Mar 212012
 

A leadoff walk in the 9th and an Danny Espinosa error in the 10th helped the Nats snatch defeat from the jaws of victory for a 3-2 loss in Grapefruit League action this afternoon.

John Lannan threw four scoreless innings to bolster his case for the No. 5 starter, while Ian Desmond went 3-for-4 with a walk and a double in his return to the leadoff slot. He also made an error. The No. 2 batter Espinosa stranded six runners in an 0-for-5 effort, striking out once and grounding into a double play.

Of course, we’re now at that point in the spring where the posts get shorter, as just two notable minor-leaguers saw game action.

Steve Lombardozzi made his first appearance in the outfield, playing left field and making three putouts over six innings. Offensively, he went 1-for-3.

Atahualpa Severino had his first 1-2-3 appearance of the spring, inducing a groundout and two flyballs for his second hold.

The loss drops the Nats to 5-10 in Grapefruit League play. Gio Gonzalez makes his third start as the Nationals hop the bus for an afternoon game at Roger Dean Stadium vs. the St. Louis Cardinals. The game can be heard or seen live on MLB.com and on tape delay on the MLB Network tomorrow night at 10:00 p.m.

Mar 102012
 

The Nats offseason was largely spent bolstering the pitching, with the implication that the offense would come later with a healthy Zimmerman, a comeback by Jayson Werth, and the addition of some kid from the minors.

It may be early, but the worry that the hitting won’t support the pitching wasn’t put to rest on Friday night as the Marlins blanked the Nationals, 3-0.

Stephen Strasburg was charged with the loss, giving up two runs in a sloppy third inning that began when he knocked down a grounder by Bryan Petersen and let it slip from his grip for an infield single. Two batters later, Jose Reyes launched a triple to center to plate Peterson and Emilio Bonifacio singled Reyes in for a 2-0 lead. Strasburg next hit Hanley Ramirez but then settled down to retire the next two batters.

Just four Nationals hit safely and no one reached base via the walk. Three of the four hits came from the minor-leaguers as Steve Lombardozzi went 1-for-3, Tyler Moore went 1-for-2 and Corey Brown went 1-for-2. Incumbents Ian Desmond, Roger Bernadina combined to go 0-for-5 with three strikeouts, while backup catcher Jesus Flores was the only other National to hit safely (1-for-2).

Anthony Rendon started at 3B but went 0-for-2 with a strikeout and made a putout and an assist in his four innings of play. Carlos Rivero replaced him and made an assist while going hitless in his one at-bat. Jhonatan Solano was also a defensive replacement and went 0-for-1 in the field.

It’s a busy day today as the Nats split the squad to visit the Tigers while the rest stay home to host the Mets. Lombardozzi, Brown, Solano and Eury Perez are expected to start on the road in Lakeland. Both games are at 1 p.m. can be heard on MLB Audio.

Mar 042012
 

The Astros lit up Tom Gorzelanny with a pair of three-run HRs as Houston sent the Nationals to their second loss in Grapefruit League play by a 10-2 count.

Gorzelanny was charged with seven earned runs while retiring three batters over the third and fourth innings, letting in an inherited run, hitting a batter, and walking four in the 11 batters he faced. Stephen Strasburg took the loss with two runs allowed on three hits, including a solo HR in the third.

For the second consecutive game, the Nats outhit their opponent (10-8) but were slightly better in the clutch, going 3-for-11 with nine men left on base.

Bryce Harper came off the bench for this one, going 1-for-2 with a an infield single and a strikeout (looking).

Anthony Rendon saw his first action at shortstop, subbing in for Ian Desmond, who committed two errors in three defensive chances. Rendon made an assist on the first and only ball hit to him. He went 0-for-2 at the plate.

Other notable minor-leaguer lines from the box score:

  • Corey Brown pinch-ran, scored a run, and went 1-for-2 with a single to center. He played LF and made four putouts
  • Eury Perez went 1-for-2 with a single (liner to left-center) and had no defensive chances while playing CF
  • Tyler Moore got sawed off and popped to short while pinch-hitting for DH Michael Morse

The loss drops the Nats to 0-2 in the Grapefruit League. They visit Port St. Lucie tomorrow night to take on the N.Y. Mets, with the game televised on the MLB Network and broadcast on WJFK 106.7 FM and its affiliates. John Lannan is slated to start the game for the Nationals, opposed by Dillon Gee for the Mets.

Mar 032012
 

The Nationals PR staff touted the 8-5 margin in the “H” column, but the Astros took the “R” column by a 3-1 count in the 2012 Grapefruit League opener.

