Nationals Minor League Notebook: June 22 and 23

By Michael Marzzacco

Compiled via team press releases:

SYRACUSE (AAA International League):

Thursday:

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Irving Falu smashed four hits, including a walk-off home run, on Thursday. (Danny Tripodi | Syracuse Chiefs)

The Syracuse Chiefs defeated the Buffalo Bisons, 7-6, on a walk-off two-run home run from Irving Falu Thursday night at NBT Bank Stadium. The long ball finished a four-hit game for Falu and marked Syracuse’s last walk-off home run since Jason Martinson on April 21, 2015.

Syracuse (24-46) began a rally down 5-2 in the bottom of the eighth. Falu led off with a single to right field, before Caleb Ramsey followed with a walk. A wild pitch by Wil Browning allowed Falu and Ramsey to move over a bag. Emmanuel Burriss doubled on a hard grounder down the third-base line, plating Falu and Ramsey to bring Syracuse within one. Stevenson advanced Burriss on a sacrifice bunt. With the tying run on third, Adrian Sanchez smacked a shot toward right field, over the head of Jake Elmore, scoring Burriss to tie the game. Sanchez attempted to stretch the double into a triple but was called out at third by third-base umpire Ryan Wills. Chiefs manager Billy Gardner was ejected for arguing the call.

However, the tie didn’t last long. Roemon Fields led off the top of the ninth with a single against Austin Adams. Fields then stole second and Jhonatan Solano’s throw went over the head of Sanchez, who was covering the bag. Sanchez blocked Fields’s path and was charged with obstruction for an error, allowing him to advance to third. Christian Lopes hammered a ball to right field, deep enough for Fields to score on a sacrifice fly, giving Buffalo a 6-5 lead.

In the bottom of the ninth, Clint Robinson smacked a liner off Chris Smith down the right-field line for a double. Alejandro De Aza struck out and Solano popped up to center.

With two outs, Falu stepped up to the plate. Falu already had three hits including a double. But his biggest play of the game came on a 1-1 count. Falu pummeled a high fastball deep over the right-field fence to give Syracuse the win. It was the second walk-off of the season for the Chiefs.

Falu pounded his chest as he rounded second base and shot his fingers up to the sky. He trotted on home and was mobbed and doused with Gatorade by his fellow Chiefs. During a post-game interview, Robinson dumped a bottle of Gatorade on Falu’s head.

Buffalo (35-37) had scored the first run of the game in the top of the first. Dustin Antolin hit Christian Lopes with the fourth pitch of the game. Ian Parmley then reached first on a fielder’s choice. Parmley stole second afterwards. Jason Leblebijian singled on a ground ball to left, moving Parmley to third. Rowdy Tellez then blasted a shot to center. Stevenson backtracked to make the catch, but the fly ball was deep enough for Parmley to tag third and score for a sacrifice fly.

Lopes led off the top of the third with a double down the third-base line. Elmore pinch-hit for Parmley and singled on a bunt. Lopes moved to third on the play. Leblebijian grounded into a double play but Lopes scored on the play. The Bisons were up 2-0 but weren’t done yet. Tellez hammered a shot down the left-field line for a solo home run.

Syracuse finally got on the board in the bottom of the fifth. Stevenson singled on a line drive to center to lead off the inning. Sanchez tripled to left-center, plating Stevenson. It was Syracuse’s fourth triple this season. Brandon Snyder then grounded out to short, but Sanchez scored on the play.

The Bisons got both runs back the following half-inning. Mike Ohlman led the top of the sixth off with a double off Cody Satterwhite to left. Two batters later, Gregorio Petit doubled to right, plating Ohlman. After Shane Optiz grounded out, Roemon Fields tripled on a liner to left. Petit scored on the play.

Syracuse hadn’t taken the lead all game until Falu’s homer to win the game. The Chiefs’s bats exploded. Robinson went 3 for 3 with a double, two singles, and two walks. Sanchez went 3 for 5 with a triple and double. But Falu’s performance on Thursday night at NBT Bank Stadium topped them all.

Syracuse returns to action Friday night against Buffalo at 7:05Jaron Long will start for the Chiefs while Mike Bollinger will pitch for Buffalo.

Friday:

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Clint Robinson, who went 2 for 3, celebrates after scoring the Chiefs’ first run Friday. (Danny Tripodi | Syracuse Chiefs)

The Syracuse Chiefs snuck past the Buffalo Bisons 2-1 in a Friday-night pitcher’s duel at NBT Bank Stadium. Irving Falu provided the game-winning home run for the second straight evening. Jaron Long threw seven strong innings, allowing just one run and striking out seven.

