Nationals Minor League Notebook: May 20 and 21

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Photo: @HagerstownSuns

By Michael Marzzacco

Daily (almost) updates on the Nationals four minor league affiliates.

From staff and wire reports:

SYRACUSE (AAA International League):

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Adrian Sanchez smashed his third home run on Saturday. (Herm Card | Syracuse Chiefs)​

Saturday: The Syracuse Chiefs fell to the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, 4-3, on Saturday afternoon at NBT Bank Stadium. The IronPigs came back to score two runs in the ninth and one in the tenth to win their second straight game.  A.J. Cole allowed just one unearned run on five hits in five and two-thirds innings of work despite the loss.

Syracuse (13-25) opened up the scoring in the bottom of the third inning. Right fielder Caleb Ramsey led off the inning with an infield single to shortstop. Two batters later, the starting pitcher Cole laid down a sacrifice bunt that advanced Ramsey to second. In the next at-bat, Rafael Bautista hit a pop fly on the infield, but second baseman Pedro Florimon lost the ball in the sun as it landed at his feet. Ramsey hustled around from second to score the first run of the game and put the Chiefs up 1-0.

Lehigh Valley (28-14) responded in the next half-inning. Taylor Featherston led off the inning with a walk. After Cole retired the next two batters, opposing pitcher Thomas Eshelman singled and advanced Featherston to second in the process. A Roman Quinn walk then loaded the bases for J.P. Crawford. The Phillies’ top prospect per Baseball America hit a soft ground ball to the right side of the infield. The first baseman Clint Robinson flipped it over to Cole who was covering the first-base bag, but his foot missed the base. The fielding error allowed Featherston to score and tie the game at one.

The Chiefs took back the lead in the fifth inning. Andrew Stevenson led off the frame with an bunt single, but advanced to second on an errant throw from the third baseman Featherston. A groundout from Ramsey then moved Stevenson to third. On the next play, Irving Falu drilled a line-drive single into right field, plating Stevenson and putting the Chiefs on top, 2-1.

Shortstop Adrian Sanchez extended the Chiefs’ lead with one swing of the bat in the sixth inning. The 26-year-old drilled a 1-0 pitch over the left-field fence for his third home run of the season and doubled the Syracuse lead to 3-1.

The IronPigs tied the game in the top of the ninth inning. Pedro Florimon led off the inning with a single off Chiefs reliever Rafael Martin. After pinch-hitter Hector Gomez flied out to center field, Quinn bunted toward Martin. The pitcher threw over the head of Robinson at first, allowing Florimon to advance to third and Quinn to move to second on the error. In the next at-bat, Crawford hit a sinking line drive that got down for a base hit in center field. A strong throw from Bautista nearly nabbed Florimon at the plate, but the Dominican infielder slid in just under the tag from Jhonatan Solano. On the next play, Cameron Perkins singled into center field, allowing Quinn to score and tying the game at three.

The Chiefs could not score in the bottom half of the inning and the game went to extra innings for the second straight day, where the top of the tenth proved decisive. The IronPigs took their first and last lead of the afternoon when Nick Williams hit a lead-off home run over the right-field fence off Cody Satterwhite, putting Lehigh Valley up 4-3.

The Chiefs rallied against IronPigs closer Pedro Beato in the bottom of the tenth inning. Grant Green doubled with one out and Sanchez reached base on a hit-by-pitch after a Rafael Bautista groundout. However, Beato struck out Brandon Snyder to seal the win for Lehigh Valley.

The Chiefs and IronPigs square off in the third of a three-game series at 1:05 p.m. Sunday afternoon at NBT Bank Stadium. Kyle McGowin is scheduled to take the mound for Syracuse opposite right-hander Ben Lively for Lehigh Valley.

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Chiefs Account Executive Josh Sexton and his dog Neo enjoyed the first Bark in the Park day of the season. (Danny Tripodi | Syracuse Chiefs)

Sunday: The Syracuse Chiefs fell to the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, 3-2, on Sunday afternoon at NBT Bank Stadium. Lehigh Valley homered twice in the top of the ninth to sweep the series. The Chiefs brought the tying run to third base in the ninth inning before falling short.

The game was scoreless until Syracuse (13-26) got on the board in the bottom of the eighth inning. With two outs, Brandon Snyder doubled off Michael Mariot to right-center field. Pedro Severino then singled to center, scoring Snyder.

Joe Nathan entered the game in the top of the ninth in hopes of closing the game. But on Nathan’s first pitch, Nick Williams blasted a shot over the left-field fence to tie the game. It was the 42-year-old’s first blown save in five tries and the second homer he’d given up all season. The next batter, Cameron Perkins, walked. Taylor Featherston then hit a 2-0 fastball over the left-field wall, putting Lehigh Valley (29-14) up 3-1.

