Sep 052010
 

For the second time in three seasons, the Potomac Nationals are playoff-bound. They clinched with a 2-0 shutout of the Kinston Indians in the opening game of a doubleheader, the second shutout in as many games.

Perhaps more satisfying is that it came against Kinston ace Joe Gardner, who had beaten the P-Nat nine that past two times they had faced him. Or maybe that Trevor Holder kept the ball down and in the yard for six scoreless innings, just the second time a zero had appeared in the run column of his pitching line all season long.

Early on, it looked like it might be a rout. Derek Norris and Bill Rhinehart drew back-to-back walks with one out to bring up Tyler Moore, who scorched a grounder that third-baseman Kyle Bellows couldn’t handle and left-fielder Donnie Webb nearly misplayed (yes, it was hit that hard) for an early 1-0 lead. Webb recovered in more than enough time to throw out Rhinehart attempting to go from first to third.

After another walk, this one to Sean Rooney, Gardner got Jerome Walton to ground out to end the threat. It would be the first of 13 batters in a row he would retire.

Indian catcher Chun Chen would smack a double to left field to lead off the second and the feeling of a rout came back, but in the opposite direction. But then a funny thing happened: Holder struck out the side, en route to retiring nine straight.

After a brief threat in the fifth, which Holder escaped with a nicely turned 5-4-3 double play, Potomac would get an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth, as Francisco Soriano led off with a walk, stole second, and took third on an error before Norris drove him in with a single to left.

Holder would finish with three hits allowed and six strikeouts against no runs and no walks to give way to Pat McCoy, who retired the Indians 1-2-3 for save no. 6, clinching the second-half Carolina League North Division title for Potomac.

GAME TWO
With the playoff bid secured, Rhinehart, Norris and Moore were given the rest of night off and swingman Carlos Martinez got the nod to start. The veteran swingman would put in four innings of work, leaving with a 1-1 tie before giving way to Justin Phillabaum.

For the 15th time in 29 appearances, Phillabaum was scored upon, coughing up three runs in the fifth with a bases-clearing, two-out triple by Abner Abreu. Inexplicably, Phillabaum was asked to throw again in the sixth. Predictably, the Indians torched him for another three runs, a no-doubt-about-it blast to right by Bo Greenwell.

Down 7-1 in the sixth, the P-Nats showed some heart to rally for three runs in the sixth and one more in the seventh, but the damage had been done as the Potomac would fall in the nightcap by a count of 7-5.

Aug 222010
 

Baseball is a game of failure, lots of it, actually. It’s also a game that offers a chance at redemption. It might come on the next play, the next inning, or the next night, but it almost always comes.

On Friday night, Derek Norris was asked to advance the tying run to third via the bunt with no outs in the ninth inning, and he popped it up halfway down the first base line. Regardless of whether it was a poor decision to ask him do it (and it was), the sting of failure still hurts because the cat-calling casual fans don’t understand.

Fast-forward to Saturday night, and in his next at-bat, Norris comes up with one on and one out, the P-Nats down 2-0. With one swing of the bat, Friday night was forgotten as the game was tied with one swing of the bat.

Tyler Moore would single, Sean Rooney would double him in, and the P-Nats would take the lead at 3-2 and never look back as both Norris and Moore had a night to remember, combining for seven hits, seven runs, and… wait for it… seven RBI as Potomac would pound Winston-Salem for a 9-2 victory.

Moore would homer twice to tie the franchise record at 28 and drive in five runs to eclipse the century mark in RBIs, the first player to do it since Troy Farnsworth in 2000 (113) and the sixth overall, according to the P-Nats website. He went 4-for-4 on the night, doubling, and homering twice after his first-inning single.

Norris would walk and double, scoring all four times he reached base, his on-base percentage raised to .426, second only to since-promoted Eric Hosmer of Wilmington in the Carolina League.

