Were it not for the presence of Ryan Zimmerman, this would not be one to write home about*.
* For the folks under 30, that refers to a letter written on paper in an envelope with postage stamp.
A sacrifice fly in the 10th gave the P-Nats a 5-4 win and pulled them within a game of 1st place in the Carolina League North. It was the fifth walkoff win of the season and the first time Potomac had won back-to-back games on consecutive days since May 5th and 6th.
The distinction matters because this is a team that has been reeling for most of May. The culprit is a lack of starting pitching, which, with the placement of Ronald Pena on the DL earlier this week, means the team has completely replaced its Opening Week starting rotation.
Brett Brach became the latest starter last night, signed away from the Somerset Patriots — same team as Zach Kroenke, who replaced Matt Purke in the Harrisburg rotation.
Zimmerman would give him an early lead, smacking a sacrifice fly to the warning track in right-center to plate Tony Renda, who had led off the game with a double and took third on sacrifice bunt by Stephen Perez. The soon-to-be 3B-1B-LF tapped out in the 4th, flew out in the 5th, and grounded out in the 8th as the P-Nats DH. He’s expected to play again tonight and tomorrow afternoon, perhaps appearing left field in one or both games.
Salem tied the game in the top of the 4th on a pair of singles and groundout in which the P-Nats couldn’t turn a double play fast enough to end the inning. The Red Sox basically gave away three runs in the bottom of the 4th with an error and three wild pitches that plated two of the runs with Randolph Oduber driving in the third with an RBI double as the P-Nats took a 4-1 lead.
Salem chased Brach in the 6th with a double ruled an error followed by a triple the right-center gap. Paul Demny made his 2014 debut but let in the runner he inherited and one of his own to tie things up at 4-4. Brach would finish with five-plus innings pitched, with three runs (two earned) allowed on three hits with no walks and seven strikeouts.
Demny would pitch a scoreless 7th but finished with one run allowed on two hits and two walks while striking out two. Bryan Harper took over in the 8th and blanked the Sox for two frames before giving way to Robert Benincasa, who walked two in the top of the 10th but was the winning pitcher, thanks to another sloppy inning by Salem.
Pedro Severino led off with the fourth Potomac hit and took second when Narciso Mesa was plunked. Both runners moved up 90 feet on a wild pitch, the 4th of the night for the Sox. Tony Renda struck out and was ejected. After wisely issuing an intentional pass to Perez to load the bases, Khayyan Norfork — pinch-hitting for Zimmerman — delivered the gamewinner with a flyout to center.
Game two of the four-game series will feature a matchup of RHP Dakota Bacus (2-1, 3.57) vs. LHP Cody Kukuk (1-3, 4.43).