Nationals Minor League Notebook: June 17 and 18th

By Michael Marzzacco

Compiled via team press releases:

SYRACUSE (AAA International League):

Saturday: The Syracuse Chiefs fell to the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, 5-2, Saturday night at Coca-Cola Park. Adrian Sanchez homered for the Chiefs in the win. Syracuse got an appearance from Sammy Solis on Major-League rehab, who threw a 1-2-3 seventh in his second outing on rehab. Andrew Stevenson went 4-for-4 for the Chiefs, and has hits in seven of his eight at-bats in the series with two doubles and a triple.

Lehigh Valley (44-24) began the scoring in the third inning. Angelo Mora singled with one out against Dustin Antolin, moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by the pitcher Tom Eshelman, and scored on Pedro Florimon’s RBI single for a 1-0 lead.
Syracuse (21-43) grabbed the lead a half-inning later. Eshelman issued a rare walk to Clint Robinson with two outs, only Eshelman’s sixth of the year in 55 and two-thirds innings. Sanchez made him pay with his fourth home run of the season over the left-field fence, to give the Chiefs a 2-1 lead.
But the IronPigs answered back in the bottom of the fourth. Brock Stassi and Jorge Alfaro singled and Dylan Cozens walked to load the bases with no-one out. Rhys Hoskins then hit a sacrifice fly to center field to tie the game at two. After a strikeout, Antolin walked Hector Gomez to reload the bases, and Mora stroked a two-run single to left field to score Alfaro and Cozens for a 4-2 advantage.
Lehigh Valley added a fifth run on Nick Williams’ solo home run to lead off the sixth against Cody Satterwhite.

Sunday: The Syracuse Chiefs scored three runs in the seventh and eighth innings, and put the tying run on third base with one out in the ninth, but fell by one to the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, 4-3, Sunday afternoon. With runners on first and third and one out in the ninth, IronPigs reliever Jesen Therrien struck out Wilmer Difo and got Irving Falu to groundout to clinch the win. Jhonatan Solano had three hits for the Chiefs.

Lehigh Valley (45-24) pounced for two quick runs in the first inning against Jaron Long. Cam Perkins hit the first pitch from Long down the left-field line for a leadoff double. Pedro Florimon then sacrificed Perkins to third on a bunt, and then Jorge Alfaro grounded out to short, scoring Perkins for a 1-0 lead. Dylan Cozens then hit his league leading 16th home run of the season for a 2-0 IronPigs advantage.
The IronPigs added an unearned run in the fourth. Angelo Mora doubled off the right-field fence. Caleb Ramsey fielded off the wall in right, and his throw to second bounced high of Wilmer Difo, allowing Mora to advance to third on the throwing error. Mora scored a batter later on Jorge Flores’ single, chopped over the drawn-infield into left for a 3-0 lead.
Pedro Florimon added to the scoring with a solo home run to lead off the bottom of the fifth for a 4-0 edge.
Syracuse (21-44) started the comeback in the seventh after Mark Leiter threw six innings of two-hit ball for the IronPigs. Brandon Snyder led off the seventh with a double against Colton Murray and moved to third two batters later on Adrian Sanchez‘s single. Andrew Stevenson followed with a ground ball to second, where Flores fielded but could only get one out at second base, allowing Snyder to score to get the Chiefs on the board. Solano continued the inning with a single, and Caleb Ramsey singled off the end of the bat to left to score Stevenson to cut the lead to two.
The Chiefs came within one in the eighth. Difo and Falu singled to start the inning against Pat Venditte, and Snyder drove in Difo to make the score 4-3.
Syracuse continues its road trip Monday night at PNC Field against the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. Greg Ross is scheduled to start for the Chiefs opposite Brady Lail for the RailRiders.

HARRISBURG (AA Eastern League):

Saturday: Darian Sandford hit a walk-off single with two outs in the 10th inning, as the Harrisburg Senators topped the Richmond Flying Squirrels 2-1 on Saturday.