Starter Adrian Alaniz picked up his seventh win of the season, laboring through five innings against the league’s very best offense but would not give up another run after the first inning — a flat fastball that Dash cleanup hitter Seth Loman lined over the right-centerfield wall for both Winston-Salem runs — allowing six hits total, walking two, and striking out five.

The win combined with a loss by Wilmington extends the Potomac lead to 2½ games and three in the loss column. The Blue Rocks come to town on Monday for the final three games between these two teams. The recently signed IFA and former Cuban National team pitcher Yuniesky Maya is the announced starter for today’s game, opposed by Winston-Salem’s Terry Doyle, who has pitched twice against the P-Nats at Winston-Salem, allowing three runs over 13 innings.

Aug 212010
 

It’s not unusual to leave a game early, especially when the home team is up 6-1. After seven innings, this game looked like it was in the bag, even with Marcos Frias set to pitch the 8th.

Well, maybe not.

With eight runs in the eighth inning, the Winston-Salem Dash turned that 6-1 deficit into a 9-6 lead, then held on for a 9-8 win over Potomac. Seven of the eight runs scored with two outs. Frias, who was pitching in his third inning and had been the scheduled starter prior to Thursday night’s rainout, gave up back-to-back singles and was lifted for A.J. Morris, who struck out the first batter he faced, walked a batter to load the bases, and got a ground ball that erased the runner at second for the second out, the lead still intact at 6-2 with runners at the corner.

Then he gave up a single, the lead now 6-3, runners at first and second. All quiet on the bullpen front.

Then he gave up another single, bases loaded. Bullpen mounds unoccupied.

Then he gave up another single, two runs score, runner takes second on the throw home. The lead now just 6-5. Bullpen finally up and active.

Then he gave up another single, two runs score, runner takes second on the throw home, the Dash now up 7-6.

Manager Gary Cathcart finally lifted Morris for Patrick McCoy. Duly cursed by being named for this week’s “GBI,” McCoy promptly gave up the first extra-base hit, a double, then a single to complete the rally before finally getting a tapper to the mound for the third and final out.

Potomac would scratch out single runs in the eighth and ninth innings, but the number that jumps from the scorebook is 15. That’s the number of runners left on base, as the P-Nats would go just 3-for-16 with RISP.

Tyler Moore continues to be hotter than a two-dollar pistol as doubled to right field for two runs and launched a moonshot down the LF line for home run number 26 and RBI number 97. Starter Jimmy Barthmaier labored through five innings, but kept the Dash scoreless on three hits and one walk.

The loss blew an opportunity to gain ground on second-place Wilmington, as the Lynchburg Hillcats shut them out 7-0. Potomac still holds a 1½ game lead (two in the loss column) with staff ace Adrian Alaniz (6-4, 2.44) set to pitch against Joe Serafin (1-3, 6.21).

Aug 132010
 

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

SYRACUSE 62-57, 3rd place IL North, 7½ games back

Good Danny Espinosa .536SLG since promotion
Bad Catchers not named Wilson Ramos: .208 BA/.297 SLG
Interesting Joe Bisenius 0.88WHIP, .190OBA in first 6 appearances

HARRISBURG 62-55, 3rd place, 5 games back, EL (1 game behind wild-card leader)

Good Marvin Lowrance .296/.389/.472 in 79G
Bad Zach Dials 2.11WHIP, .370OBA in 10G before trip to DL
Interesting 34 different pitchers have pitched for the Senators

POTOMAC
25-19 in 2nd Half, 1st place by 2 games in CrL North

Good Tyler Moore .375/.395/.775 in August (yes, I’m picking the low-hanging fruit)
Bad Francisco Soriano 5E in 8G for Potomac; 37E in 99G overall
Interesting Jose Lozada .333/.326/.524 in 11G since Soriano promotion

HAGERSTOWN
18-28 in 2nd Half, last place in SAL North, 9½ games back

Good Adrian Sanchez .441/.457/.529 since promotion from GCL
Bad Stephen King 26K in 22G, .167BA since promotion from Vermont
Interesting Jeff Kobernus has not played since August 1; hit .342 in July