Like yesterday, just one National was successful with a man on second or third, as Jesus Flores followed Roger Bernadina’s leadoff double with one of his own for the single run scored (by pinch-runner Corey Brown). Washington went 1-for-7 with RISP and left six men on for the game.

Edwin Jackson got the start and walked two in his two innings of work, including the first runner of the game, but was unscathed as the infield turned a 4-6-3 DP in each inning. Ross Detwiler followed him and took the loss on a two-run HR in the fourth. Atahualpa Severino gave up the third Houston run in the seventh, surrendering a leadoff triple and hitting a batter, but working around a Carlos Rivero error and inducing the third twin-killing to escape a 1st-and-3rd one-out jam.

Boxscore lines from the minor-leaguers:

  • Bryce Harper went 1-for-3, singling off former National Livan Hernandez
  • Tyler Moore struck out in two ABs
  • Steve Lombardozzi went 0-for-1, but helped turn the third DP
  • Anthony Rendon went 0-for-2 as the substitute DH
  • Rivero went 0-for-2 and played 3B
  • Jhonatan Solano went 0-for-1 and recorded three putouts, but was unsuccessful trying to throw out a runner in the 7th

Tomorrow, the two teams switch venues as the Nationals play host in Viera. The game will be televised live on MASN at 1:05 p.m.

Mar 022012
 

Five Nationals pitchers combined to shut out the Georgetown Hoyas for a 3-0 win this afternoon.

None of the Nats runs were earned, as the Nationals pushed across runs in the first, fourth and sixth innings but only drove in one via a base hit. Brett Carroll got the Homer Simpson RBI with a HBP for the first run, as a Xavier Paul single, a walk to Bryce Error and fielding error loaded the bases with one out.

Eury Perez scored the second run in the fourth on a Sandy Leon sac fly. Perez had pinch-run for Corey Brown and took third on a steal and an error. He would score again in the sixth as the Hoyas committed their fourth error on the Dominican centerfielder’s would-be groundout to third, which advanced him to second. Zach Walters cashed in the mistake for the lone hit with RISP, as the Nationals were a woeful 1-for-12 for the game.

Matt Purke got the win with three innings of one-hit ball. According to the beat writers at the game, the former TCU southpaw touched 91-93 on the gun while walking one and striking out three.

Rafael Martin and Waldis Joaquin each tossed two innings and allowed one hit after Purke left the game. Austin Bibens-Dirkx struck out the side in a 1-2-3 eighth inning while Jeff Fulchino allowed the fourth and final Hoya safety while closing out the game in the ninth.

The five pitchers combined for 14 strikeouts and walked none.

Other highlights from the boxscore:

  • Jeff Kobernus went 1-for-1 with a walk
  • Tyler Moore went 1-for-2 with a double
  • Destin Hood and Justin Bloxom both drew walks in their two PA off the bench

The official start of the Grapefruit League begins tomorrow, with the Nationals visiting the Houston Astros in Kissimmee. Bryce Harper is expected to start in right field again, with Edwin Jackson getting the start, and Sean Burnett, Ross Detwiler, Chad Durbin, and Ryan Perry the announced pitchers to follow. The game will be broadcast on 106.7FM, while MASN is set to televise the game on Sunday, for which Steven Strasburg is the announced starting pitcher.

Aug 142011
 

The Potomac Nationals got just enough offense to not waste Paul Demny’s best outing of the year for a 3-2 win over the Myrtle Beach Pelicans.

Demny went eight innings, dominating seven of them, and gave up just two runs on five hits with no walks and four strikeouts. He only allowed two leadoff hits — a single in the 3rd, which he promptly erased with a 1-6-3 double play, and a double in the 8th. That double was followed by a triple to plate the first Pelican run, then a grounder to second to send in the final Myrtle Beach run.

After a disastrous stretch of road starts in July and early August (7R in Lynchburg over 1⅔ IP, 9R in Winston-Salem over 4IP, 5R in Salem over 4⅓ IP), the past two home starts have been just what Demny needs to regain some confidence. Even with a rainout today, he’ll likely start his next two games at the Pfitz, and can build on this run as the P-Nats slouch towards head for the playoffs.

Offensively, there’s still reason to worry. Like the night before, getting runners on was not a problem: Leadoff doubles in the 1st and 7th, one-out singles in the 2nd and 3rd, a leadoff walk in the 4th. But when you subtract leadoff hitter Archie Gilbert from the equation, that’s three less hits, one less run, and the only hit with a runner in scoring position.