Isaac Ballou scored the game-winning run after he reached base on a walk and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt.

In the bottom of the first, Harrisburg grabbed the lead on a single by Yadiel Hernandez that scored Sandford. Richmond answered in the fourth inning when Myles Schroder scored on an error.

Both Harrisburg starter John Simms and Richmond starter Dan Slania delivered strong pitching performances. Simms went 6 2/3 innings, allowing one run and one hit while striking out eight. Slania went seven innings, allowing one run and four hits. He also struck out seven and walked two.

Derek Self (1-0) got the win with a scoreless inning in relief while Collin Balester (1-4) took the loss in the Eastern League game.

Sandford singled twice, also stealing a base in the win.

Harrisburg improved to 6-3 against Richmond this season.

Sunday: Miguel Gomez homered and singled twice, scoring two runs as the Richmond Flying Squirrels beat the Harrisburg Senators 5-3 on Sunday.

C.J Hinojosa doubled and singled twice with two runs for Richmond.

Tyler Cyr struck Neftali Soto out with a runner on first to end the game for his eighth save of the season.

Up 2-1 in the third, Richmond extended its lead when Tyler Horan hit a three-run double.

The Senators cut into the deficit in the sixth inning when Soto scored on a passed ball.

The Senators saw their comeback attempt come up short after Isaac Ballou scored on a wild pitch in the seventh inning to cut the Richmond lead to 5-3.

Richmond right-hander Jose Flores (2-1) picked up the win after allowing two runs on five hits over 5 1/3 innings. Opposing starter Kyle McGowin (0-1) took the loss in the Eastern League game after giving up five runs and nine hits over five innings.

For the Senators, Soto doubled and singled twice, scoring two runs.

POTOMAC (High-A Carolina League):

Saturday: After just two outs on Friday night, the Potomac Nationals (33-36) and Carolina Mudcats (35-32) had a game suspended. The end result was nearly 16 innings of baseball at Five County Stadium Saturday night. In the resumption of the suspended matchup, the P-Nats used seven strong innings from RHP Nolan Sanburn (W, 2-1) and two home runs in route to a 5-2 victory. In game two, LHP Jordan Mills (L, 0-1) allowed four runs in the first inning, as Potomac trailed from the get go in a 6-3 loss.

Friday night’s matchup resumed Saturday an hour later than scheduled due to rain, and began with two outs in the top of the first inning. The Mudcats jumped out to an early 2-0 lead, as an error by 1B Matt Page led to two unearned runs against Sanburn in the second inning. With two outs and a man in scoring position, 2B Luis Aviles made it 1-0 Carolina with an RBI single. After C Cooper Hummel drew a walk, RF Carlos Belonis made it 2-0 Mudcats. That was the final time that Carolina scored, as the Mudcats had just two men reach scoring position over the final six innings.

RHP Trey Supak (L, 1-2) entered out of the bullpen for RHP Cody Ponce (ND) when the game resumed on Saturday night. After two quick innings, Supak fell victim to the long ball in the fourth frame. CF Victor Robles led off the inning with a walk, while LF Jack Sundberg reached on a bunt single. After DH Austin Davidson struck out, 3B Ian Sagdal tallied his eighth home run of the season, a towering fly ball that stayed inside the right field foul pole. Sagdal’s home run put Potomac on top 3-2 and proved to be the difference in the game.

The P-Nats added a run on a solo home run by Page in the fifth inning on a ball that struck the left field foul pole. Potomac capped off the scoring with a run in the eighth inning, as a two-out RBI double by Sagdal made it 5-2 Potomac. RHP Dakota Bacus (SV, 2) worked around a leadoff walk in the eighth inning, and then took advantage of two nice defensive plays by the Potomac middle infielders in a scoreless ninth.

