By Michael Marzzacco
Daily (almost) updates on the Nats Minor League farm system:
Syracuse (AAA International League): Sunday’s game between the Syracuse Chiefs and Lehigh Valley IronPigs has been cancelled to rain and a forecast of thunderstorms. The Chiefs and IronPigs do not play again this season; therefore, Syracuse will conclude the season with 143 games.
The Chiefs next hit the road for a two-game series at the Pawtucket Red Sox Monday and Tuesday. Syracuse and Pawtucket will play Monday night at 7:05. Starting pitchers for the series are to be announced.
Syracuse returns on Wednesday for its final homestand of the season. The Chiefs will begin a six-game homestand Wednesday at 6:35 with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. After two games with the RailRiders, the PawSox will visit Syracuse for a four-game set.
Harrisburg (AA Eastern League): On Sunday afternoon in Richmond, the Senators took a 5-3 lead into the bottom of the ninth but couldn’t hold it and lost 6-5 to Richmond. It was just the second time this season the Senators lost a game when leading after eight innings.
Trailing 2-0 into the sixth inning, the Senators loaded the bases with two outs and then Isaac Ballou singled to right to drive in two runs, though all four scored when the ball was misplayed in right, giving the Sens a 4-2 lead. After Richmond trimmed the score to 4-3, the Senators retook a two-run lead when Khayyan Norfork drove in Stephen Perez with a sacrifice fly in the seventh inning.
In the ninth, Richmond plated the tying run on a wild pitch and then scoring the winning run when a sharply hit ball to first wasn’t fielded allowing the winning run to score from second base.
Kevin Keyes had two hits in the game.
Erick Fedde started and pitched five innings, leaving the game three batters into the sixth after all three runners to reach. Sam Runion pitched two scoreless innings before turning things over to Andrew Robinson. Robinson took the loss and it was his first blown save of the season.
The Senators return home Monday night to take on the Altoona Curve at 7:00 p.m. It’s a critical three-game series for the Senators as they try to stay in the playoff chase.
Potomac (High-A Carolina League): Though it took more than the required nine innings, the Potomac Nationals (67-58, 33-24) finally got back in the win column, as DH Bryan Mejia plated SS Osvaldo Abreu with a one-out infield walk-off single in the bottom of the 11th inning Sunday night. The victory salvaged the series finale in an overall series loss to the Frederick Keys (63-63, 27-29) and dropped Potomac’s magic number for a playoff spot to nine games. The P-Nats are 5.5 games ahead of the Keys with 13 games remaining in the second half.
For the third straight night, the two teams played a close affair that could have gone either way on numerous occasions. Potomac took advantage of the long ball early on, as RHP Lucas Long (ND) entered the game with the second most home runs allowed in the Carolina League, and two Potomac home runs in the first three innings vaulted him to the top of that list. C Raudy Read got the P-Nats on the board with a two-run home run in the first inning, and 3B Austin Davidson hit his fourth home run of the season, a solo shot, in the bottom of the third.
In between Potomac’s two home runs, LHP Hector Silvestre (ND) had trouble finding the strike zone in his first appearance for the P-Nats since 2014. Silvestre walked five and struck out only one, though the Keys rarely capitalized on their 10 base runners over the first four innings. LF D.J. Stewart plated CF Josh Hart with an RBI groundout in the third inning, but after Silvestre issued consecutive one-out walks, which loaded the bases, 1B Cam Kneeland and DH Yermin Mercedes failed to drive in any runs. Down 3-1 after three innings, the Keys loaded the bases with one out and made it a one-run game on an RBI single by Stewart, but C Wynston Sawyer followed with an inning-ending double play. The Keys went 4-13 with RISP in the loss and left 11 runners on base.
After an erratic start from Silvestre, Potomac turned to RHP Jorge Pantoja to start the fifth frame. Pantoja opened his outing by hitting RF Conor Bierfeldt in the hands, but quickly erased the base runner with a double play. With two outs, Mercedes singled, 3B Jomar Reyes was hit by a pitch, 2B Steve Wilkerson tied the game at three with an RBI single, and Hart gave Frederick its only lead with an RBI double. Though once again, the Keys left two men in scoring position and failed to build on a 4-3 lead. Pantoja settled in and worked 2.2 innings before he turned the ball over to RHP Gilberto Mendez.
Long finished off a quality outing, as the righty faced the minimum over his final 3.2 innings. LHP Garrett Cleavinger, who struggled to throw strikes in game one of the series, gave up the game tying run in the seventh. After a leadoff strikeout by RF Drew Vettleson, Mejia tripled into the right field corner. 1B Matt Page followed with a fly ball to right field, and Bierfeldt’s throw to the plate was up the third base line, just enough so that Sawyer missed his attempted tag of Mejia. Page’s sacrifice fly tied the game at four, where the score stood until the 11th inning.