Buffalo (34-39) kicked off the scoring in the top of the second inning against Long. After a Mike Ohlman strikeout led off the inning, Raffy Lopez doubled on a sharply hit ground ball down the right-field line. Following a groundout from Gregorio Petit, Shane Opitz plated Lopez on a single into left field, putting the Bisons up 1-0. Opitz attempted to stretch the hit into a double, but was thrown out by Alejandro De Aza.

Syracuse (25-46) wasted no time responding in the bottom half of the second. Back-to-back singles from Clint Robinson and Falu led off the frame. De Aza then grounded into a fielders’ choice started by starting pitcher Mike Bolsinger which allowed Robinson to advance to third. In the next at-bat, Spencer Kieboom continued his torrid stretch at the plate, slapping a single into left field, scoring Robinson and tying the game at 1-1. Kieboom is 7 for 19 with two walks in six games with the Chiefs.

In the seventh inning, the hero from Thursday night’s walk-off victory, Falu, stepped to the plate with another chance to provide more late-game heroics. With the count sitting at 0-2, Falu walloped a high line drive off Glenn Sparkman into the right-center-field gap. The ball clipped off the top of the wall and bounced over for Falu’s fifth homer of the season and his second in as many nights.

The Chiefs’ pitching staff was sensational in the victory. The 25-year-old Long allowed one run on five hits and fanned seven batters in seven innings of work in just his second Triple-A appearance of the season. Erick Fedde, the Nationals’ top pitching prospect according to Baseball America, followed Long’s strong outing with one of his own, inducing three consecutive ground balls in a scoreless inning in the eighth. Austin Adams struck out a pair in the ninth, closing out the game, and picking up his second save of the season.

The Chiefs and Bisons play the third of a four-game series Saturday night at 7:05 p.m. from NBT Bank Stadium. Greg Ross takes the mound for Syracuse opposite left-hander Brett Oberholtzer for Buffalo.

HARRISBURG (AA Eastern League):

Thursday: Jose Marmolejos hit a two-run home run and had three hits, and John Simms allowed just five hits over 7 2/3 innings as the Harrisburg Senators defeated the New Hampshire Fisher Cats 10-1 on Thursday.

Simms (3-4) allowed one run while striking out eight and walking one to pick up the win.

Harrisburg scored in six different innings in the victory, including the fourth, when it scored four runs, including a two-run home run by Mario Lisson.

Shane Dawson (1-7) went four innings, allowing eight runs and 10 hits in the Eastern League game. He also struck out three and walked three.

Friday: Tzu-Wei Lin homered and had two hits, and Kevin McAvoy allowed just four hits over six innings as the Portland Sea Dogs beat the Harrisburg Senators 9-2 on Friday.

McAvoy (2-5) picked up the win after he struck out six and walked three while allowing two runs.

Harrisburg tied the game 2-2 in the third after Yadiel Hernandez hit a sacrifice fly and Jose Marmolejos hit an RBI single.

Portland answered in the bottom of the frame, scoring three runs to take the lead. Lin hit a solo home run en route to the three-run lead.

The Sea Dogs later added three runs in the fifth and one in the sixth to put the game away.

Kyle McGowin (0-2) went five innings, allowing eight runs and 11 hits in the Eastern League game. He also struck out five and walked two.

POTOMAC (High-A Carolina League):

Thursday: The Potomac Nationals (34-37) opened up the second half of the season with a 5-3 win over the Carolina Mudcats (36-33) on Thursday night at Pfitzner Stadium. After falling behind 3-0 early in the game, the P-Nats rallied for five unanswered runs in the come-from-behind victory. C Taylor Gushue homered to tie the game in the third and LF Jack Sundberg gave The Red, White & Blue a lead it would not relinquish in the fifth.

Carolina came out swinging to begin it’s second half of the season. The Mudcats bashed two home runs and three total extra-base over the first three frames against LHP Grant Borne (W, 3-2) to jump out to a 3-0 lead. 1B Jake Gatewood led off the top of the second with an opposite-field solo home run to right. In the third, C Max McDowell doubled and DH Jose Cuas followed with a homer to right in his first Carolina League at-bat.

Borne buckled down from there and eventually tossed his fourth quality start in a row for Potomac. The left-hander allowed three runs on five hits and a walk while striking out five over six innings of work. However, the three earned runs allowed on Thursday night were the most that the 23-year old has allowed in an outing all season long.

Potomac stormed back in the bottom of the third against RHP Jordan Yamamoto (L, 1-1). 2B Bryan Mejia singled to start and scored on a double off the bat of All-Star CF Victor Robles. Then, with two outs in the inning, Gushue got the green light on a 3-0 fastball and delivered it deep over the right-field fence. With his 13th home run of the season, Gushue snapped a homer-less drought of 23 games with the two-run round-tripper. The Potomac catcher’s 52nd and 53rd RBIs tied the score at three after three. 