After the win secured Potomac no worse than a series split, the Mudcats got off to a hot start in game two. In his first start of the season, LHP Jordan Mills (L, 0-1) struggled to make it through the first inning. Mills walked each of the first two hitters that he faced and threw to nine batters in the frame. 3B Lucas Erceg made it 1-0 with an RBI double, SS Luis Aviles made it 2-0 with an RBI groundout, 1B Weston Wilson put the Mudcats on top 3-0 with an RBI single, while 2B Jonathan Oquendo provided when ended up as the deciding run with a two-out RBI base hit. The Mudcats led 4-0 after one inning.

Potomac got back into the game with a run in the second inning and another pair of runs in the third frame, but never got closer than two runs. 3B David Masters got the P-Nats on the scoreboard with a two-out RBI single in the second inning, Robles scored on a throwing error by C Max McDowell in the third inning, while C Taylor Gushue tallied his team leading 51st RBI on a groundout, also in the third frame. Gushue’s groundout pulled Potomac within two runs and made it 5-3 in favor of Carolina.

After four innings from RHP Scott Grist (ND), the Mudcats turned to the bullpen for the final nine outs. RHP Eric Hanhold (W, 3-2) threw two innings of shutout relief, while RHP Nate Griep (SV, 14) escaped a jam in the final inning.

Against Hanhold, the P-Nats loaded the bases with two outs in the sixth inning. Page doubled, RF Dale Carey walked, and SS Edwin Lora reached on an infield single. With a chance to give the P-Nats the lead, Masters flied out to centerfield. In the seventh inning, 2B Bryan Mejia led off with a single, while Sundberg walked with one out. With two chances as the tying run, the two top RBI men on the Potomac roster came up empty, as Sagdal struck out swinging, and Gushue flied out to right field, which ended the game.

Sunday: Despite erasing a five-run deficit, the Potomac Nationals (33-37) fell in the final game of the first half 11-10 to the Carolina Mudcats (36-32). The Mudcats tallied three home runs on a windy day at Five County Stadium, while a grand slam from Potomac 2B Bryan Mejia was not enough in a contest that took nearly 3:30 to play.

Carolina got good starting pitching to begin the game from RHP Marcos Diplan (ND), as the righty retired the first nine men that he faced. After three perfect frames, Diplan fell apart, as he allowed two runs in the fourth inning and another three in the fifth frame.

Before Potomac got on the board, the Mudcats tagged RHP Luis Reyes (ND) for four runs in the second inning and another run in the third. An RBI single from C Cooper Hummel in the second inning put the Mudcats on top 1-0, while RF Brandon Diaz tallied his first hit of the season with a three-run home run two batters later. In the third inning, LF Troy Stokes Jr. led off the frame with a home run, as Carolina took a 5-0 lead into the fourth inning.

The P-Nats scratched a pair of runs across in the top of the fourth inning. CF Victor Robles led off with a single and later scored on an RBI groundout by 3B Ian Sagdal. 1B Matt Page drew a two-out walk, and SS David Masters pulled the P-Nats within two runs with an RBI single. With two men on and two outs, LF Dale Carey struck out, as Potomac trailed 5-2 halfway through the game.

The Red, White, & Blue tied the game in the fifth inning. After the first two men reached against Diplan, Robles made it 5-3 with a sacrifice fly. DH Jack Sundberg drew a walk, which put the tying man on base. Sagdal tied the game with a two-run double, though Potomac stranded him at third base.

Reyes returned for the fifth inning but failed to record an out in the inning. The right-handed starter walked each of the first three men that he faced, while1B Weston Wilson made it 7-5 Carolina with a two run single to left field. RHP Tyler Skulina (L, 1-1) entered for Reyes and worked out of the jam, as he stranded two inherited baserunners.

With one swing of the bat in the top of the sixth inning, the P-Nats took their only lead of the night. RHP Conor Harber entered in relief of Diplan and had major struggles with his command. Harber walked both RF Rhett Wiseman and Carey, while C Matt Reistetter reached on a bunt single. With the bases loaded, Mejia fouled off three straight two-strike pitches before he deposited a grand slam over the short wall in right field. Mejia’s grand slam put the P-Nats on top 9-7.

