Apr 252014
 

There was a perfect game for three innings. There were four stolen bases. There were five errors and five extra-base hits. And there was a six-run inning.

In other words, it was just another game of “A” baseball.

The Potomac Nationals used that six-run outburst to break a 2-2 tie and even the three-game series with an 8-2 win over the Winston-Salem Dash.

Early on, if you can believe it, this was a pitcher’s duel between Nick Lee and Braulio Ortiz. Lee set down the first nine batters in order without the ball leaving the infield, striking out two in each of the 2nd and 3rd innings. Ortiz allowed just a pair of two-out baserunners in the 2nd.

In the 4th, things got messy.

Dash SS Tim Anderson tripled to the right-center gap to lead things off and break up the perfect game. Lee notched his 5th K on a dropped third strike that Pedro Severino held onto while trying to look back Anderson instead of throwing on down to 1st. It was incorrectly ruled as a wild pitch instead of a fielder’s choice.

Winston-Salem would score when that batter who reached took off for 2nd and Severino threw the ball into centerfield. Anderson, who did not take off until the ball sailed over second base, trotted home for the game’s first run. Severino was not charged with an error, despite Rule 10.07(b)’s explicit instruction.

Lee would leave the game with an unspecified injury after warming up to start the 5th inning, and Dakota Bacus was brought on to relieve on short order. He would turn in three hitless innings of relief with no walks and one strikeout.

Things got worse for Severino when the P-Nat backstop was plunked on the helmet with one out in the 5th, but as is often the case with young pitchers, Ortiz got rattled by the mistake. He would pitch away to Justin Miller and induce a foul pop to first base but when he went inside again to Randolph Oduber, he was tentative. A middle-in fastball became more middle than in and the Groovin’ Aruban drilled it to right-center for a triple to send in Severino, then scored on a dropped relay throw for the 2-1 lead.

Robert Benincasa followed Bacus in the 8th inning but gave up a run on a walk, a two-out single, and a wild pitch to blow the save and let Winston-Salem tie it at 2-2.

Oduber would lead off the bottom of the 8th. Manager Tripp Keister ordered up a sacrifice bunt, which Khayyan Norfork delivered but Dash pitcher Kyle Hansen sailed it up the line, enabling Oduber to take 3rd. Hansen would commit a second error on an errant pickoff throw to score Oduber and give the P-Nats a 3-2 lead.

Kevin Keyes singled in Norfork for the fourth Potomac run and the floodgates opened as Brandon Miller walked, Mike McQuillan bunted his way on, Stephen Perez cracked a two-run double to score Keyes and Miller, Severino hit a sacrifice fly, and Justin Miller doubled to left to plate Perez.

Benincasa pitched a 1-2-3 ninth with two strikeouts to earn the (dreaded) blown-save-win.

The series concludes tonight, weather permitting, with Brian Rauh (1-1, 4.58) getting the ball for Potomac against Winston-Salem’s Mike Recchia (1-2, 4.11)

Aug 012012
 

It took six innings for the P-Nats bats to show signs of life, but it was too little, too late as the Salem Red Sox withstood four runs late to win this one, 5-4.

Of course, credit for the offensive coma should go to Salem’s Keith Couch, who tossed six scoreless innings and allowed just three hits, no walks, and struck out seven to even his record at 8-8. In his previous start, he’d scattered ten hits over nine innings for a one-run complete game.

Conversely, Matt Grace was charged with the loss and ended a modest two-game win streak. The 23-year-old southpaw was charged with five runs on seven hits and two walks over five innings.

The bulk of the damage came in two big innings, as Grace’s propensity to give up long, loud hits returned — a home run and a double in the three-run 3rd, a double sandwiched between two sharp singles in the two-run 4th.

Potomac awoke in the 7th as the team’s two Steves (Souza and King) combined to break up the shutout bid. Souza had pulled up lame in Sunday’s contest, but the strain was not evident when the big fella (6’3″, 220) launched a shot to the warning track in center and cruised into third with an easy triple. Two batters later, King bounced one back up the middle to push Souza across the plate for a 5-1 tally.

The P-Nats added two more in the 8th when Michael Taylor singled to center and came around to score on an RBI double by Ricky Hague. Reliever Pete Ruiz gift-wrapped the second run by botching a tapper back to the mound that was incorrectly ruled a hit, then threw past the first baseman for an error that sent in Hague and took away an RBI chance for Souza, who singled for his third hit of the night (he had doubled in the 5th).

Following Grace from the ‘pen, and helping to make this drama possible, was a solid relief outing by Matt Swynenberg: Four scoreless innings, one hit, two walks, and one hit batsmen. It wasn’t pretty — just one 1-2-3 inning — but it got the job done.

Potomac rallied for the third straight time in the final frame, as Kevin Keyes lined a single to left and J.P. Ramirez hit a flyball that was ruled a single despite the shortstop standing flatfooted and missing the catch. Taylor struck out and Sanchez bounced one to second that erased pinch-runner Francisco Soriano. Hague drove in Keyes with another hit, an RBI single to left that cut the lead to one.

It was everything that a fan could hope for: a comeback from five runs down, two men on, two man out, and the cleanup hitter at the plate. Well, except for the strikeout by David Freitas that ended it .

With the loss, Potomac falls to 19-19 in the second half, but remains tied with Lynchburg for first place and a ½ game ahead of second-place Wilmington and 1½ games ahead of third-place Frederick in the Carolina League’s Northern Division

Apr 202012
 

Don’t look now, but the Potomac Nationals have just won three in a row, beating the Salem Red Sox, 10-4.

With five runs in the 6th and three more in the 7th, the P-Nats bats feasted on the Salem bullpen for eight of their 10 hits. Like most big innings, it started slowly: a walk to David Freitas, the team’s leader in OBP (.419), and singles by Justin Bloxom and Kevin Keyes to clog the bases.

After a strikeout by Wade Moore, one of 13 on the night, the thought of an inning-ending DP was the fear for the home crowd and the hope for the beleaguered reliever.

For an instant, it looked like that might happen, but the grounder off the bat of Adrian Sanchez took a 15-foot hop that the speedy infielder beat out for a hit and an RBI, giving Potomac a 3-2 lead with the bases still juiced.

The No. 9 batter Francisco Soriano had been hitless at the Pfitz last weekend, but connected for a triple down the right field line to empty the bases and the rout was on.

Early on, though, this was a pitcher’s duel of sorts. Both pitchers had their moments of wildness (4BB for Salem’s Miguel Celestino, 3BB for Potomac’s Bobby Hansen Jr.) and their flashes of brilliance — Hansen catching Sox prospects Jackie Bradley Jr. and Xander Bogaerts looking in the first, Celestino retiring the last seven batters he faced.

Hansen still struggled some with leaving fastballs up and over the plate, but with three of his five K’s written backwards in the scorebook, he’s also showing some skill at working the corners. But most important: he got seven of his 10 other outs on the ground, something that everybody ought to appreciate.

Paul Applebee got the win with two scoreless innings of relief, while Shane McCatty made his first appearance since joining the club yesterday. McCatty was charged with two runs in the 9th thanks to another error-called-a-hit as Soriano misplayed what should have been an inning-ending popup, which was instead recorded as two-run double. On a ball hit to shallow left field. Really.

The win improves Potomac to 6-6, their first day at .500 in the 2012 season. The series continues tonight with Adam Olbrychowski (0-2, 6.97) taking the hill against Brandon Workman, making his first start of the season.