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

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.

Last Night In Woodbridge

On a warm August night, the sunlight fading like the hopes of playing past Labor Day, the Potomac Nationals put it all together in all three phases of the game for a 4-0 win over the Wilmington Blue Rocks.

Three pitchers combined on the seven-hit shutout, led by starter Austen Williams. The 22-y.o. Texan was perfect through three and allowed three hits total through six innings. He walked one and struck out three to earn his fourth win for Potomac and 12th overall, which for what it’s worth, leads the Nationals minors.

He was followed by Derek Self, who was his usual self in turning in two scoreless but uneven innings with three hits allowed, no walks, and one whiff for the hold, his third for Potomac. Dupra closed out the ballgame in the 9th with one hit allowed and one strikeout.

Offensively, it wasn’t so much the bats as it was the legs of Rafael Bautista. The young Dominican drew a leadoff walk, then stole second and third rather easily, then scored on Grant DeBruin’s two-out single — the first of three RBI for the veteran minor-leaguer.

Two innings later, Bautista singled and stole second. In the 5th, he doubled, stole third (that’s four, if you’ve lost count) and stole home on a flyball to shallow center field, though technically it was sacrifice fly for Alex Keller.

In his final at-bat, he easily beat out a tapper to third but was picked off trying for his official fifth base. Final line: 3-for-3, 2R, 2B, BB, 4SB. In total, the P-Nats rapped out 11 hits, with DeBruin also getting three, and John Wooten going 2-for-4 with a double. They were 4-for-11 with RISP and left on just six.

With the win, Potomac improves to 22-25 in the second half but trails the Lynchburg Hillcats by five and a half games and just three games left between the two teams. Their elimination number stands at 18 with 23 games left to play.

The series continues tonight with a matchup of Brian Rauh (2-1, 2.21) for Potomac vs. Alec Mills (6-6, 2.73) for Wilmington.

Last Night In Woodbridge

Potomac fell behind early, the offense couldn’t get it going, and the bullpen was uneven in a 5-1 loss to Salem.

It seems like a broken record for the P-Nats, who continue to lose games in bunches. Their current losing streak is four games, and they’ve lost three or more eight times thus far.

Reynaldo Lopez got the start last night and was both wild and uneven. Much has been made about his velocity, but it bears repeating because it is still misunderstood: it doesn’t matter how hard you throw if you’re not throwing strikes.

Lopez threw an inordinate amount of breaking pitches compared to previous starts. The good news is that he broke off some really nice ones, helping him to fan five. The bad news is that he had tremendous difficulty locating his fastball and was seemingly behind nearly every batter last night.

The result? Salem was able to sit on that mid-90s fastball and tee off for seven hits, including two doubles and moonshot HR over the left field wall. He would give up four runs and walk two over five innings and suffer his seventh loss.

Offensively, Potomac wasn’t up to snuff as they were able to get runners on early, but hit into three double plays in the first four innings. Were it not for Salem’s defensive struggles (two passed balls, a throwing error) and errant pitching (wild pitch, hit batsman), Potomac would have likely been shut out as they managed just five hits total.

The two teams continue the series tonight with a matchup of Ian Dickson (1-0, 2.50) versus Salem’s Daniel McGrath (1-4, 3.86)