VERMONT
28-24, 1st Place Stedler Division of NY-Penn League, 1 game ahead

Good Kevin Cahill 1.62ERA, 1.14WHIP in 9G
Bad Jack Walker .105/.320/.105 in 20G
Interesting Chad Mozingo 25BB in 42G

GCL NATIONALS
16-26, 5th place GCL East Division, 11 games back, Elimination No: 5

Good Randolph Oduber .451 OBP, 14SB, 0E in 27G
Bad Mike Gallo 2.07WHIP, 10.93ERA, 21H in 14IP
Interesting Angel Montilla .280/.352/.392

DSL NATIONALS
32-31, 5th place B.C. South Division, 10 games back, Eliminated From Playoffs

Good Antonio Guzman 80K in 70⅔ IP
Bad Adderling Ruiz .195/.262/.248
Interesting Jorge Hernandez 2.05ERA, .194OBA, 0.98WHIP in 30⅔ IP
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.

Aug 062010
 

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

SYRACUSE 57-55, 3rd place IL North, 8 games back

Good Boomer Whiting, .403OBP
Bad Dan Leatherman 12H 6R in 1st 6 apperances [Ed. Note: Written before demotion]
Interesting Josh Wilkie 1HR allowed in 53⅓ innings

HARRISBURG 59-53, 3rd place, 6½ games back, EL

Good Tom Milone, 9QS in 22 starts; 1.52BB/9
Bad Edgardo Baez .134BA in July/Aug.
Interesting Chuck James 0.00ERA as a reliever at AA

POTOMAC
21-16 in 2nd Half, 1st place by 1½ games in CrL North

Good Tyler Moore 11HR, 40RBI since ASB (34G)
Bad Marcos Frias, 8.46ERA since return from GCL rehab
Interesting Dan Lyons .300/.475/.467 in last 10G

HAGERSTOWN
15-25 in 2nd Half, last place in SAL North, 9½ games back

Good Eury Perez .304BA, .441SLG, 17SB in July/Aug
Bad Josh Smoker, 7.38ERA in 19 starts; scoreless outings: 1
Interesting NDFA Billy Ott, 5IP 1H 0R 0BB 3K in SAL debut

VERMONT
25-21, 2nd Place Stedler Division of NY-Penn League, ½ game back

Good Ronnie Labrie .281/.384/.452 in 40G
Bad Taylor Jordan 23R, 32H, 3HR allowed in last 5 starts
Interesting Neil Holland, 1.77ERA in 12G as reliever

GCL NATIONALS
14-23, 5th place GCL East Division, 9½ games back

Good Nick Serino 0.98WHIP, 2.93ERA in 10 appearances
Bad Michael Taylor 12E in 23G
Interesting Adrian Sanchez, Billy Ott earning promotions to Hagerstown

DSL NATIONALS
27-29, 5th place B.C. South Division, 11½ games back

Good “Fred” Ortega 25SB in 50G
Bad Yamaicol Tejeda .050BA in 26G
Interesting Bienvenido Valdez 24BB, 37K in 50G
Jul 302010
 

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

SYRACUSE 54-52, 2nd place IL North, 7 games back

Good Jason Bergmann 2.19ERA, 1.16WHIP, .212OBA
Bad Chase Lambin .216BA, 31K in July
Interesting Adam Carr 4K in 2⅔ IP in AAA debut

HARRISBURG 53-53, 4th place, 8 games behind

Good Danny Espinosa .287/.324/.545 in July
Bad John Lannan 1 quality start in 7 AA games
Interesting Brad Peacock 7 scoreless innings in AA debut

POTOMAC
17-14 2nd Half; 48-53 Overall

Good Daniel Rosenbaum 2-0, 0.69ERA in first two A+ starts
Bad Jimmy Barthmaier 4H, 5R, BB, HR in return to A+
Interesting Tyler Moore 17HR, 73RBI leads all Nats affiliates (Pahuta tied in HR)

