Last Night in Woodbridge

Losing teams like to think that it’s luck that puts them on the wrong side of a one-run loss. Winning teams know it’s that they did more of the little things right.

The P-Nats have been on that wrong side far more often than not, as they lost 3-2 to the Hillcats on Friday night – the 22nd one-run loss this season (vs. ten wins by that margin).

After giving up a run in the 3rd—the second and third with two outs of out eight total by Lynchburg—Potomac demonstrated this “little things” concept three times in the 5th.

A leadoff single could have been erased on a grounder to second, but Bryan Mejia dropped the ball and could only get the one out at first, allowing the lead runner to move into scoring position. That was the first little thing.

The second and third little thing came on the same play, two batters later with two outs. A single to center gave Victor Robles a chance to show off his arm, but he missed both the cutoff man and the plate while catcher Jakson Reetz merely moved to the right and not forward towards the ball, perhaps with the vain hope of being able to get the tag on a runner who was off on contact.

The two things combined enabled another runner to move into scoring position, and you’ve probably already guessed what happened next: another two-out single that led to another run. Combined, the three things led to at least one extra run and possibly two, had the dropped grounder been converted into a double play.

Down 3-0 instead of 2-0 or 1-0, Potomac made it close with two runs in the 6th and threatened again in the 8th after a Robles leadoff double and birthday boy (24) Jack Sundberg’s sacrifice but couldn’t push across the equalizer.

The loss went to Austen Williams, who gave up all three runs on eight hits and a walk over five innings. Ronald Pena, R.C. Orlan, and Dakota Bacus combined on four scoreless innings of relief to keep things close.

Game Three of the four-game series is tonight, with southpaw Taylor Guilbeau (2-2, 3.79) facing off against northpaw Brock Hartson (4-4, 3.23).

Last Night in Woodbridge

Grant Borne turned in seven strong innings while the offense delivered in the clutch as Potomac evened up the four-game series at one game apiece with a 4-1 win.

Borne, who will not be confused with Aroldis Chapman on the radar gun, kept the Blue rocks off balance by throwing strikes and getting ahead in the count. The 23-y.o. gave up just two hits: a infield single in the 3rd and a one-out double that converted the one walk he issued into Wilmington’s only run.

For four and half innings, though, Blue Rocks pitcher Jared Ruxer was Borne’s equal as the two hosted a Star Trek convention on the Pfitzner scoreboard with nine zeroes.

Potomac got on the board first as Edwin Lora singled with one out, stole second, and scored on Jack Sundberg’s two-out single. Austin Davidson delivered the second run with a single threaded between the left-field foul line and Wilmington’s third baseman, but ended the rally as he tripped and fell between first and second ande made it easy for the Blue rocks to end the inning on a 7-5-3 putout.

After Wilmington cut the lead in half in the top of the 6th, Potomac got the run back on leadoff walk and a two-out double by David Masters. The P-Nats extended the lead to 4-1 in the 7th with a pair of doubles by Rhett Wiseman and Davidson, who made it to second standing up.

Dakota Bacus was summoned to close out the game and the 26-y.o. veteran delivered with two perfect innings to earn the save, his third of the season.

Game three of the four-game series is this afternoon as Austen Williams makes his second return trip from Harrisburg in as many seasons. He’ll be opposed by Cristian Castillo (5-4, 2.84) for Wilmington.

Last Night in Woodbridge

Sometimes one bad inning is one too many. For Potomac, that bad inning came in the 1st in a 3-2 loss to Carolina.

The Mudcats jumped on starter Taylor Guilbeau for two hits and two errors that were ruled as hits to score three runs. Just one of the four balls was hit solidly, a double to left by the cleanup man Jake Gatewood.

Guilbeau settled down to retire 10 in a row before the benches cleared after Isan Diaz stepped in front of Matt Reistetter while he was throwing to third to celebrate the whiff. Punches were thrown, bullpens emptied, but no one was hurt and no one was knocked down. Surprisingly, only Diaz and Reistetter were ejected.

Monte Harrison also went down by way of the K for 11 straight before Trent Clark doubled. Carolina would threaten briefly in the 5th but Guilbeau stranded another runner at second and got through the 6th. He pitched well enough to win with a line of three runs on seven hits, no walks, and five K’s.

But Carolina’s Cody Ponce was just as good, if not better. His one bad inning came in the third, when a leadoff double ruled an error by David Masters, a Reistetter single to right, and a Jack Sundberg triple got Potomac within one at 3-2. He worked around two walks in the 4th with help from a L5-3 DP and then gave up a two-out single to Matt Page in the 6th.

Ponce was lifted with two outs in the 7th and the Mudcats relievers were just about lights out, giving up two singles and striking out five of the last seven batters, including in the side in the 9th.

