Sep 172010
 

The error that started the sixth drew a collective groan from the hundreds that braved the wet weather in Woodbridge. Though the Potomac nine were ahead 3-2, these diehards knew that the Dash can bang even when they start with a whimper. Sure enough, a sharp single to left and perfectly placed bunt loaded the bases with nobody out.

Veteran pitcher Jimmy Barthmaier had been struggling with his control, walking three in the previous five innings when he had walked just seven in nine regular-season appearances. Carlos Martinez started throwing in the bullpen and the fans were calling for Cathcart to put him in.

A popup to short got the first out, but the fans still wanted Carlos. Drew Garcia, who had singled twice in the previous two at-bats, got caught looking on an inside fastball. With the long, lean Dominican standing in the bullpen, hands on his hips, Barthmaier induced a popup to shallow right field. In the fourth, that flare found grass, but this time it landed in second-baseman Francisco Soriano’s glove for the third out. Barthmaier strode off the mound in triumph.

The energy carried into the bottom of the sixth, where Potomac rallied for three runs on two singles, two sacrifices, two wild pitches, and two stolen bases to take a 6-2 lead. It would prove to be enough, as the P-Nats would go on to win by a 10-2 count and take the series lead at 2-1, one win away from their second Mills Cup in three seasons.

Solo home runs by Bill Rhinehart and Jose Lozada in the first and second innings respectively gave the P-Nats an early 2-0 lead. The rain, light but steady, was enough to make folks worry if these longballs would eventually count. It had delayed the game 27 minutes and was quite visible on any ball skipping on the grass, an eight-inch plume of water spinning above it.

Rhinehart would lead all hitters with three RBIs on his homer and an eighth-inning double. Lozada would score three times while walking twice and Sean Rooney was the third P-Nat to collect multiple hits, including a fourth-inning triple to the wall in right-center that sent in Tyler Moore, who had been hit by pitches twice, to give the P-Nats the 3-2 lead.

Marcos Frias takes the hill tonight with the hopes of clinching his second playoff series in as many starts, opposed by Nathan Jones for the Winston-Salem Dash. Frias is 2-0 with a 1.53 ERA in his last three starts (17⅔ IP, 15H, 4BB, 14K) while Jones is 1-0 with a 2.16 ERA (16⅔ IP, 11H, 9BB, 11K) over the same stretch.

Sep 132010
 

Winston-Salem’s Stephen Sauer pitched masterfully for eight innings to lead the Dash to a 4-0 victory over the Potomac Nationals in Game One of the Mills Cup Finals.

Sauer was perfect through five innings, keeping the ball down and in the infield with four strikeouts, a lineout, a popup, and nine grounders. The 24-year-old would eventually give up five hits and no walks before turning the ball over to closer Tyson Corley for a 1-2-3 ninth and a combined shutout.

Danny Rosenbaum got his second Game One series start and almost immediately got into trouble with the first of two errors by Robby Jacobsen and a walk before rolling a double-play ball and striking out Winston-Salem’s cleanup hitter Seth Loman. After a scoreless second, and two-hit third, Winston-Salem got on the board first with an Ozzie Lewis solo HR to take a 1-0 in the fourth.

Rosenbaum would last for 4⅓ innings before leaving with runners on 1st and 3rd in the fifth, an unusually quick hook by manager Gary Cathcart who called upon A.J. Morris to clean up the mess, which he did with by returning a tapper back to the mound to Derek Norris and inducing a liner to short.

The sixth inning was not as kind to Morris as shaky defense combined with timely hitting loaded the bases and the Dash grinded (grounded?) out two runs in the process to take a 3-0 lead. Joe Testa took the hill in the seventh and gave up the fourth and final Dash run with a leadoff double by Kenny Williams Jr. and an RBI single by Loman.

Jose Lozada collected the first Potomac hit with a leadoff single in the sixth and took second on a Nick Moresi swinging bunt and third on Chris Curran single to right. Sean Nicol, however, grounded out to end the threat. Tyler Moore became the second runner stranded after he narrowly missed an opposite-field home run in the seventh. And in the eighth, back-to-back singles by pinch-hitter Sean Rooney and Curran went for naught as pinch-hitting Francisco Soriano couldn’t get the clutch hit.

Trevor Holder will be asked to split the series as the Game Two starter against Winston-Salem’s Dylan Axlerod takes the hill with hopes of giving the P-Nats the poison pill and a trip to Woodbridge with 2-0 lead.

Sep 072010
 

Our final 2010 look at the leaders, trailers, and outliers in the Washington Nationals minor leagues, with a focus on the level where the prospects shone the brightest, not counting some guy who made a tour for service-time reasons (*ahem*).