HAGERSTOWN
12-21 2nd Half; 48-55 Overall

Good Rob Wort 4-0, 5SV, 28K in 24IP in June/July
Bad Adrian Nieto .097BA in July
Interesting Paul Demny’s .240OBA is second-best

VERMONT
23-16, 1st Place Stedler Division of NY-Penn League

Good Chad Jenkins .192OBA, 1.11WHIP system-best for SPs
Bad Jason Martinson 10E in 35G
Interesting Wade Moore’s 12SB is 4th highest total in NYPL

GCL NATIONALS
13-19, 5th place GCL East Division, 7½ games back

Good Randolph Oduber .366/.418/.620 in 17G
Bad Matthew Grace 22.09ERA, 3.55WHIP in first 3 appearances
Interesting Mills Rogers .393OBP, 16BB in 26G

DSL NATIONALS
24-25, 5th place B.C. South Division, 9 games back

Good Jorge Hernandez 0.98WHIP, 2.05ERA
Bad Jose Arismendy .196BA .208OBP
Interesting Juan Pena 4 OF assists in 13G as CF
Jul 232010
 

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

SYRACUSE 54-45, 2nd place IL North, 3 games back

Good Justin Maxwell .342/.432/.605 in July
Bad Jason Jones 20H, 14R, 7HR in last three starts (yes, we can fickle)
Interesting Boomer Whiting .264BA as a LHB (began switching hitting this year)

HARRISBURG 49-50, 4th place, 9 games behind

Good Jesus Valdez .315BA, 18RBI in July
Bad 13E each for starting 1B, 2B, and SS
Interesting Chuck James as a reliever: 3-0, 0.00ERA in 15G

POTOMAC
14-11 2nd Half; 45-50 Overall

Good Tyler Moore 18-for-30, 8-2B, 6HR, 19RBI in last 8G
Bad Nick Moresi .186BA in July
Interesting Justin Phillabaum, four runs allowed over last eight appearances
(vs. 11 runs allowed in first eight appearances)

HAGERSTOWN
10-17 2nd Half; 46-51 Overall

Good Eury Perez .328BA, 13SB in July
Bad Dean Weaver 0-2, five blown saves since return from DL on Jun. 16
Interesting Ben Graham 8K, 5H, 0BB in first four appearances (6⅔ IP) since promotion

VERMONT
22-11, 1st Place Stedler Division of NY-Penn League

Good David Freitas .443BA during 18-game hit streak
Bad Taylor Jordan 0-1, 7.94ERA in July
Interesting Neil Holland 0.66ERA, 1.02WHIP, 14K in 9 appearances (13⅔ IP)

GCL NATIONALS
11-15, 4th place GCL East Division, 7 games back

Good Adrian Sanchez .375/.390/.600 in 19G
Bad Estarlin Martinez .150/.209/.275 in 14G
Interesting Billy Ott 1-0, SV, 0.60ERA, 0.87WHIP in 5G

DSL NATIONALS
23-19, 5th place B.C. South Division, 4 games back

Good 18-y.o. Wirkin Estevez 5-3, 2.44ERA, 61K in 51⅔ IP
Bad Jorge De La Cruz, 9.28ERA, 2.25WHIP, 6HB in 7G
Interesting Nelalexfred Ortega 15/16 in stolen-base attempts
Jul 202010
 

Only the rain could stop the P-Nats last night, as they pummeled the Salem Red Sox 13-0 for a season-high fourth straight win.

Fresh off his Carolina League Player Of The Week Honors, Tyler Moore made his campaign to make it back-to-back with a 4-for-5 night, including two doubles and a home run. His hot streak coincides with the current home stand, as the 23-year-old Mississppian has gone 12-for-20 with seven doubles, three home runs, and 13 RBI over the past four games.

Adrian Alaniz, who had been piggybacking onto Jordan Zimmermann’s rehab appearances, made the start last night when Zimmermann was scratched with a stiff neck. Alaniz went six scoreless innings, allowing just three hits and walk while striking out four.

