Nationals Minor League Report: July 1-3

By Michael Marzzacco

Compiled via team press releases:

SYRACUSE (AAA International League):

Saturday: A 13-hit outburst powered the Syracuse Chiefs to a 5-0 shutout of the Buffalo Bisons on Saturday night from Coca-Cola Field. Edwin Jackson tossed six scoreless and hitless innings in a winning effort on the mound. Offensively, Neftali Soto and Alejandro De Aza each stroked a trio of hits en route to the victory.

Syracuse (29-50) cracked open the scoring in the second inning against Cesar Valdez. With the first two batters retired, Emmanuel Burriss slapped a single into right field. Stephen Perez followed nearly a carbon copy of the hit from Burriss, putting runners at first and second. One batter later, Andrew Stevenson ripped a ground ball under the glove of the diving second baseman Jon Berti. Bisons right fielder Dwight Smith Jr. attempted to cut Burriss down at the plate, but his throw got past catcher Mike Ohlman. The throwing error from Smith allowed Perez to come all the way around from first to score, putting the Chiefs out in front 2-0.

The Chiefs tacked on another pair of runs in the top of the sixth. De Aza led off the frame when he hit a soft line drive down the left-field line. The first-year Chief beat the throw from left fielder Michael Saunders at second base for a leadoff double. Spencer Kieboom followed De Aza’s double with a hit of his own, a single into center field putting runners at the corners. After a Caleb Ramsey groundout, Burriss slapped a line drive into center field, scoring De Aza and allowing Kieboom to pull into third. In the next at-bat, Perez pummeled a sacrifice fly into center field, plating Kieboom and doubling the Chiefs lead to 4-0.

De Aza helped the Chiefs tack on an insurance run in the top of the ninth versus Luis Santos. With two outs, Soto singled into right field. With De Aza at the plate, a pitch from Santos got past Bisons’ catcher Mike Ohlman for a passed ball, allowing Soto to move up to second. On the next pitch, De Aza drilled a line drive off the left-field fence for a double that plated Soto and increased the lead to 5-0.

Jackson made his third start of the season with the Chiefs in a dominant winning effort. The right-hander carried a no-hitter through all six of his scoreless innings, striking out five batters in the process. Through his first three contests with Syracuse, Jackson has yet to allow a hit or a run in 12 and one-third innings of work.

The Bisons broke up the no hitter with one out in the seventh on a Shane Opitz single against Austin Adams. However, Adams threw two scoreless innings and Wander Suero closed the game to seal the shutout. The pair scattered four singles in the final three frames.

Sunday: The Syracuse Chiefs took down the Buffalo Bisons for the third consecutive day, 5-2, at Coca-Cola Field on Sunday afternoon. A.J. Cole continued the Chiefs’ strong run of starting pitching with seven innings of two-run ball. Neftali Soto picked up two hits, including his third home run of the season, to help lead Syracuse to victory.

After being no-hit through the first three innings by Blue Jays pitcher Aaron Sanchez, throwing on Major League rehab, Syracuse (30-50) broke the game open in the fourth inning. Nationals outfielder Chris Heisey, also on Major League rehab, led off the frame with a double into the left-center field gap. In the next at-bat, Clint Robinson drilled a line drive off the left-field wall for a double that plated Heisey. Then it was Soto’s turn to crush a pitch to deep left field. The 28-year-old singled on a 1-1 pitch off the top of the left-field fence, scoring Robinson. One batter later, with Alejandro De Aza at the plate, Sanchez tossed a wild pitch past Bisons catcher Raffy Lopez, allowing Soto to move up to second. In the same plate appearance, De Aza slapped a single into right field, bringing Soto in to score and putting the Chiefs out in front 3-0.