The P-Nats took the lead in the bottom of the fifth inning. Potomac scored twice in the frame against Yamamoto to earn it’s first lead of the game. Robles began the rally after he was hit by a pitch for the 15th time this season with one out. After Robles advanced to second on a balk, Sundberg smacked a double off the top of the right-field wall and drove in the Potomac centerfielder. Then, Sagdal slashed a single to right to score Sundberg to give the Nationals a 5-3 advantage.

The Potomac bullpen closed down the Carolina offense the rest of the way. RHP Dakota Bacus and RHP Gilberto Mendez combined for three shut out innings. The two relievers allowed just three hits to close the game while striking out three. Mendez earned his eighth save of the season with a scoreless ninth inning.

In addition to giving Potomac the lead, Sundberg added three more hits to his tally. Sundberg now has 14 multi-hit games for the P-Nats in 49 Carolina League games in 2017. Meanwhile, seven of nine Potomac starters registered a hit in the two-run victory.

Friday: What looked like a comeback win for the second straight night for the Potomac Nationals (34-38, 1-1) turned into a massive come from behind 11-6 victory for the Carolina Mudcats (37-33, 1-1). Carolina scored the first two runs, Potomac then scored six straight, while the Mudcats scored the final nine runs of the game. The Mudcats plated three runs in the eighth inning, which tied the game, while five runs in the top of the ninth inning and gave Carolina the victory.

Carolina scored two runs in the top of the first inning against LHP Hector Silvestre (ND), but the Potomac starting pitcher battled back, tossed five innings, and struck out a season high seven.

Carolina started the game with three straight hits and notched four hits in the first inning. CF Corey Ray led off the game with a double, while DH Troy Stokes Jr. put men on the corners with a single. 3B Lucas Erceg made it 1-0 Mudcats with an RBI single, and two batters later, SS Isan Diaz made it 2-0 Carolina with an RBI single of his own. Silvestre stranded two men on base in the frame and did the same in the second inning.

The P-Nats answered right away with a run in the home half of the first inning. LF Jack Sundberg drew a one-out walk and stole second base. With two outs, C Taylor Gushue got Potomac on the scoreboard with a two-strike RBI single.

RHP Trey Supak (ND) gave up the lead in the second inning, as Potomac tallied another two-out RBI hit. RF Rhett Wiseman doubled with one out, while 3B David Masters followed with a walk. After Supak retired SS Edwin Lora, CF Victor Robles plated two runs with a two-out triple into the right-centerfield alley. Robles’ fifth triple of 2017 made it 3-2 Potomac.

Potomac extended the lead in the third inning, as DH Matt Page followed a double by 2B Austin Davidson with a shallow RBI single to centerfield. Supak escaped further damage, as the P-Nats took a 4-2 lead into the fourth inning.

The Red, White, & Blue built their biggest lead of the night courtesy of Robles in the fourth inning, as the P-Nats put together another multi-run frame. Masters led off the inning with a single, and two batters later, Robles hit an opposite field two-run home run, which knocked Supak out of the game. The righty allowed six runs, all earned, over just 3.1 innings. LHP Quintin Torres-Costa entered for Supak, gave up a single to Sundberg, but tallied consecutive strikeouts and ended the frame.

Though Silvestre gave up two runs in the first inning, they were the only runs against him. After the first frame, in which he surrendered four hits, the left-handed starter allowed just four more hits and posted four consecutive scoreless innings.

Out of the Potomac bullpen, RHP Tyler Skulina allowed a run in the top of the sixth inning on a double and two fly outs, worked a scoreless seventh inning, but failed to record an out in the eighth frame. A walk and a single knocked the right-handed reliever out of the game, as RHP Ronald Pena (L, 2-3) became Potomac’s third pitcher of the night. Pena got C Max McDowell to ground out, but then issued a walk to 2B Luis Aviles, which loaded the bases. Ray then stepped in and cleared the bases with a three-run double into the right field corner, though he got caught in an attempted steal of third base.

In the ninth inning, the first five Carolina hitters reached base, four against Pena, and the fifth against RHP Jorge Pantoja. 3B Lucas Erceg began the inning with a single, 1B Jake Gatewood followed with a base hit, while Diaz’s two-run double gave Carolina the lead for good. After Pena hit LF Monte Harrison with a pitch, the righty departed for Pantoja. RF Trent Clark greeted Pantoja with a three-run home run, which capped the scoring and made it 11-6 in favor of Carolina. RHP Eric Hanhold (W, 4-2) retired all four batters that he faced, as the Carolina bullpen retired the final 10 Potomac batters of the night.