SYRACUSE 76-67, 2nd place IL North, 11 games back

Good Bat: Danny Espinosa .295/.349/.463 in 24G
Arm: Josh Wilkie 2.45ERA, 1.13WHIP, 2HR in 69⅔ IP
Bad Bat: Chris Duncan .191/.274/.302 in 82G
Arm: Collin Balester as a starter: 11.57ERA, .385OBA
Interesting Bat: Boomer Whiting .372OBP, 36/48 SB
Arm: Erik Arnesen 1.29WHIP, 3.95ERA in 107IP

HARRISBURG 77-65, 2nd place, 5 games back, E.L. West Division Wild Card

Good Bat: Chris Marrero .294/.350/.450 in 141G
Arm: Tom Milone 12-5, 2.85ERA ( in ’09, 12-5, 2.91ERA), 155K in 158IP
Bad Bat: Sean Rooney .165BA in 31G
Arm: Aaron Thompson 4-13, 5.80ERA, 1.59WHIP
Interesting Bat: Steve Lombardozzi .295/.373/.524 in 27G
Arm: Tanner Roark 1.22WHIP, 2.50ERA in 6 starts since acquisition

POTOMAC
39-30 in 2nd Half, 70-69 overall — 2nd-Half CrL North Division winner by 2½ games

Good Bat: Tyler Moore 31HR, 111RBI, .552SLG
Arm: Dan Leatherman 0.92WHIP, 57K in 46⅔ IP in 31G w/ 11SV
Bad Bat: Chris Curran .226/.293/.305 in 74G
Arm: Justin Phillabaum 0-6, 6.87ERA (13.17 at home), 1.77WHIP in 29 appearances
Interesting Bat: Derek Norris .300/.535/.575 with RISP; .210/.359/.347 bases empty
Arm: Brad Peacock 5.1K/9 at A+ in ’09; 10.27K/9 in ’10

HAGERSTOWN
29-41 in 2nd Half, 65-75 overall

Good Bat: J.P. Ramirez .296/.341/.470 in 132G
Arm: Danny Rosenbaum 2.32ERA, 1.22WHIP in 18G
Bad Bat: Adrian Nieto .195/.291/.253, 13E in 60G
Arm: Josh Smoker 7.38ERA, .319OBA as starter
Interesting Bat: Justin Bloxom .309/.355/.476 in ’10; .228/.346/.303 in ’09 at Vermont
Arm: Rob Wort 2.08ERA, 185OBA; 3.91ERA, .247OBA in ’09 at GCL

VERMONT
36-38, 3rd Place Stedler Division of NY-Penn League, 2 games back

Good Bat: David Freitas .307/.408/.450 in 62G
Arm: Neil Holland 1.04WHIP, 37K in 32⅔ IP in 19G
Bad Bat: Hendry Jimenez .218/.291/.279 in 51G
Arm: Chris McKenzie 1.97WHIP, 8.54ERA in 26⅓ IP over 8G (6GS)
Interesting Bat: Wade Moore .287/.394/.392, ’10 D-2 draftee
Arm: Mark Herrera 1.18WHIP, .220OBA, ’10 Juco draftee

GCL NATIONALS
24-32, 4th place GCL East Division, 13 games back

Good Bat: Randolph Oduber .366/.434/.569 in 39G
Arm: Nick Serino 1.01WHIP, 3.16ERA in 25⅔ IP
Bad Bat: Rashad Hatcher .200/.241/.218 in 32G
Arm: Mike Gallo 8.38ERA, .291OBA in 19⅓ IP
Interesting Bat: Angel Montilla .285/.350/.383 in 51G
Arm: NDFA Billy Ott 0.83WHIP, 1.17ERA in 23IP

DSL NATIONALS
36-35, 5th Place, Boca Chica East, 10 games back

Good Bat: Victor Chavez .309/.420/.412 in 46G
Arm: Wirkin Estevez 1.04WHIP, .233OBA in 82⅔ IP
Bad Bat: Yamaicol Tejeda .042BA in 48AB over 32G
Arm: Jorge De La Cruz 9.88ERA in 11G
Interesting Bat: 18-y.o. Paul Chacin .281/.355/.336 in 50G
Arm: Adalberto Mieses 1.42WHIP, 33BB, 5HR, 2.98ERA
Aug 272010
 

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

SYRACUSE 68-63, 3rd place IL North, 11½ games back (5 games behind wild-card leader)

Good Erik Arnesen 2-0, 2.93ERA in August
Bad Seth Bynum .186BA in August
Interesting Adam Carr 5SV, 2.70ERA, 14K in 12 appearances

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

Good Mike Burgess .290/.405/.677 in 9G since promotion
Bad Aaron Thompson 0-2, 10.90ERA in August
Interesting Ryan Tatusko & Tanner Roark: 3-2, 2.23ERA as Senators

POTOMAC
31-26 in 2nd Half, 1st place by ½ game in CrL North

Good Sean Rooney .284/.352/.422 in 30G
Bad Justin Phillabaum 12.91ERA with Runners On, 17.42ERA with RISP
Interesting Joe Testa 1.10WHIP, 11K in 13⅔ IP

HAGERSTOWN
25-35 in 2nd Half, last place in SAL North, 9½ games back (Elimination No. is 1)

Good Eury Perez .341BA, 32/35SB-A since July 1
Bad Mitchell Clegg 1-2, 7.04ERA since return from GCL
Interesting SS’s Rick Hague & Adrian Sanchez, .321BA in 215AB combined

VERMONT
31-30, 1st Place Stedler Division of NY-Penn League, ½ game ahead

Good David Freitas .314/.407/.466 in 53G
Bad Aaron Barrett 16BB in 14⅓ IP
Interesting Ronnie Labrie 37BB in 56G (.390 OBP)

GCL NATIONALS
23-31, 4th place GCL East Division, 12 games back, Eliminated

Good Randolph Oduber .366/.434/.569 in 39G
Bad Gregory Baez 6.55ERA, 1.82WHIP
Interesting 19-y.o. Roberto Perez .314/.402/.419 in 34G
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 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.