The Chiefs added a run to their lead in the following inning. Emmanuel Burriss led off the inning with a single into right field. He then stole second base for the second time on the afternoon. Two batters later, with Murphy Smith on the mound for Buffalo, Andrew Stevenson tattooed a line-drive single into center field, advancing Burriss to third in the process. Irving Falu followed by poking a ground ball up the middle and into center field, scoring Burriss and increasing the lead to 4-0.

Buffalo (36-37) snapped a 14-inning scoreless streak in the bottom of the fifth inning. Roemon Fields led off the frame by roping a line drive into center field for a single. In the next at-bat, the speedster Fields started to steal second on an 0-2 pitch from Cole to Jonathan Diaz. Diaz flicked the pitch into right field toward De Aza, who came up throwing to third. However, his throw got away from Falu on the bag, allowing Fields to score and Diaz to reach second on the throwing error. After a pair of fly outs and a walk from Michael Saunders put runners at first and second with two outs, Rowdy Tellez looped a soft line drive into left, bringing Diaz into score from second and cutting the lead to 4-2.

Soto continued on a hot stretch with one swing of the bat in the sixth. With one out, the powerful right-hander demolished an 0-1 pitch from Smith well over the left-field fence, bumping the Syracuse lead to 5-2. The homer was Soto’s third of the season with the Chiefs and his third in four days.

The Bisons brought the tying run to the plate in the bottom of the ninth inning against Trevor Gott, but the hard-throwing right-hander exited the inning unscathed when he induced a groundout from Saunders to end the game.

Monday: The Syracuse Chiefs fell to the Buffalo Bisons, 6-2, on Monday night from Coca-Cola Field. All six of the Bisons’ runs came courtesy of a six-run, 11-batter bottom of the first inning. Sean O’Sullivan was magnificent in what became a relief outing for the right-hander. The 29-year-old tossed six shutout innings, allowing just one hit, and striking out three.

Buffalo (37-47) brought 11 batters to the plate in the bottom of the first inning, exploding for six runs. Dwight Smith Jr. led off the frame with a single off the Nationals’ top pitching prospect per Baseball America, Erick Fedde. Jon Berti then doubled down the right-field line off the side wall, plating Smith for the first run of the game. After a Michael Saunders walk, Rowdy Tellez fouled off six two-strike pitches in a 12-pitch at-bat before doubling off the left-field fence and bringing both Berti and Saunders in to score. Following a Mike Ohlman walk, Raffy Lopez poked a soft line drive into right-center field, allowing Tellez to score. Next, Gregorio Petit singled on a softly hit ground ball through the right side of the infield, bringing Ohlman in to score. After the first seven Bisons of the inning reached base against Fedde, Cody Satterwhite came on in relief. After a fielder’s choice, Roemon Fields singled into right field, scoring Lopez and putting the Bisons on top 6-0

Syracuse (29-51) recovered a run in the top of the second inning against Chris Rowley. Neftali Soto crushed a double to the right-field fence to lead off the inning. Following an Alejandro De Aza fly out to center that moved Soto up to third, Jhonatan Solano hit a sacrifice fly to center, bringing Soto in to score and cutting the lead to 6-1.

The Chiefs got another run back in the seventh. With John Stilson on the mound, De Aza walked to kick off the frame. Solano followed with a single into right field, putting runners on first and second for Emmanuel Burriss. In the next at-bat, Burriss smacked a ground ball to shortstop Petit. Petit attempted to turn two with the second baseman Berti, but Berti’s throw one-hopped Tellez at first base, allowing Burriss to reach on the fielders’ choice and De Aza to move up to third. Following a Stephen Perez walk to load the bases, Stilson was removed from the game in favor of Matt Dermody. Andrew Stevenson, the first batter that Dermody faced, tapped a soft ground ball to the right side of the infield. Berti picked the ball, but only had a play to first base which allowed De Aza to score from third and sliced the Buffalo lead to just 6-2. Irving Falu, however, would ground out to end the threat.

