as well.

Back-to-back two-out RBI singles by Billy Burns and Taylor (set up by Burns’s 13th SB) extended the lead to 4-1. Adrian Sanchez served up the fifth and final run with an opposite-field liner to right, which has become something of a trademark for the Venezuelan this season.

Potomac put two runners on in the 4th but it was the last true threat as starter Victor Payano stranded them and turned in two more scoreless for an ugly line of five runs on nine hits over six innings, but got the win nevertheless.

Dupra hit the wall in the 5th, giving up a single, walk, then a double and leaving with runners on second and third. Matt Grace was the first man out of the ‘pen but couldn’t strand either and was charged with three runs of his own over three innings on six hits and no walks.

Greg Holt followed Grace and retired four straight batters before giving up a single with one out in the 9th and was on the verge of finishing the night with two scoreless frames until Kellin Deglan took him deep for a two-run shot that capped off the Pelicans onslaught.

With the loss, Potomac falls to 14-15 and two games off the pace in the Northern Division of the Carolina League. Taylor Hill (3-1, 2.43) gets the start in this afternoon’s rubber match and a chance to win both the series and close out the homestand with a 5-2 mark. Myrtle Beach will send Jerad Eickhoff (2-2, 4.44) to stop him and go for win no. 18 in game no. 30.

May 042013
 

Don’t look now. But these P-Nats are starting to gel into something that might just be a contender.

Of course, that’s easy to think when, for a third straight night, the starting pitcher turns in a stellar outing and the offense breaks into double digits in both runs and hits.

It was A.J. Cole’s turn to shine as the 21-year-old struck out nine over six shutout innings. He walked none and allowed just four hits, retiring the leadoff man five times out six.

That one time the first batter wasn’t retired was a pool-cue single that skipped past Cole and Adrian Sanchez couldn’t scamper in and sling it over in time. Another single put runners on first and second, but Sanchez, who wasn’t really to blame for not getting the 80-foot dribbler, teamed up with Jason Martinson for the 4-6-3 DP to clip the Pelicans’ rally with Cole delivering the killshot with a strikeout.

Backup catcher Cole Leonida, who usually spells Adrian Nieto (the DH last night) behind the plate, made the case for more playing time with a three-run blast in the bottom of the second that started the P-Nats scoring binge.

It was also the first of three innings in which Potomac had multiple runners reach base, albeit with a little help. A hit batsmen in the 6th got the bases loaded for Randolph Oduber, who cashed in the second big chance as the Groovin’ Aruban drilled a three-run triple to right-center. In the 7th, a Sanchez and Leonida went back-to-back with RBI singles to take advantage when Caleb Ramsey reached on an error following a one-out single by Nieto.

Potomac would get their tenth run in the 8th when Myrtle Beach once again couldn’t quite execute (it should be noted that the Pelicans have just eight players that aren’t 22 or younger, a byproduct of the Rangers tendency towards HS players and IFAs, not to mention being Thirsty-Thursday-Night loaded with talent) as Michael Taylor scored on a wild pitch on a Nieto strikeout with runners on the corners.

Christian Meza followed Cole with two innings of relief, allowing an unearned run on a double that followed a missed catch as Sanchez attempted to complete a 6-4-3 double play without the baseball. Colin Bates finished out the game, giving up two unearned runs on a Ramsey error in the 9th.

The win evens Potomac at 14-14 for the season, one game behind Lynchburg (14-12) and Frederick (15-13) as the Carolina League remains bunched up like a cheap pair of und…er, tube socks with all eight teams within five games of one another.

Thanks to Monday’s rainout, Brian Dupra (1-2, 3.72 at Hagerstown, scoreless IP for Potomac on Wednesday) makes the spot start tonight. Victor Payano (1-2, 4.76) is his counterpart for Myrtle Beach.

May 032013
 

Who’s the ace of Potomac Nationals staff? Taylor Jordan made his case with eight shutout innings to lead the P-Nats to a 5-1 victory and a 3-1 series win over the Carolina Mudcats.

Facing a Carolina lineup with three lefties and three switch hitters, Jordan pounded the inside the corner all night long, producing 13 outs on the ground — thanks to some nifty defense by Khayyan Norfork, who had seven assists at 2B and combined twice with SS Cutter Dykstra on double plays — and keeping the Mudcat batters.

Indeed, the highlight of the night for Jordan might have been the matchup with the penultimate batter, Zach MacPhee. Jordan fell behind 3-0 with a runner on 2nd and just one out. A fastball inside got the mercy strike. MacPhee twirled the bat as if he were tossing it to the bat boy for ball four but didn’t let go (a rather adept move: a one-handed windmill over the shoulder and back up to the hitting position), which certainly didn’t help his case.

