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.

Last Night in Woodbridge

Rejuvenated with the additions of Victor Robles and Max “For Those About To” Schrock, the Potomac offense continues to roll as they took their fourth straight with a 5-1 win over Carolina.

It also helps to have some good pitching, which a well-rested Erick Fedde provided with six innings of one-run ball on three hits and a walk. The Nats’ #1 pick from the 2014 draft (18th overall) picked up his fifth win while striking out eight, the first time he’s had more K’s than IP since May 23.

The P-Nats got on the board first in the 1st with a Victor Robles walk, a one-out steal of 2nd, and a triple from Jose “Orange” Marmolejos.

In the 2nd, Robles was involved again but the hard way. After Alec Keller and Bryan Mejia singled and Austin Davidson walked, Robles took the first of three (3) hit by pitches to get the Homer Simpson RBI and a 2-0 lead.

Carolina crept back with a long solo HR to right-center by Braxton Davidson to cut the Potomac lead to 2-1. Fedde shook it off and rolled a grounder to third then went on a strikeout tear, finishing the fourth with a pair and setting down the side by way of the K in the 6th.

Max Schrock extended his hit streak to 13 with a two-out infield single, making it easier for manager Tripp Keister to pull the plug on Fedde (82 pitches, 49 for strikes) and go to the ‘pen. Tommy Peterson took over and retired the side in order in the 7th, fanning two.

Justin Thomas came on in the 8th and also set the side down in order, then with an extra two runs courtesy of Robles (sacrifice fly) and Schrock (RBI double), worked around a two-out single to finish the game and get his second save in as many outings.

The win improves Potomac to 11-3 in the second half, which is good for a 2½ game lead over first-half champ Lynchburg. Game Two of Four between the P-Nats and Mudcats has a lefty-righty matchup of Matt Crownover (0-3, 5.83) vs. Matt Withrow (5-4, 3.44).

Last Night In Woodbridge

Boone Whiting and Wirkin “For The Weekend” Estevez combined on a two-hit shutout while the P-Nats broke a six-game losing streak for a 6-0 win over the Keys.

Whiting allowed just two of the four baserunners he allowed to reach second base: an infield single and his own error in the 2nd, a two-out walk followed by a single to right in 7th. In between, he retired 15 straight batters en route to his second win in three starts against Frederick.

The final line for the new Daddy in his first start since returning from paternity leave: 6⅔ IP, 2H, 0R, BB, 6K.

Of course, it always helps to pitch with a big lead and Potomac wasted no time giving him one. Andrew Stevenson tripled down the right field line to lead off the game and could have played hopscotch on his way home from third as Osvaldo Abreu tripled over the head of the centerfielder to send the All-Star in. Jose “Orange” Marmolejos drove in Abreu with a double to right-center to plate Abreu to give Potomac a 2-0 lead after one.

In the 2nd, Drew Vettleson opened with a single, stole second and third while David Masters walked (quite literally in the case of the latter), and scored on a Khayyan Norfork sac fly to push the lead to 3-0.

After a Stevenson chop to third pushed Masters to second for the second out, Abreu drew a walk. Back-to-back singles by Marmolejos and Raudy Read pushed the lead to 5-0.

Potomac struck for the final time with two outs in the 5th as All-Stars Drew Ward (double) and Alec Keller (single) combined to score the sixth run for the home team.

Estevez came on to get Whiting out of trouble and stranded both baserunners by getting the last out of the 7th. “The Weekend” issued just a walk over the final two and 1/3rd innings while striking out four to close out the game and complete the shutout.

The five-game series continues with a doubleheader tonight at 5 p.m. Neither team has announced its starters, but recently demoted Austen Williams and long reliever Mario Sanchez have not pitched since June 5th and it would be fair to guess that one or both of them may tonight start for Potomac.

Last Night in Woodbridge

Another strong outing from Erick Fedde was nearly ruined by an MLB rehab, but the P-Nats survived scares in the 8th and 9th innings to take another from the Dash, 5-2.

