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 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).