Potomac would strand 10 runners, including runners on second and third in the bottom of the 7th, as neither Brian Peacock nor Steve Souza could deliver the killshot to turn a 3-0 game into a 5-0 game.

With Nelo and Smoker used the night before, Marcos Frias was called upon to close out the 9th and delivered the win and earned the save, working around a leadoff single and finishing strong with two strikeouts.

The win keeps pace with Frederick, which won its 30th game of the second half and its fourth straight, keeping the division deficit at four games. A loss by Lynchburg extended Potomac’s lead to six, lowering the magic number to clinch a playoff spot to 17.

Should the rain hold off, Cameron Selik (4-8, 4.33) is scheduled to start this afternoon against Justin Grimm (3-2, 3.55).

Aug 092011
 

You can only dodge the bullet so many times.

That’s the lesson that Potomac should have learned as the Salem Red Sox finally cashed in on the numerous chances the pitchers gave them for a 2-1 win.

Salem got its first run in the top of the 1st — another troubling trend that needs to stop if Potomac is to defend its Mills Cup title — but it could have been a lot worse. Two hit batsmen and a wild pitch then a walk loaded the bases. A swinging bunt drove in the run but starter Paul Demny escaped the jam with a flyout to right fielder Archie Gilbert (rehabbing from Harrisburg).

Demny would have baserunners in every inning he pitched. He walked two in the 2nd, giving up a single and double in the 3rd; got the trifecta in the 4th with another hit batsmen, a base hit, and a walk; and gave up walks in the 5th and 6th, the last chasing him in the 6th. To his credit, Demny kept the ball down and on the ground, getting two key double plays and allowing just four flyballs. For a pitcher that’s struggled with the longball, that’s bigger than Oprah.

Of course, what’s nearly always true is that good pitching gets scrutinized further when the offense is struggling, as the P-Nats have been over the past couple of weeks. It was sixth time in the past 10 games they’ve failed to score at least three runs.

It would be easy to chalk this up to the opposing pitcher, Chris Hernandez, who blanked them last week in Salem. But Hernandez was far from dominant, walking three and getting several long counts. During his five innings, it felt like he was one pitch away from getting smacked and having this game tied up.

Potomac would break through in the 7th as newly acquired Zach Walters drilled a grounder off the heel of Salem reliever Chris Martin to lead off the inning. A Steven Souza walk sandwiched between flyouts by Sandy Leon and Eury Perez (Walters taking third on the latter), brought up Francisco Soriano. The strong-armed infielder ripped a line drive into right to plate Walters and tie the game.

It would be the last Potomac baserunner.

Trevor Holder, Joe Testa and Rob Wort followed Demny on the mound. It was Holder’s first appearance in a Potomac uniform since June 24 and he tossed two solid innings of relief, allowing a hit and striking out three. Joe Testa pitched a scoreless 8th and appeared to be working around a leadoff bunt single but a two-out walk chased him from the game.

Wort gave up a single to right that Gilbert charged and threw a one-hop bullet to Leon, but on a night like this, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the bounce was higher than usual and Leon couldn’t make the snap-tag that would have been a bang-bang play. A flyout ended the threat, but like I said at the beginning, you can only give a team so many chances before they cash one in.

The P-Nats went down in order and on strikes to end the game. The loss was a missed chance to gain ground on Frederick, which lost to Myrtle Beach. Lynchburg edged a game closer with a win over Kinston, trailing Potomac by five games while the Keys still lead the division by three.

Cameron Selik (4-7, 4.18) takes the hill this afternoon in the final midweek daygame (no gamer tomorrow), opposed by Salem’s Stolmy Pimentel (1-3, 4.96).

Jul 312011
 

Missed opportunities was the theme of the night in a 6-2 loss to Frederick.

Potomac had baserunners in eight of nine innings on offense, including a leadoff walk in the 1st by Eury Perez and a leadoff double in the 2nd. Both runners were erased or stranded.

Meanwhile, Adam Olbrychowski and the strike zone weren’t on friendly terms, with four walks issued during his three innings. Amazingly, none of them scored. But the net effect was that when he was around the plate, the 24-year-old got hit hard — a double and homer in the second and three singles in the 3rd, which chased him from the game.

Mitchell Clegg came on in relief and finally had what’s eluded him all season long: a strong appearance at home. In his eight previous appearances at the Pfitz, he’d given up 34 runs and 43 hits and walked nine over just 22⅔ innings. Instead, the lefty from UMass turned in three scoreless innngs with just two hits allowed, no walks, and four strikeouts.