About the only issue you could take with his outing is that Fedde put on the leadoff man three times in six innings. Winston-Salem batters reach second just twice — a leadoff double by longtime Dash 1B Keon Barnum in the 2nd, a two-out double by Brett Austin in the 5th.

In between, the 23-y.o. Las Vegas native ran the table with nine straight retired before giving up a leadoff single in the 5th that was erased with a 5-4-3 DP. Fedde finished with four hits allowed, one walk, and five strikeouts to even his won-loss record at 3-3.

Offensively, the lower half of the Potomac order carried the day with six of the nine hits and all five runs scored.

Bryan Mejia (1-for-3) doubled and scored on an Alec Keller (2-for-3) single in the 2nd. Narciso Mesa (2-for-3) led off the 3rd with a single and scored on a 4-6-3 DP, then capped off a three-run 4th with a two-run triple that brought in Keller and David Masters (1-for-3).

Matt Belisle came on in the 7th to “work on stuff” and was worked over by the last-place Winston-Salem lineup for two runs on four hits over two innings. The veteran reliever did strike out three in his third appearance since joining the P-Nats.

R.C. Orlan came on in the 9th and high-wired his way through the 9th with an Osvaldo Abreu error and two wild pitches bringing the tying run up to the plate with two outs before a flyout ended the game.

The win, Potomac’s fourth straight, improved the second-place P-Nats to 26-20 but that’s still 4½ games off the pace set by Lynchburg.

The two teams will meet this afternoon for the third of four games, with Boone Whiting (5-1, 3.45) taking the hill for Potomac vs. Jordan Stephens (0-6, 5.31) for Winston-Salem.

Last Night in Woodbridge

Luis Reyes issued seven walks and five-plus innings. Somehow, none of them scored.

The 21-y.o. Dominican was both lucky and good (well, at times) but was in trouble in five of the six innings he began. The lone leadoff batter he retired was also his only 1-2-3 inning (the third).

Frederick got to Reyes for their two runs in the 4th when he put the first two runners on with… wait for it… a walk and a single. The next batter chopped a high ground ball that somehow Drew Ward leapt for and snagged. He stepped on third for the force but couldn’t get the double play on the toss across to first.

The next batter sliced a double past Jose Marmolejos, who almost flinched in time to take a step towards the ball, and down the right field line. Dale Carey chased it down and kept the runner at first from scoring but Frederick got the first run in.

The second runner came in after, yes, a walk loaded the bases and once again Ward made the out but couldn’t turn two for the second Keys run.

Potomac answered immediately in its half of the 4th when Frederick’s Matt Grimes decided to get in on the walking fun, putting the first two on with bases-on-balls. Bryan Mejia laid down a bunt that Grimes couldn’t field cleanly and turned into an infield single.

Despite bases loaded and nobody out, the P-Nats just got one, as Alec Keller grounded out to second for an RBI, Matt Reistetter popped to second, and Cody Dent made his 69th out in his 85th High-A plate appearance.

The breaks evened out in the 5th when the Keys made a two-out error to allow Marmolejos to reach and moved him up with a wild pitch. Dale Carey tied things up with single.

Reyes issued walk nos. six and seven to open the 6th before Tripp Keister got the hook and called up on Mario Sanchez, who got some defensive help from Andrew Stevenson on a deep drive to the warning track in right-center for the first out, a liner to Marmolejos for the second out, and grounder to 1st for the third out.

Potomac scored the gamewinner in the last of the 6th on a Keller triple followed by a Reistetter double. The P-Nats threatened again in the 8th on a Ward double to dead center followed by a Mejia sacrifice, but Keller and Restetter couldn’t two-team again, as they made the second and third out respectively.

Sanchez earned the win with three strong innings, allowing one and hit and striking out. Ryan Brinley worked around a one-out single and a stolen base to pitch a scoreless 9th and earn his fourth save.

The series concludes this afternoon with a matchup of Phillips Valdez (3-1, 4.40) vs. Cory Jones (1-1, 3.94).