Mendez got the final out of the seventh inning for Potomac and then worked three straight perfect frames. The righty retired all 10 men that he faced. In the 11th, RHP Ryan Brinley (W, 4-0) got three straight groundouts from the top third of the Frederick order, which set Potomac up for a third walk-off chance of the night.
After three innings of one-hit baseball from RHP Ivan Hernandez, Frederick went to RHP Genison Reyes (L, 2-2) for the 11th inning. Reyes walked Abreu on four pitches to open the inning and gave up a single to Read. A successful sacrifice bunt by Vettleson put men at second and third base with one out. Instead of walking Mejia to set up a potential double play opportunity, the Keys pitched to the Potomac designated hitter with the infield drawn in. Mejia weakly bounced a ball over the head of Reyes on the mound, and Wilkerson was never able to make a throw home from second base. Abreu scored the winning run, as Potomac snapped a seven-game losing streak with a 5-4 victory.
Back in a first place tie with the Lynchburg Hillcats after Sunday night, the P-Nats, and the rest of the league, will be off on Monday. Potomac returns to action Tuesday night, as LHP Matthew Crownover (3-4, 4.73) will get the start for the P-Nats. Crownover was brilliant last time out, as the lefty did not allow a run over six innings in a no-decision vs. the Wilmington Blue Rocks. In their final trip to Pfitzner Stadium in 2016, the Salem Red Sox are slated to start LHP Daniel McGrath (7-5, 3.96) in the series opener. McGrath has allowed just one total earned run over his last two starts. First pitch Tuesday night is scheduled for 7:05pm.
Hagerstown (Low-A South Atlantic League):
Auburn (Short Season-A New York Penn League):
August 19: The Auburn Doubledays lost the final game of a three-game series to the Hudson Valley Renegades, 2-1, on Friday night. Daniel Johnson had two hits and an RBI for the Doubledays in the loss.
The Doubledays (22-35) scored first for the third straight game. Auburn’s first run came in the top of the first inning. Blake Perkins walked to lead off the inning. Paul Panaccione then laid down a sacrifice bunt that moved Perkins to second base. Daniel Johnson followed with a single to center field that scored Perkins to give the Doubledays a 1-0 lead.
The Renegades (35-22) tied the game in the bottom of the first inning. Jake Fraley began the inning with a single. With Garrett Whitley batting, Fraley stole second base. Whitley then struck out for the first out of the inning. Miles Mastrobuoni followed with an infield single that put runners on the corners. Jim Haley then grounded out to third base, but Fraley scored from third base to tie the game at one.
Hudson Valley scored the decisive run in the bottom of the sixth inning. With one out, Haley tripled to left-center field. Nate Lowe then grounded out to second base, but Haley scored on the play to give the Renegades a 2-1 advantage.
August 20: The Auburn Doubledays lost their ninth straight game of the season with a 4-3 loss against the Williamsport Crosscutters. Oliver Ortiz had two hits and an RBI for the Doubledays in the loss.
The Crosscutters (32-27) struck first in the bottom of the first inning. Jesus Alastre reached first base on an error. Luke Maglich then worked a walk to put runners on first and second base. David Martinelli followed with a pop out, and Darick Hall struck out for the first two outs of the inning. Luke Williams followed with a double to left field that scored Alastre to put the Crosscutters up, 1-0.
Williamsport added to its lead in the third inning. Alastre, Maglich, and Martinelli all walked to begin the inning and load the bases. Hall struck out, but Williams hit a sacrifice fly to center field that scored Alastre to give Williamsport a 2-0 lead.
The Crosscutters extended their lead in the fourth inning. With two outs and nobody on base, Evan Rogers hit a solo home run to left field to push Williamsport’s lead to three, 3-0.
The Doubledays (22-36) cut into the Crosscutters’ advantage in the top of the fifth inning. Tres Barrera singled to lead off the inning. After a Paul Panaccione strikeout, David Kerian singled to put runners on first and second base. With Clayton Brandt batting, a wild pitch allowed the runners to advance to second and third. Brandt followed with a sacrifice fly out to center field that scored Barrera and moved Kerian to third base as Auburn trimmed Williamsport’s lead to two, 3-1. Blake Perkins followed with a double that knocked in Kerian to slice the deficit to one, 3-2.
Williamsport added some breathing room in the bottom of the sixth inning. With one out, Brett Barbier homered to left-center field to put the Crosscutters back up by two, 4-2.
Auburn scored again in the top of the eighth inning. Andres Martinez doubled to begin the inning. Daniel Johnson then worked a walk to put runners on first and second. Nick Banks then grounded into a fielder’s choice, in which Johnson was out at second base, but Martinez was safe at third and Banks reached first base safely. Ortiz then singled to left field, scoring Martinez to cut Williamsport’s lead back to one, 4-3.
August 21: Postponed due to wet grounds. Doubleheader on Monday with game one beginning at 5:05.