May 292011
 

As the pic suggests, the P-Nats dropped a pair to fall into the Carolina League North Division cellar, losing 10-5 in the first game and 7-2 in the second. The losing streak is now six games.

The story in both games was much the same: the starting pitching was ineffective and made a mediocre offense look terrific. Except for one big inning in the first game, the Potomac offense was listless. It took nearly four innings in the first game for a runner to reach base. In the second game, they collected just three hits.

I’m not sure what the Nats brass, who have been on hand for the past couple of nights, has in mind to shake things up, but it’s pretty clear that some bats need to be thrown in the shower. Maybe even some wooden ones, too.

Individually, there is some decent talent in this group of players. But I keep hearing the rumblings that, while not quite 25 cabs for 25 guys, this is not yet a team. The difference in the record at home vs. the road in the past couple of weeks certainly begs the question of “why?” — especially when the opponents have been either the same (Lynchburg) or second-division (Kinston).

Again, I try hard not to editorialize in this space, but I know that folks value the eyes on the field and I’m seeing a collection of talent that needs some reshuffling. Maybe some guys that have been starting need to sit out today. Maybe some starters need to work out of the ‘pen and vice-versa. But something needs to happen soon.

Today, Cameron Selik and Evan Bronson are tasked with turning things around (and making me eat these words) with a noontime doubleheader against these same Hillcats, with a chance to both split the series and return to third place.

May 182011
 

The Quick Rundown…

Team Yesterday’s Result Today’s Game Pitching Matchup
Syracuse Chiefs Won, 4-3 vs. Norfolk, 7:00 p.m. Yunesky Maya (1-3, 3.57) vs.
Michael Ballard (2-4, 4.58)
Harrisburg Senators Lost, 4-1 vs. New Britain, 7:00 p.m. Oliver Perez (1st start) vs.
Liam Hendriks (3-1, 3.66)
Potomac Nationals Lost, 2-0 @ Frederick, 7:05 p.m. Evan Bronson (1-1, 2.20) vs.
Nathan Moreau (3-2, 3.56)
Hagerstown Suns Suspended, Top 3 vs. Kannapolis, 10:35 a.m.
(completion, then 7-inn gm)
(Game 2)
A.J. Cole (0-1, 3.52) vs.
Paul Burnside (3-1, 3.55)

Syracuse 4 Norfolk 3
• Stammen (W, 3-2) 6IP 9H 3R 3ER 0BB 7K
• Wilkie (S, 4) 1IP 1H 0R 0BB 2K
• Hulett 1-3, R, RBI
• Flores 1-4, R, RBI
• Aubrey 1-1 2BB

Thanks to three runs scored in the sixth inning, the Chiefs were able to take the lead and win the game, defeating Norfolk by a score of 4-3. While it took five pitchers to get the win, Stammen earned it, pitching six complete innings, allowing three earned runs on nine hits and seven strikeouts. Wilkie also earned his fourth save of the season, pitching a scoreless ninth. Hitters of the game were Hulett, Flores and Aubrey who collectively went 3-for-8 with two runs scored, two RBIs and two walks.

New Britain 4 Harrisburg 1
• Martis (ND) 7IP 3H 0R 1BB 5K
• McCoy (BS, 1)(L, 1-2) ⅓ IP 4H 4R 4ER 0BB 1K 0HR
• Barthmaier 1⅔ IP 1H 0R 0BB 0K 1-0 IR-S
• Norris 2-4, 2B, RBI
• Lombardozzi 2-4
• Gilbert 2-4

A four-run eighth was the undoing for the Senators, ruining a fine outing by Shairon Martis, as Harrisburg lost, 4-1. Martis laid seven goose eggs on the top of the scoreboard, giving up just three hits and a walk while striking out five. Pat McCoy would face just six batters and give up all four runs to blow the save and take the loss. Derek Norris’s two-out RBI double in the fourth was the only hit in nine chances with RISP, as the Senators stranded seven baserunners. Norris, Steve Lombardozzi and Archie Gilbert each collected two hits in the loss.

Frederick 2 Potomac 0
• Demny (L, 1-3) 6IP 5H 2R 2ER 3BB 4K
• Nelo 1IP 0H 0R 0BB 2K
• Perez 2-3, CS

Poor baserunning undid what little offense Potomac was able to bring last night, as Frederick Keys locked them out, 2-0. Paul Demny took the lost with both runs allowed on five hits and three walks. Justin Bloxom was picked off first in the ninth, doubled off second base in the second while Francisco Soriano got gunned down trying to advance to third on a ball hit to short. Eury Perez went 2-for-3 to improve his average to a team-best .329, as Potomac got just four hits in getting shut out for the seventh time this season.