Last Night In Woodbridge

Potomac scored not once, but twice before Wilmington responded, confusing fans at the Pfitz as they cruised to a 5-1 win.

OK, fine. It helped that Luis Reyes has figured out the Blue Rocks*, beating them for the second time after getting manhandled 12 days ago. The 21-year-old Dominican struck out eight over five and 2/3rds innings while giving up the lone run on five hits and three walks.
* With a little help with a lopsided schedule that has had the two teams play 13 times in 22 days thus far.

Perhaps with a little better defense – a “wild pitch” and an error extended the 2nd by two batters and at least 10 pitches – Reyes might have gone six scoreless and one or two fewer walks.

As the lede suggests, the P-Nats have often gone up to the plate in the bottom of the first in the hole. While the sample size is small, even Stevie Wonder can see that with (now) a 12-0 record when scoring first and a 1-8 record when they don’t, keeping the opponent off the board early is the key to winning at home, which they’ve done twice now in the past three games after once in the previous seven.

Dale Carey and David Masters teamed up for the first run with the a double and a single respectively in the 2nd. In the 3rd, Andrew Stevenson drew his second walk and broke up a double play ball, which allowed Osvaldo Abreu to reach. The Potomac shortstop swiped two bags and scored on Raudy Read’s RBI single.

The Blue Rocks chased Reyes with a single, walk, and an RBI double that cut the lead to 2-1 before Mario Sanchez put out the fire in the 6th with a popup that stranded the tying and go-ahead runs at second and third.

Narciso Mesa, who kept the lead intact with a strong relay throw in the top of the 6th, walked with one out in the 7th and scored along with Stevenson on Abreu’s two-run single to extend the lead to 4-1. Bryan Mejia closed out the scoring with one-out triple and came home on a wild pitch.

Sanchez wobbled through the 7th and gave way to R.C. Orlan in the 8th. The southpaw closed out the game with two strong innings, fanning two and working around a single, to earn his second save.

The series continues tonight with (yet another) rematch of Phillips Valdez (3-1, 5.40) vs. Zach Lovvorn (0-4, 4.50).

Last Night In Woodbridge

They still gave up their customary six to the Blue Rocks. They still were sloppy on defense. But the lumber came out of its slumber as the P-Nats pounded out 13 hits and stopped a two-game slide with a 14-6 win over the Blue Rocks.

They only waited on (Wilmington starter Ashton) Goudeau until the 2nd inning, when they took advantage of two errors to score four runs, highlighted by Khayyan Norfork scampering home from second base on the second miscue and ending with a two-run triple from Osvaldo Abreu to take a 4-1 lead.

Potomac starter Boone Whiting couldn’t stand the prosperity and gave the lead right back with three runs in the 3rd. The veteran eventually would win for the second time in as many starts but with a Jack Morris line of six runs on ten hits over five innings with one walk and three whiffs.

In the 4th, back-to-back walks followed by a sacrifice by Narciso Mesa enabled Potomac to leverage its speed and score twice on an groundout by Andrew Stevenson and an infield single by Abreu. Jose “The Orange” Marmolejos-Diaz then, um, crushed the ball over the right field wall for a two-run homer to push the lead to 8-4.

Potomac would put the game away with a three-run 6th. A pair of walks and a single loaded the bases for Drew Ward, who emptied them with a double to the left-center gap, a ball hit hard enough for catcher Raudy Read to amble in all the way from first base for an 11-6 advantage.

Three doubles in the 7th (Mesa, Abreu, Marmolejos-Diaz) pushed it to 13-6 while a Keller triple and a wild pitch in the 8th plated the 14th and final P-Nats run.

Relievers Mario Sanchez (3IP) and Justin Thomas (1IP) combined for four scoreless innings of relief to close out the game.

Potomac will shoot for the 2-2 series split with Luis Reyes (0-1, 4.50) getting the ball vs. Colin Rodgers (0-0, 0.00) for Wilmington.