With the loss, the P-Nats drop to 1-2 in the second half and will shoot for series split this afternoon. Luis Reyes (5-6, 4.75), who was torched for seven runs last Sunday by the Mudcats, gets the starting assignment.

Last Night in Woodbridge

If you’re charitable, you’d call the 1-0 win by the Wood Ducks a pitcher’s duel; if you’re cruel, you’d call it a battle of who could hit less.

The two teams combined for just 13 hits – eight of them with two outs, which probably more than anything else explains the low score.

Both teams had just one leadoff hit. Ian Sagdal got the first in the bottom of the 2nd and was picked off immediately. Jack Sundberg followed with another single and David Masters steered him over to third on a two-out hit-and-run that might have scored Sagdal.

Down East got its in the 3rd and the runner moved up 90′ twice on a pair of groundouts before the lone hit in scoring position: a double by Matt Lipka that was justbarelyfair on the left field warning track and drove in the game’s only run.

The sequence made a loser out of Grant Borne, who was not overpowering (two K’s) but very democratic (11 groundouts) over seven innings. He walked one and gave up six hits total. Jorge Pantoja and Gilberto Mendez both turned in a scoreless inning and allowed a bunt single while pitching the 8th and 9th innings respectively.

After the three-hit 3rd, the P-Nats reached base just twice more: a two-out single by Sundberg and a two-out double by Victor Robles, who managed not to get hit and made an outstanding play in the outfield to gun down* Arturo Lara trying for two, which in fairness, he probably would have gotten against just about any other centerfielder in the Carolina League.
* The doubts I had about his arm late last year have been erased; he’s much stronger and more accurate this season.

The loss, Potomac’s 34th, also eliminated them from the Carolina League North’s first-half division title race. Game Three of the four-game series is tonight with Hector Silvestre (5-2, 4.55) facing off against RHP Jonathan Hernandez (0-1, 17.18) for the Wood Ducks.

Last Night in Woodbridge

Thanks to three solo shots, Potomac took the series finale from Lynchburg, 3-1 and earned a series split.

Ian Sagdal got the home run binge started in the 2nd, the first of two long hits as he would also double in the 8th.

It gave starting pitcher Grant Borne an early 1-0 lead to work with. The 23-y.o. southpaw’s lone run came in the 4th when the leadoff batter struck out but reached on passed ball from a curveball that Jake Lowery got a glove on before it hit the ground but jai-alai’d to the backstop. It was nevertheless ruled as a wild pitch and after a steal of second, the Hillcats cashed in the extra out with a single to right to tie things at 1-1.

Borne worked around a single and a hit batsman in the 5th before retiring the side in the 6th. He was charged with one run on three hits and no walks while striking out six but got the no-decision.

Tyler Skulina, recently signed by the big club in lieu of promoting someone from Hagerstown, showed the rust of someone who hadn’t pitched since last September as he got two quick outs in the 7th, then walked the bases loaded before striking out the last batter. He would get the benefit of Rhett Wiseman’s upper-deck (of advertising) homer in the bottom half of the inning to give the P-Nats a 2-1 lead.

Skulina hit another batter and walked a fourth in the 8th but wound up the winning pitcher. Austin Davidson dialed long distance with two out in the 8th for the third and final run for the Woodbridge nine.

Gilberto Mendez, who was lit up for four runs in the fist game of the series, bounced back with a scoreless 9th to earn his sixth save.

Potomac heads north for four games in three days against Frederick as the two teams battle for fourth place in the Carolina League North. Hector Silvestre takes the hill against the tireless “TBD” for Frederick.

Last Night in Woodbridge

Three Potomac pitchers combined on a four-hit shutout and climbed out of the Carolina League North cellar with a 3-0 win over Lynchburg.

All four hits were given up by the starter Luis Reyes, who won for the first time in three starts and did not issue a walk for the first time this season. While he was not overpowering, he did strike out seven over six innings.

Reyes also got some help with some bad baserunning. In the 4th, he plunked Willi Castro, who stole second and inexplicably tried to advance to third on a flyball to medium left field. Jack Sundberg connected with Kelvin Gutierrez with the average throw that was necessary to make Castro pay for the mistake.

As the low score suggests, Hillcats preying mantis starting pitcher Triston McKenzie was nearly the equal of Reyes on the mound (on the scales? Well, let’s just say “Oil Can” Boyd would call him fat).

McKenzie’s one bad inning was a leadoff single to Gutierrez, followed by a walk to Ian Sagdal (the only one he gave up in 7IP), then a bunt single by Sundberg. Rhett Wiseman drove in Gutierrez with a sac fly for the early 1-0 lead.