Robles shined brightest offensively for Potomac, as the centerfielder tallied a double, a triple, a home run, and four RBIs in the loss. Eight different P-Nats recorded at least one hit, as Wiseman finished with Potomac’s other multi-hit game. The Carolina bullpen combination of Hanhold and Torres-Costa struck out nine and did not allow a run over 5.2 innings.

The third game of the brief four-game homestand is set for Saturday night at Pfitzner Stadium. First pitch is scheduled for 6:35pm.

HAGERSTOWN (Low-A South Atlantic):

Thursday: Greensboro first baseman Colby Lusignan launched a three-run homer over the 30-foot wall in center field at Municipal Stadium on Thursday night to put the Grasshoppers (1-0, 38-31) ahead for good over the Hagerstown Suns (0-1, 38-32) in a 5-1 decision to open the second half of the South Atlantic League season.

Hagerstown starter Sterling Sharp (Loss, 3-5) allowed back-to-back singles before Lusignan took him deep on a 418-foot shot in the top of the fourth. Those were the only runs allowed by Sharp, who became just the third Suns starter to pitch seven complete innings. The groundball pitcher induced three double-play balls from the Grasshoppers and allowed no walks with eight hits and three strikeouts.

The Suns plated their lone run in the bottom of the seventh. After catcher Jakson Reetz tallied an infield single and advanced to second on an errant throw from third, left fielder Telmito Agustin drove him in on a groundball single to left, cutting the Greensboro lead to 3-1.

Agustin led the Suns at the plate, finishing 2-for-3 with an RBI. Jake Noll tallied the only other multi-hit game for Hagerstown by going 2-for-4 with a pair of singles.

The ‘Hoppers added two more runs in the top of the eighth. Suns reliever Kyle Simonds gave up an RBI single before Lusignan lifted a sacrifice fly to left that tricked Agustin and popped out of his glove for an error, scoring Aaron Knapp from third. Lusignan got credit for the RBI and finished with a game-best four runs batted in.

Simonds exited after allowing two earned runs on two hits in the eighth and Phil Morse struck out two Grasshoppers in the ninth.

Greensboro starter Michael King (Win, 5-4) used only 67 pitches to shut out the Suns through five innings, finishing with four hits, one walk, and three strikeouts. Relievers Nick Neumann, Chad Smith, and Marcus Crescentini held the Suns to just one hit through the final four innings while striking out five.

Friday: McKenzie Mills retired the first 12 batters he faced and carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning as the Greensboro Grasshoppers (1-1, 38-32) went quietly in Hagerstown during a 4-0 shutout win by the Suns (1-1, 39-32) on Friday night at Municipal Stadium.

Daniel Johnson put the Suns ahead for good in the third inning with a two-run homer that reached the center-field bullpen for his 14th round-tripper of the year, leading all sluggers in the South Atlantic League.

The Suns scored again in the fourth. Anderson Franco lifted his 11th double of the season to the wall in center before Tres Barrera scored him from second on an RBI single to left, giving the Suns a 3-0 lead.

That was all the offensive support Mills (Win, 8-2) needed as he struck out four batters in a row and six of ten during a dominant streak in the first four innings. Colby Lusignan spoiled the perfect game with a lead-off walk in the fifth and Corey Bird tallied the first base hit on a two-out, groundball single into center field during the sixth. Greensboro added two more singles to load the bases, but Mills stranded all three runners when Lusignan struck out swinging.

The 21-year-old Hagerstown ace from Marietta, Georgia carried his shutout into the seventh and retired the Grasshoppers, in order, finishing his best start of the year with eight strikeouts, one short of his career-high, while walking just one batter and allowing no runs on three hits.

Mills is just the fourth Hagerstown starter to pitch seven complete innings this season and he’s done it twice in his last two starts. He finished just one strikeout short of matching his career-high of nine set in his previous start in Lexington and on April 19 at Lakewood.

Hagerstown added another run in the seventh when SAL doubles leader Aldrem Corredor tallied his second double of the night and Johnson followed with his third RBI on a two-out single to right-center field.

Johnson and Barrera each finished a team-best 3-for-4 at the plate as the Suns slugged six extra-base hits after settling for just five singles in a series-opening loss to Greensboro on Thursday.

Steven Fuentes followed the dominating start by Mills with one of his best relief outings. The 20-year-old from Panama allowed just one hit in the final two innings to secure Hagerstown’s first win of the second half and a team-leading eighth victory for Mills.

On Saturday at 6:05 p.m., the Suns and Grasshoppers meet again in game three of four at Municipal Stadium as the Revolutionary War weekend celebration continues.

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