The Chiefs head back home for an Independence Day matchup with the Lehigh Valley IronPigs on Tuesday night at 7:05 p.m. from NBT Bank Stadium. Jaron Long is scheduled to make his fourth start of the season with Syracuse while International League All-Star Tom Eshelman will take the hill for Lehigh Valley.

HARRISBURG (AA Eastern League):

Saturday: Postponed.

Sunday: Harrisburg dropped the first game of the doubleheader to Binghamton 1-0.

David Thompson and L.J. Mazzilli scored on an error in the sixth inning to help the Binghamton Rumble Ponies secure a 3-2 victory over the Harrisburg Senators in the second game of a doubleheader on Sunday.

Harrisburg had a runner on third in the top of the seventh, but Isaac Ballou grounded out to end the game.

Harrisburg took a 2-0 lead after Yadiel Hernandez drew a bases-loaded walk in the first inning and Jake Lowery scored on an error in the second. Binghamton answered in the bottom of the inning when Tyler Moore hit an RBI single, driving in Thompson.

Corey Taylor (5-4) got the win with two innings of scoreless, two-hit relief while Jimmy Cordero (2-3) took the loss in the Eastern League game.

The Rumble Ponies swept both games of the doubleheader after winning the first game 1-0. Binghamton improved to 4-2 against Harrisburg this season.

Monday: L.J. Mazzilli doubled and singled twice as the Binghamton Rumble Ponies defeated the Harrisburg Senators 6-4 on Monday.

Gustavo Nunez singled twice, also stealing a base for Binghamton.

Binghamton started the scoring in the first inning when Tomas Nido hit a two-run double.

Harrisburg answered in the top of the next frame, scoring three runs to take a one-run lead on a two-run single by Corban Joseph and an RBI single by Khayyan Norfork.

The Rumble Ponies later added a run in the third and three in the seventh. In the third, Nido hit a sacrifice fly, scoring Kevin Kaczmarski, while David Thompson hit an RBI double and then scored on a single by Nunez in the seventh.

Tim Peterson (3-3) got the win with two innings of scoreless, two-hit relief while Brady Dragmire (1-1) took the loss in the Eastern League game. Cory Burns pitched two scoreless innings for his eighth save of the season.

Binghamton improved to 5-2 against Harrisburg this season.

POTOMAC (High-A Carolina League):

Saturday: Despite outhitting their opponent, the Potomac Nationals (37-43, 4-6) dropped a second consecutive game at Jim Perry Field. The Buies Creek Astros (43-37, 6-4) ran their win streak to four games with a 7-1 victory over the P-Nats. Potomac RHP Nolan Sanburn (L, 3-2) made a critical throwing error in the sixth inning, which led to the eventual game-winning run. Opposite Sanburn, RHP Hector Perez (ND) struck out nine and allowed just one run over 5.2 innings.

Buies Creek jumped out to an early lead much like in the series opener. In the bottom of the second inning, C Eduardo de Oleo made it 1-0 Astros with a solo home run over the left field wall. It was the first of two home runs that Sanburn surrendered in the start.

The P-Nats went scoreless for the first third of the game for the second straight night, but finally got to Perez in the top of the fourth. 3B Dan Gamache singled with one out, took second base on a wild pitch, and scored the tying run on a two-out RBI single by C Taylor Gushue. Gamache finished 4-4 in his third game with Potomac.

In the top of the sixth, Potomac had men at second and third base with no outs, but failed to score, as Perez struck out Gushue and got SS David Masters to ground out. LHP Sebastian Kessay (W, 5-2) entered for Perez and struck out DH Matt Page.

Sanburn walked the leadoff man in the bottom of the sixth inning, which brought up CF Myles Straw. The team leading hitter dropped down a sacrifice bunt right back to the Potomac pitcher, but Sanburn’s throw to first base sailed over 1B Ian Sagdal, which allowed SS Anibel Sierra to score. Straw ended up on third base and later scored on a one-out RBI double by LF Yordan Alvarez.