The Mudcats immediately answered with a four-run sixth inning of their own. DH Lucas Erceg pulled Carolina within one run with a one-out RBI double against Skulina, while Wilson hit a three-run home run, which made it 11-9 in favor of Carolina. Wilson finished the game with a season high five RBIs.

LHP Quintin Torres-Costa (W, 6-2) recorded the final out of the sixth inning with a bases loaded strikeout. Torres-Costa then struck out the side in the seventh inning, but allowed Potomac back into the game in the eighth frame. Robles led off with a walk, Sundberg doubled, and Sagdal tallied his fourth RBI of the day with a sacrifice fly. After Page struck out looking, Masters took a called third strike as Sundberg tried to steal home. That was Potomac’s last gasp, as the P-Nats went in order in the ninth and fell 11-10.

Off of a series split, the P-Nats will head into the All-Star break. RHP Ronald Pena, C Taylor Gushue, CF Victor Robles, and 3B Kelvin Gutierrez have all been named to the Northern Division roster.

The 2017 Carolina League All-Star Game takes place on June 20th at Haley Toyota Field in Salem, VA. The 2017 All-Star game marks the first season that will not include the California League in All-Star festivities. For tickets or more information, visit salemsox.com.

The P-Nats return home and begin the second half with a series against the Mudcats on Thursday night. First pitch at The Pfitz is scheduled for 7:05pm.

HAGERSTOWN (Low-A South Atlantic):

Saturday: The Hagerstown Suns were in desperate need of a game going their way. After losing five consecutive road ballgames and being eliminated from first-half title contention in the South Atlantic League, they needed a pick-me-up. Saturday night’s match against the Lexington Legends might not have been exactly that, but it was a hard-fought game that went the way of the Suns, ending their season-long skid at five games. Hagerstown picked up the win 6-5 after surviving late rallies from the Legends and improve to 38-31 while the Legends fall a game under .500 at 34-35.

The game began in a very similar fashion to that of the game the night before, in terms of each team trading blows. Hagerstown struck first for the second consecutive night, though it was a slow and deliberate rally that ended with one quick blow from Aldrem Corredor. Anderson Franco walked to lead off the third against Garrett Davila (5-3), the starter for the Legends. With one man down, Telmito Agustin began a stellar night at the plate with a single on a bounce to second. Blake Perkins followed with a walk of his own, and the Suns had the bases loaded for Corredor. Known for being a doubles machine and someone who sprays the ball around, Corredor made good on both of those by yanking one down the right field line. It got all the way to the corner, scored three runs, and gave Corredor his 20th double on the season. Hagerstown took a 3-0 lead to the bottom half of the frame.

McKenzie Mills (7-2) got the start for the Suns and he was able to pitch around trouble all evening to eventually have a pretty solid outing. He nearly gave away the Suns lead in the bottom of the third, allowing a one out walk, a stolen base, and a wild pitch to put that runner at third. Emmanuel Rivera made sure it didn’t matter where that runner was, smacking his seventh homer of the season to left center to make it a 3-2 game.

The Suns again put runs on the board in the next half inning, while the Legends had an immediate answer. Nick Banks doubled to center field with one man down, and Tres Barrera did the exact same thing to the exact same spot with two down, trading places with Banks and making it 4-2. Agustin followed with a soft line drive to left field that got down for a base hit and scored Barrera, and the Suns now led by three, 5-2. The three-run lead was short-lived, however, as again the Legends came storming back with a rally of their own. A pair of singles to open up the bottom of the fourth eventually led to a one-out double from Joe Dudek to right field, a ball that skipped past Daniel Johnson, and plated a pair to make it 5-4. Mills was able to bear down and induce a pair of outs to end the threat and get the Suns back in the dugout with the lead.