The Chiefs struck back in the bottom of the ninth. Caleb Ramsey singled off Pat Venditte on a line drive to center with one out. Clint Robinson pinch-hit for Joe Nathan and also singled to center. After Rafael Bautista struck out, Irving Falu singled to right, plating Ramsey and putting the Chiefs within one. Pinch-runner Corban Joseph went from first to third on the play. However, Adrian Sanchez then struck out to end the game.

Kyle McGowin pitched six scoreless innings and allowed just three hits. His ERA dropped to 4.38, a significant drop from 5.79. The 25-year-old didn’t allow a hit until the fifth inning. Rafael Bautista went 3 for 5 with a double.

The Chiefs have an off day Monday before returning to action Tuesday night at 7:05 against Charlotte. Joe Ross is set to start for Syracuse while Carson Fulmer will pitch for the Knights.

HARRISBURG (AA Eastern):

Saturday: Jose Marmolejos hit a three-run home run in the third inning, leading the Harrisburg Senators to a 5-3 win over the Richmond Flying Squirrels on Saturday.

Wander Suero struck Miguel Gomez out with a runner on second to end the game for his sixth save of the season.

The home run by Marmolejos scored Khayyan Norfork and Alec Keller to give the Senators a 3-1 lead.

The Senators later tacked on two runs in the fifth when Neftali Soto hit an RBI double and Marmolejos scored on a wild pitch to secure the victory.

Richmond saw its comeback attempt come up short after Ryan Lollis hit an RBI single in the sixth inning and Myles Schroder scored on an error in the seventh to cut the Harrisburg lead to 5-3.

Harrisburg right-hander John Simms (2-2) picked up a quality start and the win after allowing two runs on eight hits over six innings. Opposing starter Matt Gage (1-4) took the loss in the Eastern League game after a rough outing in which he allowed five runs and six hits over 4 2/3 innings.

Schroder doubled and singled twice, scoring two runs for the Flying Squirrels.

Sunday: Drew Ward scored on an error in the second inning to help the Harrisburg Senators secure an 8-1 victory over the Richmond Flying Squirrels on Sunday.

The error, part of a two-run inning, gave the Senators a 1-0 lead before Khayyan Norfork hit a sacrifice fly later in the inning.

The Flying Squirrels cut into the deficit in the third inning when Chris Shaw hit an RBI single, scoring Slade Heathcott.

Harrisburg later scored in three additional innings, including a four-run seventh, when Ward hit a two-run double to help put the game away.

Harrisburg right-hander Jaron Long (4-4) picked up a quality start and the win after allowing one run on nine hits over seven innings. Opposing starter Jordan Johnson (2-3) took the loss in the Eastern League game after giving up six runs and 10 hits over 6 1/3 innings.

POTOMAC (High-A Carolina League):

Saturday: In the longest game in the Carolina League thus far in 2017, the Potomac Nationals (19-22) fell 4-3 to the Lynchburg Hillcats (22-18) in 15 innings at Calvin Falwell Field. SS Willi Castro hit a bases loaded walk-off single into centerfield with one out in the bottom of the 15th off of RHP Jorge Pantoja (L, 0-1). The game featured a 57-minute rain delay in the bottom of the third inning and took 4:31 to play.

Three of the game’s seven runs came in the first inning. 2B Austin Davidson doubled in the top of the first inning and scored on C Taylor Gushue’s RBI single off of RHP Shane Bieber (ND). The Hillcats immediately answered with two runs, as RHP Joan Baez (ND) walked the first to men that he faced in the frame, and then gave up consecutive RBI singles to C Martin Cervenka and CF Andrew Calica.

With the Hillcats ahead 2-1, the skies opened up one batter into the bottom of the third inning. The rain delay was long enough to knock Baez out of the game, while Bieber came back out and had his longest start of the season. Bieber pitched 6.2 innings, and despite 10 hits, allowed just two runs.

In relief of Baez, RHP Nolan Sanburn made his Potomac debut. The right-handed reliever allowed one run over five innings. In the fourth inning, LF Ka’ai Tom made it 3-1 Lynchburg with an RBI single under the glove of Potomac 3B Kelvin Gutierrez.

The P-Nats cut the deficit back to one run with a single run in the sixth inning against Bieber, as Robles led off the frame with a triple into the left field corner, and Davidson brought him home with a sacrifice fly.