It stayed that way until the bottom of the 8th when a walk, a single by Matt Page, and another HBP of you-know-who loaded the bases with one out. Austin Davidson whiffed but Taylor Gushue, team leader in RBI, worked the count full and drove in the two insurance runs to give the Potomac ‘pen some breathing room.

Kyle Schepel took the mound in the 9th after two strong innings by veteran Nolan Sanburn, who survived an error and a passed ball that put the tying run on third with nobody out with some help from Victor Robles (snagged a line to shallow center) and Davidson (gunned down the runner at the plate on a high tapper to second), and set the side down in order for his second save.

The four-game series/homestand concludes tonight with a matchup of LHP Grant Borne (1-1, 0.96)vs. RHP Shao-Ching Chiang (7-2, 2.70)

Last Night in Woodbridge

OK, in fairness Joan Baez only hit one batter. Then again, he didn’t strike out any in three and 2/3rds innings, either.

What he did do is walk seven of 22 batters faced and five of them scored in Potomac’s 6-3 loss to Wilmington.

Perhaps mercifully, there was no official pitch count but even Steve Wonder could see it had to be close to 90 (even a generous estimate of four pitches per batter faced is 88), as the 23-y.o. struggled with his control, command, grip, mechanics – take your pick. At least twice manager Tripp Keister had someone up in the ‘pen warming to give him the hook before Taylor Guilbeau was finally brought in with two out in the 4th.

The lanky southpaw weathered an infield single before striking out the second batter he faced to strand Baez’s final two walks issued. He would go on to toss three more scoreless innings, followed by one goose egg apiece from Ronald Pena and Mariano Rivera III.

The Potomac bats got halfway out of the hole dug for them, all of them coming in the bottom of the 3rd. Bryan Mejia legged out an infield single to lead off, went to second on an Ian Sagdal walk, and scored on Kelvin Gutierrez’s RBI single. After a Taylor Gushue walk, Rhett Wiseman rolled a grounder to short, but the would-be 6-4-3 was botched as the “4” threw it away, enabling both Gutierrez and Sagdal to score.

The P-Nats threatened again the 4th but were victims of bad umpiring or bad luck as Austin Davidson drilled a double to the right-center gap and Telmito Agustin, who was off on contact because there were two outs, appeared to have passed third and on his way to scoring the fourth run when the ground-rule signal was issued. Instead, he was sent back to third, where he watched Sagdal fly out to end the inning.

The Blue Rocks pitchers settled down to retire 12 of 13 batters before issuing a pair of walks in the 9th, which they stranded to end the game.

Wirkin “For the Weekend” Estevez (0-1, 13.50) gets the ball this afternoon in the series finale, opposed by Christian Castillo (0-0, 0.00).

Last Night in Woodbridge

The score — Wilmington 4 Potomac 3 — seemed closer than the game actually was.

The Blue Rocks got to Jefry Rodriguez for three runs early, dinging the 23-y.o. for one in 1st on a pair of cheap singles, a walk, and a sacrifice fly, then a two-run bomb in the 3rd.

Meanwhile, Wilmington’s Emilio Ogando shut down the Victor Robles-less lineup on two hits and two walks on the first two passes, with just one runner making it into scoring position (David Masters, who led off with a single to left, took second on wild pitch, and went to third on a flyout to right).

After Rodriguez gave up back-to-back two-out doubles to in his sixth and final inning, the P-Nats answered in the bottom half via their unsung offensive threat, Taylor Gushue. The 23-y.o. “guy we got from the Pirates for Christopher Bostick” drilled a two-run HR (his fourth, which leads the Carolina League) to cut the score in half.

Two innings later, the switch-hitting backstop came through again with another clutch hit, a single up the middle to plate Telmito Agustin for Potomac’s third run and his 12th (yes, league-leading) RBI.

Southpaws Matt Crownover and R.C. Orlan blanked the Blue Rocks over the final three innings, but the P-Nats went in order in the 9th, including strikeout nos. 10 and 11 to push their season total to 88 in eight games.

The four-game series continues tonight with a matchup of Joan Baez (0-0, 6.23) vs. A.J. Puckett (0-1, 1.80).

Last Night in Woodbridge

Erick Fedde struck out 10 and retired the last 10 batters he faced while the P-Nats bats gave him just enough offense for a 2-1 victory over Wilmington.

Defense? Well, not so much. Matthew Page got the start at 1B and won’t remind anyone of J.T. Snow or Don Mattingly as he committed one error and was less than smooth on his other chances. But the 24-y.o. did go deep in the 4th to break a 1-1 tie with his first big fly since his callup on Monday.