Down 4-0 after three innings, Potomac broke up the shutout with a run in the bottom of the fourth, But it should have been more. Steve Souza was picked off first after drawing his team-leading 54th walk. Adrian Nieto singled, took second on on error, and scored on J.R. Higley’s ground-rule double to dead center.

Two innings later, Potomac’s night was summarized in the 6th. Destin Hood led off with a single to center, Bloxom ripped a liner to right to send him to 3rd and Steve Souza doubled to score Hood. With runners on second and third, and nobody out and down just two at 4-2, the P-Nats appeared poised to tie the game, if not take the lead.

Instead, Frederick went to the ‘pen and got precisely what they needed to stop the momentum from Chris Petrini — three straight strikeouts by Nieto, Higley, and Sean Nicol. The lefty would strike out five in his two innings of work for his 11th hold of the season.

If that wasn’t the kill-shot, then the two runs in the top of the 7th off Neil Holland put the proverbial bullet to the brain. As if they didn’t do enough damage on defense (with two double plays and seven assists for the night), the keystone combo of Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop led off the inning with a single and double respectively and came around to score on a sacrifice fly to right and an error by Jeff Kobernus that prompted the usual treatment from manager Matt LeCroy: A seat on the bench for the rest of the night.

Potomac stranded four more over the last three innings, with Bloxom striking out with runners on first and second in the 7th, Machado and Schoop turning a Sean Nicol grounder into a 6-4-3 DP to end the 8th, and Hood’s last-gasp flyout to deep right-center ending the 9th.

The loss extends the Keys’ lead over the P-Nats to four games and narrows the gap between Potomac and third-place Wilmington to seven games. Staff ace Danny Rosenbaum (5-5, 2.61) will be tasked with stopping the losing streak and salvaging the series this afternoon. Frederick’s Nathan Moreau (10-7, 3.92) will oppose him, with a shot to tie teammate Bobby Bundy for the Carolina League lead in pitching wins.

Jul 302011
 

The first inning is not the friend of Cameron Selik. Four runs by Frederick in the frame, plus another lull from the P-Nats bats, put another “L” in the books for both Potomac and Selik on Friday night.

It was the fifth time in 13 starts that Selik had been scored on in the first inning, the second in as many starts against the Frederick Keys. There wasn’t much doubt about it, either: a leadoff home run, single, single, ground-rule double to the first four batters (with a wild pitch just before the double) before the first batter was retired.

The problem is a fairly common one. Selik simply doesn’t have the stuff to live up in the zone, and that’s where the pitches were early on. To his credit, he made the adjustment and settled down. He would retire 10 in a row after the ground-rule double before giving up his sixth and final hit in the fourth (another double), and then the last 11 batters he faced.

Of course, none of this would be dissected in that kind of detail had the Potomac batters done more than just five hits and a walk on offense. Just two batters reached second: J.R. Higley via a double (the only extra-base hit) and Jeff Kobernus on a fielder’s choice. This was the second time in three starts against the P-Nats that Frederick’s Bobby Bundy had stifled them, and the smart money says that he’ll be skipped this time next month if the two teams are still in line to meet in the first round of the playoffs.

The loss drops Potomac three games behind Frederick in the Carolina League North division. Lynchburg and Wilmington both won to narrow the gap between second and third place to eight games.

The series continues tonight with Adam Oblrychowski (no word as to why he was bumped back one night) toeing the slab for Potomac against Frederick’s Jake Pettit.

Jul 192011
 

A two-base hit, a sacrifice bunt, and a “run-scoring flyball” gave Potomac a 1-0 win over the Lynchburg Hillcats.

The problem is that happened in the bottom of the first and it was never that certain that the P-Nats would prevail.

Cameron Selik, Marcos Frias, and Hector Nelo combined for a five-hit shutout, allowing just one runner to reach second base. The defense turned two double plays and gunned down a runner trying to stretch a single into a double. And the Potomac offense managed just two more hits from the second to the eighth innings.

It’s difficult to convey the excitement that a 1-0 game is supposed to elicit because, like the sign on Jimmie Dimmick’s lawn, it simply wasn’t there. After the first, it was two hours of wondering when the other shoe would drop: “We’re ahead, but it doesn’t feel like we’re winning.”

For three games now, the Potomac offense has been lifeless. They’ve managed to win two of those games… against a last-place team. To expect the pitching and defense to be that good that often is not realistic. Apologies for the short writeup today, but there’s not much else to say.

The win improves Potomac to 15-9 in the second half, still tied with Frederick for first place in the Carolina League North. Adam Oblrychowski (2-5, 5.36) is slated to start this afternoon, opposed by David Hale (1-3, 4.71).