Kannapolis 2 Hagerstown 1 — SUSP, T3
• Grace 3IP 5H 2R 2ER 1BB 3K
• Freitas 1-1, RBI
• Sanchez 1-1, R

Sanchez’s RBI single in the bottom of the 1st tied the game at one apiece but Kannapolis fought back in the top of the 3rd to score an additional run to gain the lead. Due to the weather, the game was called in the 3rd inning, with the Suns trailing by a score of 2-1. The nine-inning game will be completed this morning, followed by a seven-inning contest for a daytime doubleheader.

Sep 052010
 

It’s odd that sometimes the games that are supposed to mean the least can end up being the best.

Last night, Potomac clinched a playoff spot. The night before, Kinston clinched by virtue of Potomac’s win over Salem. With playoff seeding largely predetermined, very little was at stake except for pride and professionalism.

But it was those two things that were on display in spades on Sunday afternoon in Woodbridge, as the Kinston Indians no-hit the Potomac Nationals for a 10-inning 1-0 win.

Marty Popham, Chris Jones, and Cory Burns combined on the no-no, with Popham tossing the first seven innings, Jones pitching the eighth and ninth, and Burns closing out the tenth for his league-leading 30th save.

Zach Dials was the loser, allowing one run over two innings with a single, sacrifice, and another single in plating the Kinston run.

Potomac’s sole scoring threat came in the seventh, as Francisco Soriano drew a walk to end the perfect game, then took second on a wild pitch. Nick Moresi grounded to second to push Soriano to third with one out. Jamar Walton would line out to a drawn-in first baseman for out number two. Derek Norris would draw the second walk of the inning and Sean Rooney would be the second groundout to second for the third and final out.

The loss would drop Potomac to 69-69 overall on the season and shave the margin over Wilmington to 1½ games. The divisional round of the Carolina League playoffs is slated to begin on Wednesday in Frederick.

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 252010
 

Some folks will say that Wilmington’s Will Smith dominated the P-Nats last night, but the more careful observer will tell you: This is what happens when you swing at pitcher’s pitches.

For eight innings, Potomac flailed at the Blue Rock southpaw, consistently putting themselves behind 0-2 and 1-2. For 5⅔ innings, Smith retired every batter he had faced before Nick Moresi singled up the middle to break up the perfect game.

The lanky centerfielder would be the lone exception as batter after batter refused to wait him out — even Derek Norris — as Smith racked up 12 strikeouts over eight innings against no walks.

Meanwhile, Trevor Holder’s troubles keeping the ball in the yard continued, as he surrendered two home runs to Wilmington, accounting for three of the four Wilmington runs. Holder has allowed five home runs in 45 innings for Potomac, but four have come in his last three starts.

But with such abysmal offense, it’s a nitpick. Potomac would get two runs in the bottom of the ninth against the Blue Rock bullpen as a walk, a Moresi double, and a Norris two-out double would cut the Wilmington lead in half before Tyler Moore would become the 13th and final strikeout on the night fly out to center to end the game.

The loss drops Potomac into second place, a ½ game behind Wilmington, and into a tie in the loss column. The latter matters because Wilmington will play just 68 games in the 2nd half, making it possible for the Blue Rocks to make the playoffs as a percentage-points winner.

Jimmy Barthmaier looks to stop the three-game slide for Potomac against Wilmington’s Timothy Melville, who is 0-1 with a 4.21 ERA in two starts against Potomac this season.

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 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.

Jul 072010
 

It’s a familiar story to Nationals fans at nearly every level: When the pitching is there, the hitting is not. Evan Bronson was the latest victim on Tuesday night, allowing just two runs on nine hits over seven innings with one walk.

But he still lost 2-0.

While by no means overpowering, Bronson was throwing strikes: 58 out of 87 pitches, which is more than good enough to beat a young team with only one true batting threat (Eric Hosmer, who collected three of the Blue Rocks’ 10 hits). It was his third consecutive quality start and second straight outing of seven innings.

Offensively, the team was shut out for the eighth time in 82 games, collecting just seven hits and 12 baserunners overall. Ten times runners reached second or third, and all ten times the batters behind them made an out.

With the loss, Potomac falls to 5-7 in the 2nd half, tied with Lynchburg for last place in the Carolina League’s North Division. The team heads north to second-place Frederick for three games before heading to Fenway Park to face the Salem Red Sox as part of the fifth annual “Futures at Fenway” on Saturday.