Joining Moore in the 15-hit onslaught were recently reactivated Michael Burgess, who sliced an RBI single to right in his first at-bat and went 2-for-4 with a double, a walk and three runs scored, and Josh Johnson, who went 3-for-5 with a double and an RBI. Bill Rhinehart and Jose Lozada also went deep.

The victory puts Potomac at 13-9 in the second half, two games behind first-place Wilmington.

###

Quick Hits…

…InsideNova.com’s Dave Utnik is reporting that Zimmermann will next throw on Wednesday night.

…Danny Rosenbaum has been promoted from Hagerstown and will make his Carolina League debut tonight against Salem

…Making room for Rosenbaum, Jesse Estrada was released. Making room for Burgess, Wilberto Ortiz returned to the DL

…Utnik also reported that Scott Olsen threw a bullpen session prior to last night’s game and will start on Thursday

Jul 172010
 

Folks who showed up an inning late, missed a whole lot of action. So did the folks who went home early, as the Potomac Nationals somehow prevailed 8-7 despite spotting the Kinston Indians three runs early and two runs late.

Rehab starts are overrated. It’s not just a snarky tag, it’s a cold, hard truth about minor-league baseball. Tyler Walker was the latest to victimize the fans at Woodbridge put teeth into this saw, walking four and striking out two while facing just seven batters in the top of the first inning. He was charged with three runs, as reliever Patrick McCoy walked one and struck out one in his brief, and undoubtedly unexpected appearance.

To their credit, the P-Nats showed their mettle by immediately loading the bases on a Josh Johnson single, a double by Steve Lombardozzi and a walk by Derek Norris. T.J. McFarland, a Carolina League All-Star, got taken to the woodshed by Tyler Moore, courtesy of a grand slam to left-center to give Potomac a 4-3 lead.

Marcos Frias, the announced starter online, came on to start the second and sporting a much-improved changeup, blanked the Kinston nine for the next three innings. McFarland reverted to form and matched Frias’s goose eggs.

The Indians would lead off the fifth with back-to-back singles, then went small-ball with a sacrifice bunt and a high chopper to first to tie the game at 4-4. Norris and Moore would go back-to-back with doubles to reclaim the lead at 5-4.

Kinston chased Frias in the sixth with two more runs, but the 21-year-old nearly escaped the jam. A single, walk, and a sacrifice-turned-single loaded the bases with nobody out. Frias only struck out three in his 4⅔ innings, but two of them came in this inning when he needed them most. A pitch-to-contact pitcher, Frias couldn’t get the grounder he needed from Kyle Bellows who singled to put the Indians ahead, 6-5.

“Dolla” Bill Rhinehart tied the game with a leadoff home run to right-center in the bottom of the sixth which is where it would stay until two outs in the ninth… when lightning was spotted and play was halted for 36 minutes.

The folks who remained were then treated to an improbable tenth inning. The Indians took the lead at 7-6 on a walk, sacrifice, and a single and nearly went up by two, but for Robby Jacobsen gunning down a runner for the third out.

With one out, the PNats got runners on first and second via a hit batsmen and a walk, and then the weirdness set in. Rhinehart grounded to first for what would have ordinarily been a 3-6-1 double play, except Kinston first baseman Nate Recknagle struck the runner at first base, Jacobsen, and the ball rolled into left field, allowing the lead runner to tie the game at 7-7.

Kinston’s throw from left was cut off and Rhinehart was caught in a rundown, the putout going 7-6-3-1. Jacobsen, who had taken third after the ball hit him, took home just as Rhinehart was tagged out, leaving the Indians on the short end of an 8-7 score.

With the win, Potomac goes two games over .500 for the first time the season at 11-9, three games behind Wilmington. Brad Peacock (3-9, 4.09) makes his first start since his complete-game shutout on July 5th (his turn had been missed at the Fenway Futures game rainout) as the Nationals look to take the series. Joey Mahalic (3-4, 4.15) takes the ball for Kinston.