Jordan threw the same pitch to the same location on the 3-1 count. Though the last offering may have been ball four, this was closer, as Nieto made no effort to frame the pitch. MacPhee made the same yes-no-okay-we’re-still-here twirl with with the bat. Jordan threw the same pitch, another inch inside and lower.

Called strike three.Complain if you must about an “ump show,” but there’s not much sympathy for a guy who gets two “warnings.”

Offensively, Potomac would give Jordan all the support he would need early.

Billy Burns beat out an infield tapper despite a Omar Vizquel-style grab and sling from 19-year-old Francisco Lindor (remember that name, kid’s got the Motts), got balked to second and took third on a too-sharp line-drive single to left by Dykstra. Jason Martinson plated him a with a single literally off the pitcher (he stayed in the game) for a 1-0 lead after one.

In the 2nd, Caleb Ramsey, Adrian Sanchez, and Norfork went back-to-back-to-back with singles, with Sanchez executing a sweet hit-and-run to the right side to move Ramsey to third while Norfork got the RBI and took the extra base when Carolina missed the cutoff man. A sacrifice fly by Burns sent in Sanchez and Norfork easily came home on a leg double by Michael Taylor.

Three innings later, Norfork would complete the Potomac scoring by turning around a high fastball to dead center for his first home run of the season.

With the win, Potomac improves to 13-14 and remains two games behind Lynchburg in the Carolina League North. A.J. Cole (0-1, 4.85) takes the hill tonight for the P-Nats against Myrtle Beach’s Luke Jackson (3-0, 1.27) as the Pelicans come to town for the weekend.

May 012013
 

After an hour’s rain delay to a game that had been postponed the night before, the Potomac Nationals shut out the Carolina Mudcats by a 5-0 count in the opening game of a doubleheader.

Blake Schwartz was making his second start in High-A but against the same team. Last week, Schwartz tossed six shutout innings against Carolina but was overshadowed by Kevin Keyes’s display of lights-out power.

Just as it’s important to not get too excited when a pitcher breezes through the lineup the first time through — watch how often mediocre-to-bad pitchers get hammered in the middle innings, you’ll see what I mean — it’s a good idea to temper expectations when a team gets to see him for a second start.

Well, Schwartz only went five shutout innings this time, giving up the same number of hits and walks (three and one) but striking one more (six vs. five). Early on, it looked like things might be different. A couple of long counts to the tablesetters (doing their job), resulting in a walk and a strikeout. But a popup behind home plate and a little help from speedster Billy Burns quashed that rally.

Indeed, the next few batters seemed to be trying to ambush Schwartz, jumping on first pitches, hoping for a fastball. Instead, they popped up or fell behind.
He didn’t throw particularly hard… or straight, with both cutting and sinking movement spotted. But he mixed in a change that had serious separation (at least 10 mph slower) and a curve that broke more like a southpaw’s.

Meanwhile, Carolina’s Shawn Morimando, who was Schwartz’s opponent last week, was nearly as good the last time out, setting down the first six with ease. But an opposite-field flare from Adrian Sanchez followed by a wall-ball RBI double to right-center by Caleb Ramsey put him in a 1-0 hole in the Potomac 3rd. After retiring two of the next three batters, Cutter Dyktra’s two-out slice through the 5/6 hole produced all the offense the P-Nats pitchers would need.

Potomac would tack on three in the 5th with back-to-back singles from Ramsey and Randolph Oduber, with Michael Taylor plating two on a single to left (though Oduber ran through manage Brian Daubach’s stop sign and the throw in was 10′ off the plate) and Jason Martinson hitting a sacrifice fly deep enough for the two runners on the corners to move up.

Matt Grace came on in the 6th and closed out the game, working out of a 1st-and-2nd with one out jam with a little help from the “D” on double-play ball in his first inning and stranding a two-out single with a flyball to center to end it.

With a win in the nightcap, Potomac evened its home record to 6-6 and its season record to 12-13, two games off the pace in the Carolina League North Division. Robbie Ray (2-1, 1.55) is slated to pitch tonight’s game against Carolina’s Joseph Colon (0-1, 4.15). Ryan Zimmerman, who bowed out of last night’s doubleheader due to less-than-optimal field conditions, is expected to appear tonight on a rehab assignment.

Apr 212013
 

It was the best of pitching and the worst of pitching all in one night, as Taylor Hill spun a one-hit shutout for a 6-0 win in the opening game while Kylin Turnbull couldn’t make it out of the second as Potomac fell 8-2 in the nightcap.