Potomac got on the board first in the 1st with a pair of singles by Alec Keller and Osvaldo Abreu that put runners on the corners. The Blue Rocks’ Zach Lovvorn, who would go on to lose his 13th game despite a respectable 3.58 ERA this season, wild-pitched Keller in for the first P-Nat run.

Then we got a reminder that this is indeed Single-A ball: Max “For Those About To” Schrock reached first on an error that was ruled an infield hit, then, after a Raudy Read popup, Abreu tried to score on a comebacker to the mound and was easily thrown out.

Wilmington got it back in the top of the 2nd as Page fielded a two-out grounder to his right and then threw a strike past Fedde, who was not late in covering the bag. That plated Wilmington catcher Chad Johnson, who had doubled for the only extra-base hit Fedde would give up.

Fedde took the defense out of the equation for three straight whiffs before giving up another two-out hit in the 3rd. After Osvaldo Abreu committed the second two-out error by Potomac, Page got the grounder to end the 3rd inning.

That out started a string of dominance for the Nats’ #1 pick in 2014 as he retired 13 of 14 batters with only a Willie Mays Hayes “oops” single to spoil things. He would finish with a line of one unearned run on five hits over seven innings, with no walks and a career-high 10 strikeouts to win his sixth game.

The Potomac bullpen held the 2-1 lead with a scoreless 8th from R.C. Orlan for hold #6 and a 1-2-3 ninth from Ryan Brinley for save #12, his second in as many appearances since dropping down from AA.

The series continues tonight with Matthew Crownover (2-4, 4.79) taking the hill against Corey Ray (6-5, 5.21) for Wilmington.

Last Night in Woodbridge

“Do you think he’ll make it back to double-A?”

The question was asked about Drew Vettleson last night in Woodbridge. While the answer may still be “probably not,” the 25-year-old made his case with four hits, a career-high six RBI, and a pair of home runs – including two-run, walkoff shot that gave Potomac an improbable 9-8 win over Winston-Salem.

Early on, it seemed even less likely as the Dash scored three times in the first, aided and abetted by back-to-back errors with one out: Whit Mayberry throwing a pickoff into the stands and Osvaldo Abreu handling a slow grounder like a greased pig (pro tip: wait until after it’s been slaughtered).

Mayberry was also hit hard in the inning, with two sharp singles to left and a double to the left-center gap and a sinking liner to shallow centerfield that CF Dale Carey just made it to and caught for the third out to end the rally.

But after walking the first batter of the 2nd, Mayberry regained his form and retired 13 straight as the Winston-Salem batters went up hunting fastballs and went over, under, and around changeups and curves.

Meanwhile, Dash pitcher Jordan Stephens retired the first six batters he faced, including a whiff of Ryan Zimmerman to end the 1st, and was in control as he worked around a single in the 3rd and a double in the 4th.

Stephens’s shutout bid went over the right field wall to lead off the 5th via Vettleson’s first home run. The two faced off again just inning later and Vettleson took away the “W” with a two-run single to tie the game at 3-3.

Winston-Salem’s Marcus Davis found the pitch he was looking for from Mayberry and homered to lead off the 7th. The 26-y.o. finished the inning and left down 4-3, with four runs charged (two earned) on five hits and a walk and three strikeouts.

It looked like his teammates would get him the win as they went to town on the first Dash reliever and scored four times to take a 7-4 lead. Rehabbing Sammy Solis gave up a leadoff single in the 8th, then struck out the side to earn the hold.

Alas, this is still “A” ball, where a three-run lead isn’t big enough for some relievers and umpires aren’t always consistent. Justin Thomas was the former, as he loaded the bases with one out on a single, walk, and a hit batsman. Chris Marco was the latter and wouldn’t ring up pinch-hitter Telvin Nash on a two-strike fastball that painted the black.

Given a new life, the 248-lb. slugger turned a 3-2 pitch into an 8-7 lead with a grand slam.

Manager Tripp Keister took Thomas out and put in Wirkin “For the Weekend” Estevez, who fanned the next two batters to end the 9th.

A walk by the “Orange” and a failed sacrifice by Alec Keller brought up Vettleson for a fifth AB and the veteran drilled a shot to the right-center gap that had, at the very least, “tie ballgame” written on it. But the line drive didn’t drop until after it cleared the wall, and as the pic shows above, the bench emptied for the celebration, with the god-awful song of the same name playing over the speakers.

With the win, Potomac improves to 17-9 in the second half but still trails Lynchburg by a half game. The five-game series continues tonight with a twi-night twinbill to make up last month’s rainout. Austen Williams (0-3, 4.91) gets the call in Game One vs. Zach Thompson (1-0, 6.55) while Trey Lambert (0-0, 4.63) goes against Kelvis Valerio (3-3, 4.70) in Game Two.