With Vance Tatum on in relief for the Legends, Hagerstown added an additional insurance run in the sixth. Jake Noll led off with a single, and Franco followed suit two batters later with a single of his own to center. With two down, a theme for the offense as of late, Agustin lashed his third hit of the night up the middle to score Noll and make it 6-4.

Mills wound up becoming just the second pitcher this season for the Suns to throw seven complete innings, and even though he allowed four runs on six hits, it was one of his best starts of the year. He threw just 88 pitches and tied a career-high with nine strikeouts. Tommy Peterson came on in relief and let the Legends make some noise in the bottom of the eighth. A two-out rally emerged when Gabriel Cancel singled and eventually stole second base without a throw. John Brontsema drove a double over the head of Blake Perkins to score Cancel from second and make it a 6-5 game. Peterson was able to induce a groundout to keep the tying run on second. He pitched around a leadoff double in the ninth inning to lock the door for his fourth save of the season.

Sunday: The Hagerstown Suns and Lexington Legends were slated to finish up the first half of the regular season on Sunday afternoon and were hopeful of getting the game in with no inclement weather. Rain was on the horizon in the early evening and nearly held off long enough for nine innings to complete. Unfortunately, with a 5-5 game in the top of the ninth, Mother Nature decided it was time change, and severe thunderstorms rolled through the area, suspending play. The game ends in a tie and will not continue. Until the game was halted, the fans were treated to a pretty good ballgame to wrap up the first half. 

For the third time in as many games in the series, the Hagerstown Suns got on the board first and held the early advantage. This time the visitors broke through in the runs column in the second inning, with a crooked number put up by the bottom of the order. Jake Noll got things going with a single to left field, and Jakson Reetz followed with a knock of his own to right field, advancing Noll to third. With one man out, Anderson Franco delivered a soft line drive to right field scoring Noll and pushing Reetz to second, driving home the first run of the game. Paul Panaccione was next and reached on an infield single to short, but it scored a run thanks to a misplay at first by Manny Olloque of the Legends. The Suns would eventually load the bases after scoring those two runs, but could not score any more.

As was also the case the first two nights, when the Suns scored, so too did the Legends. Lexington exploded for four runs against Suns starter A.J. Bogucki in the second inning, though the defense did not help him out much. A single and an error for Lexington opened the inning, and a single from John Brontsema made it 2-1. Olloque atoned for his error in the top half of the inning by singling to right field, and he was aided by a misplay from Angelo La Bruna to tie the game. A stolen base from Olloque put two runners in scoring position, and a sacrifice fly and a single from Mark Sanchez later, the Legends had a 4-2 lead. An error played crucial in the fourth inning as well, after Marten Gasparini doubled with one down. Sanchez hit a dribbler back in front to Bogucki, and he threw wildly up the first base line, scoring Gasparini, and making it 5-2. Bogucki would end his day after 3.2 innings, allowing 5 hits, 5 runs (3 earned), walking one and striking out a pair. 

Hagerstown got things going again against Legends starter Travis Eckert in the top of the fifth. Blake Perkins singled to center with one out, and quickly Aldrem Corredor brought him home on a line drive double back up the middle. It was the 33rd run batted in for the All-Star first baseman, and it made the deficit 5-3. The Suns were able to chase Eckert in the seventh and finally take advantage of the Lexington bullpen. Perkins walked with one out, and Daniel Johnson was hit by a pitch with two outs. Eckert was done, and Jose Veras came in try and get the final out. He was unable to do so, allowing a single to Noll to make it 5-4, and a wild pitch scored Johnson from third base, tying the game 5-5 and sending a wave of momentum on the side of the Suns.

The Suns will send ten All-Stars (seven players, and three coaches) to the South Atlantic League All-Star game in Columbia, South Carolina, on Tuesday. The second half begins at historic Municipal Stadium, Thursday against the Greensboro Grasshoppers.

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