Hill was sensational — hitting his spots, changing speeds, mixing it up, and working fast to keep the Frederick lineup off-kilter for the first 14 batters before switch-hitting first baseman Connor Narron steered a grounder past the dive of Adrian Sanchez with two outs in the 5th.

The 23-year-old Vanderbilt product has a reputation for getting groundballs and inducing contact, but instead struck out seven and got seven flyouts to the outfield. For the season, he’s now 3-0 in as many starts with a 1.42ERA and 0.79WHIP with 16K in 19 innings.

On offense, Potomac got things started in classic fashion as leadoff man Billy Burns walked and stole second and trotted in to score when the P-Nats #2 batter put a coat on a hanger for a double. You might even say it was a Taylor made.

A wild pitch sent Michael to third and came around when Cutter Dykstra got the first of his two RBI groundouts, sacrificing average to fulfill his mission of scoring runs.

Justin Miller’s Potomac debut was highlighted by a leadoff single in the third and an RBI double in the fifth. He would come around to score on a balk

Kevin Keyes was the second P-Nat with multiple hits, and scored the 6th and final run in the sixth on sacrifice fly by Caleb Ramsey.
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It wasn’t so pretty in the second game. Starter Kylin Turnbull lost for the third time in as many starts, turning in his shortest outing with more walks (five) than outs (four), including four straight in the 2nd.

Relievers Christian Meza and Tyler Herron showed their Mr. Hyde side after Dr. Jeckyll outings in Salem, with Meza giving up five hits and two walks in an inning and 2/3rds and Herron hitting a batter and walking two while striking out the side in the 4th. Colin Bates settled things down with three scoreless innings, allowing just a single.

Frederick opted to have its bullpen cover the game, pushing the originally scheduled starter Eduardo Rodriguez to this afternoon. Potomac actually outhit the Keys 9-8 but couldn’t get the big hit when they needed it, the four-single, one-run 4th emblematic of their struggles. Will Piwinica-Worms and Cole Leonida both went 2-for-3, with Leonida doubling and Piwinica-Worms collecting an RBI.

With the doubleheader split, the P-Nats remain in the Carolina League cellar, albeit with a 7-8 mark. Robbie Ray (1-1, 2.12) gets the start this afternoon as the P-Nats aim for .500 and a series split.

Apr 192013
 

Allan de San Miguel’s second home run of the night put an end to nearly four hours of not-so-pretty baseball as the Frederick Keys defeated the Potomac Nationals, 9-8 in 12 innings.

The two teams combined for 27 hits and 16 men left on base and five errors — four by the Keys, which rendered four of the last five P-Nats runs scored as unearned.

Early on, this looked like it would be a laugher. A.J. Cole struck out two in the top of the first, then Billy Burns led off the Potomac half with an opposite-field single and easily scored on a Michael Taylor double to the left-center gap. Jason Martinson doubled with one out. Kevin Keyes singled with two out.

After one inning it was three runs in on five hits. Cole would set down the next six straight, though his command was shaky and five of the outs were flies to the outfield. Meanwhile, Frederick starter Zach Petersime settled down to retire nine of eleven.

As is often the case, the middle innings are where a starter should really be evaluated and on their second look at Cole the Keys broke up both the perfecto and the shutout in the space of two batters with a leadoff triple and an RBI groundout in the 4th. In the 5th, Cole got four grounders and three outs and appeared en route to emerge from an uneven start with a decent line, if not a win, after a strikeout and a popup in the 6th.

Instead, with two outs Cole issued a walk, unleashed a wild pitch, and gave up the first of de San Miguel’s circle clouts to turn a 3-1 Potomac lead into a 4-3 advantage. He was lifted for a reliever and finished with a disappointing four runs on four hits and two walks over five and 2/3rds.

After that, things got ugly. A double, a dropped infield pop for an error extended the Keys lead to 5-3. Frederick returned the favor in the 7th with an error on a sacrifice that extended the inning and enabled Martinson to smack a three-run shot that gave the P-Nats their final lead of the night at 7-5.

Frederick went back on top in the 8th when a dropped third strike was the, um, key to the three-run rally that reclaimed the lead at 8-7. Potomac tied it at 8-8 in the last of the 9th on a Burns infield single, a Taylor single to left that pushed the P-Nats leadoff man to third, and a sacrifice by Cutter Dykstra.

Taylor stole second and took third on the fourth Frederick error to set up the chance for the win in regulation. Martinson, however, couldn’t repeat his 7th inning heroics and struck out to send the game into extras.

Potomac had a second chance at a walkoff win when Norfork led off the 11th with flare to no man’s land in left center but consecutive popups on bunt attempts by Burns and Taylor killed the rally, which ended with another Martinson whiff.