Kessay got the P-Nats in order in the top of the seventh inning, while the Buies Creek offense broke the game open with a four-run home half of the frame. The Astros sent nine men to the plate, the first three against Sanburn, and the final six against RHP Gilberto Mendez. Sanburn gave up a leadoff home run to 1B Taylor Jones, a single to de Oleo, and walked 3B Randy Cesar. Mendez entered from the Potomac bullpen and retired the first man that he faced, but he walked Sierra, which loaded the bases, and then gave up consecutive RBI singles to Straw and RF Stephen Wrenn. Alvarez wrapped up the scoring with a sacrifice fly, as the Astros took a 7-1 lead into the eighth inning.

Potomac loaded the bases in the eighth inning, but LHP Sean Stutzman relieved Kessay and struck out Page. The P-Nats then went 1-2-3 in the ninth. Potomac finished the night 2-10 with RISP and left nine men on base, five in scoring position.

Sunday: A late game-tying rally wasn’t enough for the Potomac Nationals (37-44, 4-7), as they fell 3-2 to the Buies Creek Astros (44-37, 7-4). It was the second one-run loss of the series for the P-Nats and their league-high 20th one-run loss of the season.

For the third straight game, the Astros scored the first run of the game, and for the second time in three days, they plated two runs in the bottom of the first inning. LHP Grant Borne (ND) issued a leadoff walk to CF Myles Straw, who scored one batter later on an RBI double from DH Ryne Birk. After Borne induced a groundout, he surrendered a one-out RBI single to C Jake Rogers, as the Astros led 2-0 after one inning.

Borne settled in after the rocky first inning and didn’t allow another run over his four-inning outing. The lefty walked a season high five and saw his consecutive quality start streak snapped at five.

Opposite Borne, RHP Jorge Alcala (ND) dominated over his five-inning start. The right-handed starter regularly hit 100 MPH and gave up only one hit, a solo home run to 3B Dan Gamache in the fourth inning. The P-Nats sent just three over the minimum to the plate over Alcala’s start.

Once into the Buies Creek bullpen, Potomac quickly tied the game. CF Victor Robles led off the top of the sixth inning with a double off of LHP Matt Bower (W, 3-3). LF Jack Sundberg moved Robles to third base on a sacrifice bunt, and a wild pitch plated the Potomac centerfielder, which tied the game. Potomac left the go-ahead run in scoring position, and failed to score from that point forward.

After a scoreless inning out of the bullpen from RHP Ronald PenaRHP Kyle Schepel (L, 1-3) worked a perfect sixth inning. In the seventh frame, he gave up a leadoff double to Rogers. After 1B Taylor Jones struck out, RF Spencer Johnson put the Astros back on top 3-2 with an RBI single.

The P-Nats threatened in the ninth inning against RHP Nick Hernandez (SV, 9), but left the tying man at second base and finished the game 0-4 with RISP. RF Dale Carey led off the ninth with a bunt single. DH Matt Page followed with what looked like a base hit, but 2B Alex De Goti made a diving stop and began a tremendous double play. With two outs, 2B Bryan Mejia doubled, but Hernandez struck out SS Edwin Lora and wrapped up the Buies Creek victory.

Monday: The Potomac Nationals (37-45) were swept in a four-game series with the Buies Creek Astros (45-37) after a 6-0 loss on Monday night at Jim Perry Stadium. Potomac was held to just three hits in the shutout loss. RHP Forrest Whitley (W, 1-0) did not allow a hit through five innings but was pulled in the sixth inning. CF Victor Robles broke up the no-hit bid with a two-out single in the sixth.

Buies Creek opened up the scoring in the first inning for the third time in four games. The Astros tallied three total times through the first two innings against LHP Hector Silvestre (L, 7-3). DH Ryne Birk began the scoring with his seventh home run of the season in the first. Then, RF Stephen Wrenn raced around the bases for an inside-the-park home run on a long fly ball to left-center to lead off the second inning. Two batters later, 3B Randy Cesar doubled and came in to score on a two-out single from SS Anibal Sierra to give Buies Creek a 3-0 lead after two innings.