Down to their final strike, Potomac battled through the ninth inning and tied the game up. With a man on second base and two outs, LF Telmito Agustin drew a walk, which allowed Robles to step up to the plate. The top prospect in the Nationals’ system hit a bloop single off the end of the bat, which plated Mejia, and tied the game. Robles’ hit was the second of three on the night and came against RHP Jared Robinson (BS, 1).

After five innings from Sanburn, Potomac turned to RHP Gilberto Mendez, who likewise went five innings. Mendez gave up just one hit and walked one over his five-shutout frames. For the 13th inning, Potomac summoned Pantoja out of the bullpen. The right-handed reliever worked two perfect innings, but then saw Lynchburg load the bases with no outs in the 15th inning. Calica singled, 3B Yonathan Mendoza reached on a throwing error by Pantoja on a bunt attempt, while RF Jodd Carter walked on four pitches. After DH Daniel Salters struck out, Castro lined a single through the middle of the infield and gave Lynchburg the 4-3 walk-off win.

In the win, the Hillcats left a season high 16 men on base and went just 4-16 with RISP. The P-Nats left 10 men on base and went just 2-10 with RISP. Robles, Davidson, Calica, and Castro each had three hits in the game.

Off of a third straight loss, Potomac will play a doubleheader on Sunday afternoon against the Hillcats. In an effort to avoid matching their longest losing streak of the season, the P-Nats will send RHP Luis Reyes (3-5, 5.36) to the mound in game one. Reyes enters off of his best outing of the season, where he allowed just one hit over 6.1 innings of shutout baseball vs. the Wilmington Blue Rocks. For the Hillcats, RHP Triston McKenzie (3-2, 2.56) will make his first start of the season vs. Potomac. The right-handed starter has allowed just four earned runs over his last three starts and gone at least six innings in all three.

First pitch of game one is set for 2:00pm on Sunday afternoon.

Sunday: After a 15-inning marathon on Saturday night, the Potomac Nationals (20-23) and Lynchburg Hillcats (23-19) played another 15.5 innings spread over a doubleheader on Sunday afternoon. The P-Nats scored three runs with one out in the top of the seventh inning of game one and eventually won 4-3 in nine innings, while the Hillcats escaped game two with a 3-2 victory.

Potomac got off to a slow start in game one against RHP Triston McKenzie (ND). The right-handed starter gave up a leadoff single in the first inning to CF Victor Robles but did not allow another hit in the outing. McKenzie took a one-hit shutout into the seventh inning, but he lost his command and walked the final two men that he faced.

The Hillcats scored all three of their runs in the third inning of the first game. C Daniel Salters reached on a strikeout/wild pitch from RHP Luis Reyes (ND). 3B Claudio Bautista followed with a single, while LF Ka’ai Tom made it 1-0 with a one-out RBI single, 1B Sicnarf Loopstok followed with a two-run double, as Lynchburg led 3-0 after three innings.

Reyes settled in and did not allow another run over six innings of work. McKenzie meanwhile cruised through 6.1 innings and at one point retired 12 consecutive hitters. McKenzie walked both RF Rhett Wiseman and 2B Bryan Mejia with one out in the seventh inning before RHP Jordan Milbrath (BS, 2) entered the game. Milbrath’s first pitch hit SS Edwin Lora, and 1B Ian Sagdal followed with a pinch-hit two-run double. After C Taylor Gushue pinch hit and drew a walk, Milbrath hit Robles with a pitch with the bases loaded, which forced in the tying run. LHP Billy Strode (L, 0-3) got LF Jack Sundberg to ground into an inning-ending double play.

RHP Ronald Pena (W, 2-1) worked three scoreless innings in relief of Reyes. After his first two innings, Potomac plated the go-ahead run in the top of the ninth inning. Mejia led off with a single and moved to second base on Lora’s sacrifice bunt. After Sagdal struck out, Gushue made it 4-3 Potomac with a two-out RBI single to left field. Pena walked a pair in the ninth, but struck out the final two batters that he faced and secured Potomac’s victory.

After the come from behind win, the P-Nats got out to a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning in game two. RHP Dominic DeMasi (ND) walked 2B Austin Davidson with one out, and Sagdal followed with an RBI double. The P-Nats led 1-0 after half an inning, though LHP Grant Borne (L, 0-1) failed to hold the lead.

Borned worked through 3.2 shutout frames before the Hillcats mounted a two-out rally in the fourth. 2B Yonathan Mendoza walked, while SS Willi Castro tied the game with an RBI double. LF Jodd Carter followed with an RBI triple, which put the Hillcats on top 2-1. LHP Taylor Guilbeau got the final out in the fourth inning, but surrendered when turned out to be the game-winning run in the fifth.