Following the second de San Miguel shot in the 12th, Potomac went quietly in their half with a popup and two grounders to short as Frederick reliever Eric Beaulac tossed the third of his three scoreless frames to get the “W.”

The series continues tonight, weather permitting, with a matchup of Kylin Turnbull (0-2, 12.00) vs. Zach Davies (1-0, 3.27).

Apr 092013
 

Photo Credit: Gary Dize (Potomac Nationals)

The good news is that the P-Nats scored six runs for the third straight game. The bad news is that wasn’t enough to stop them for suffering their third straight loss, as Salem edged Potomac 7-6 on Monday.

The bullpen wasn’t to blame for this one — Ben Hawkins and Richie Mirowski hosed the Sox for four and 2/3rds of scoreless relief… with a little help from Michael Taylor, who gunned down top prospect Deven Marrero from shallow centerfield to end the top of the 7th.

Instead, it was the struggles of starter Kylin Turnbull, who had difficulty locating his fastball and was touched for nine hits — five going for extra bases — over just four and a 1/3rd innings. The big blow came in the top of the second when he gave up singles to three of the first four batters he faced before surrendering a three-run shot to the No. 9 batter Felix Sanchez.

The Salem right fielder also figured in the first and last Potomac runs, unable to track down a wind-blown flyball off the bat of Kevin Keyes in the 2nd and dropping a drive to the warning track off the bat of Jason Martinson in the 8th.

Those miscues, however, were something of a wash as the P-Nats ran into two outs that minimized the damages in the 5th as the Red Sox played like a team that was up big (7-1) and used the P-Nats aggression against them.

Singles by Cutter Dykstra, Adrian Sanchez, and Randolph Oduber loaded the bases with one out (a strikeout by Caleb Ramsey). Billy Burns doubled to left to plate Dykstra and Sanchez but Oduber was gunned down for the second out, trying to score from first. Likewise, Taylor followed with a single to right that sent in Burns for the third run but ended the rally when the Sox catcher reversed a throw to the on-deck circle with a seed to second get Taylor for the third out.

Ramsey atoned for his whiff with a homer in the 7th while Martinson cashed in the Salem Sanchez’s error by scampering home on a wild pitch.

Adrian Nieto would lead off the 9th with a walk, giving way to pinch-runner Francisco Soriano but a Dykstra strikeout and a Sanchez GIDP ended the game.

With the loss, Potomac falls to 1-3 on the young season. Taylor Hill, who apparently was doing his side session as a relief appearance (unusual, but not unprecedented) on Friday, gets the start tonight against William Cuevas for Salem.

Apr 062013
 

Ten men came to the plate in the Potomac second, which saw eight straight hits as Potomac crushed Lynchburg for a 12-1 win in the 2013 season opener.

If this were softball, beers were on Kevin Keyes as the big man was the sole P-Nat to not get at hit as the Woodbridge nine pounded out 16 hits total, with Cutter Dykstra and Randolph Oduber both going 3-for-5. Michael Taylor drove in three to lead the RBI column.

Jason Martinson drew three walks and got the hit parade started with an opposite-field home run in the bottom of the first. He narrowly missed a second big fly as his second-inning blast went off the wall for a double. He finished the night 2-for-4 with two walks (the box score is wrong).

Early on, it looked like Robbie Ray had picked up where he left off in 2012 — which, as most folks will remember, wasn’t good. An infield single up the middle and a botched sacrifice put the first two runners. The sole Hillcat run came in on the third batter on a hit & run play that went 6-3 in the books as the leadoff man beat the relay throw home to score the way from second.

Ray picked off the runner at second, which proved to be the key to escaping the inning with minimal damage as the next batter walked, and he gave up another single. A passed ball put runners on second and third with two out but Ray caught the No. 6 hitter David Rohm looking to end the threat.

That would be it for Lynchburg as Ray’s habit of settling down after a rough start also kicked in. The 21-year-old retired the next 10 batters in a row, the streak of 11 straight broken up by the third and final hit off him with one out in the 5th.

He finished with the one run (unearned), one walk, and five strikeouts — four to end the inning, three times looking as Ray flashed a much sharper breaking ball than last season. Before folks get too excited though, his command was still a little spotty, especially in the first frame. Still, after a disappointing finish in 2012, this was a great way to start 2013.

A trio of relievers followed Ray out of the ‘pen, beginning with Taylor Hill for one inning — perhaps a tipoff that Matt Grace is indeed still a starter — followed by Greg Holt for two and Richie Mirowski to close out the game. They combined for three scoreless innings and six strikeouts.

Taylor Jordan is slated to make his High-A debut tonight in Game 2, as will his counterpart for Lynchburg, A.J. Holland.