Tom doubled to begin the fifth inning and moved to third base on a failed pickoff attempt at second base. Davidson was charged with an error that proved to be costly, as Loopstok followed with an RBI groundout, which made it 3-1 Hillcats.

Potomac rallied once again in the sixth inning. LF Telmito Agustin led off the inning with a bunt single and went from first to third on two throwing errors. After RHP Argenis Angulo (W, 2-1) hit Robles with a pitch, Davidson reached on a throwing error by Castro, which plated a run. Sagdal flied out to left field before Lynchburg issued an intentional walk to Gushue. With the bases loaded and one out, 3B Kelvin Gutierrez grounded into an inning-ending double play.

In the seventh, the Hillcats made three spectacular defensive plays that secured the victory. RF Andrew Calica stole a hit away from Wiseman, Mendoza made a sliding catch in foul ground that retired Lora, and Castro made a play deep at the shortstop hole to set down Sundberg.

With the doubleheader split, the Hillcats secured a series victory and maintained a stronghold on second place in the Northern Division. In the series finale on Monday, LHP Matthew Crownover (3-1, 2.14) is set to start for Potomac. Crownover picked up the loss last time out, as he allowed four runs over 6.2 innings against the Wilmington Blue Rocks. For Lynchburg, RHP Brock Hartson (2-1, 3.16) is set to make his fourth start of the season. In his last outing, Hartson allowed three earned runs over a season long seven innings.

First pitch of the series finale is set for 6:30pm on Monday night.

HAGERSTOWN (Low-A South Atlantic):

Saturday: Trailing 3-0 with two outs in the top of the ninth, the Lakewood BlueClaws tallied four consecutive RBI singles to stun the Hagerstown Suns, 4-3, on Saturday night at Municipal Stadium.

Sam Held (Loss, 1-2) entered in the ninth for a save opportunity during his first game back with Hagerstown following a month-long promotion to A-Advanced Potomac. Held allowed four earned runs on four hits, all with two outs as Brett Barbier, Darick Hall, Henri Lartigue, and Cord Sandberg strung together base hits to the outfield in a dramatic comeback.

The Suns (25-16) suffered their largest blown lead of the season and dropped to 13-1 when leading after eight complete innings. Hagerstown is now 5-1 at home against division-rival Lakewood (23-19) this year. 

Hagerstown starter McKenzie Mills threw one of his best outings as a pro with six scoreless innings, two hits, one walk, and five strikeouts. He left with the lead thanks to Sheldon Neuse , who roped an RBI double with two outs in the third, scoring Blake Perkins from second.

The Suns added insurance with two runs in the eighth. Angelo La Bruna led off with a triple and scored on an RBI single by Perkins. Two batters later, Neuse delivered his team-leading 24th RBI on a single of his own. The 22-year-old shortstop, ranked sixth-best among Washington Nationals prospects by MLB.com, finished 3-for-4 with 2 RBI.

La Bruna mounted a threat in the bottom of the ninth by reaching second base after a single and a throwing error, but Lakewood closer Will Hibbs (Save, 4) remained perfect in save situations by striking out Perkins and inducing a game-ending groundout from Aldrem Corredor .

The Suns and BlueClaws wrap up their four-game series on Sunday at 2:05 p.m at Municipal Stadium. Hagerstown righty James Bourque (0-1, 3.42) throws for his first win of the season against fellow righty Felix Paulino (1-3, 7.23) for Lakewood.

Sunday: The Lakewood BlueClaws scored four runs against Suns starter James Bourque and never trailed in a convincing 6-3 win on Sunday afternoon at historic Municipal Stadium.

2016 first overall draft pick Mickey Moniak opened the scoring for Lakewood with an RBI triple to the wall in center during a two-run top of the first. The 19-year-old center fielder added a single in the third and scored two runs.

Bourque gave up a career-high 11 hits in six complete innings but Hayden Howard impressed out of the Hagerstown bullpen with three scoreless innings and just one hit allowed.

The Suns threatened in the sixth by loading the bases against BlueClaws reliever Zach Morris. Oliver Ortiz drew a run-scoring walk before Blake Perkins tagged Trevor Bettencourt (Win, 3-0) with a sac fly to center field, cutting the Lakewood lead to 6-3.

Hagerstown never drew any closer as Bettencourt tossed three hitless innings with five strikeouts and Will Hibbs (Save, 5) earned his second-straight save in Hagerstown.

The Suns (25-17) remain in first place atop the South Atlantic League Northern Division heading into a weeklong road trip beginning with three games against the in-state rival Delmarva Shorebirds. The series begins Monday at 7:05 p.m. with Carlos Pena (2-2, 7.84) heading to the mound after his career-best start last Tuesday at Asheville.

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