Silvestre went five innings in his first career start against the Astros. He tied his season-high in strikeouts with seven total punch outs in the game. He allowed three earned runs on four hits, a walk, and two home runs.

The Astros doubled their lead with three runs in the seventh and eighth innings against RHP Jorge Pantoja and RHP Mariano Rivera III. Pantoja allowed an unearned run after Cesar scored on a fielding error in the seventh. 2B Alex De Goti drew a bases loaded walk in the eighth and Sierra drove in his second run of the game on an RBI fielder’s choice to cap the scoring for the Astros.

The six-run cushion was more than enough for the Buies Creek pitching staff. Whitley took a perfect game into the fifth in his first Carolina League start of his career. He allowed the first baserunner to reach with a two-out walk to LF Dale Carey in the top of the fifth. However, with a no-hitter still intact, Manager Omar Lopez called to the bullpen to begin the sixth inning.

RHP Justin Ferrell (S, 2) only lasted two outs before he surrendered the first Potomac hit to Robles. Out of the three hits in the game, Robles finished with two in his 18th multi-hit game of the season. Ferrell allowed all three hits in the game, but would complete the shut out with four scoreless frames.

1B Ian Sagdal recorded the only other hit in the game for Potomac. He extended the game in the ninth with a two-out single against Ferrell. In total, the P-Nats put just five men on base all game long on three hits and two walks.

The P-Nats return home for a seven-game home stand against the Frederick Keys and the Wilmington Blue Rocks. Potomac takes on Frederick on Tuesday night at 7:05 pm at Pfitzner Stadium. LHP Taylor Guilbeau (2-1, 3.80) starts for The Red, White & Blue against LHP Brian Gonzalez (2-7, 5.35) for the Keys.

Coverage of the opener begins at 6:50 pm with the P-Nats Leadoff Show on the Potomac Nationals Baseball Network. The broadcast can be streamed on potomacnationals.com or by using the TuneIn Radio or MiLB First Pitch apps.

Celebrate Independence Day with the P-Nats! Post-game will be the biggest fireworks extravaganza of the season, presented by Sentara and WTOP, and you don’t want to miss it! Also, the first 1,000 fans through the gates will receive a mini American flag.

HAGERSTOWN (Low-A South Atlantic League):

Saturday: One of the longest winning streaks in Minor League Baseball came to an end on Saturday night as the Suns tallied one run on three hits against the Lakewood BlueClaws in an 8-1 loss that snapped a season-best, eight-game run for Hagerstown.

Daniel Johnson plated the lone run with an RBI single in the top of the first inning as Aldrem Corredor scored from first base. Johnson added a single in the sixth to finish 2-for-4 at the plate for his seventh multi-hit game during a nine-game hit streak. During that stretch, the defending SAL Player of the Week is 19-for-37 (.514) with 12 RBI and 10 runs scored.

The BlueClaws took their first lead against Suns starter Carlos Pena (Loss, 4-4) in the bottom of the third on a two-run homer by David Martinelli. Three batters later, Daniel Brito added a two-run single to make it a four-run inning and bump the BlueClaws lead to 5-1. Brito finished a game-best 4-for-5 with four singles, two RBI, and two runs scored.

Pena exited in the fourth inning after allowing five earned runs on six hits with one strikeout and Steven Fuentes relieved him for 2 2/3 innings of scoreless work with four hits and four strikeouts. Jacob Howell took over in the seventh inning and pushed Hagerstown’s season-best bullpen scoreless streak to 17 2/3 innings before Jose Antequera snapped it with a bases-loaded walk to give Lakewood a 6-1 advantage.

The Suns managed just one base hit in the final eight innings. Mauricio Llovera didn’t meet the minimum innings for a victory but set the tone with five strikeouts and two hits allowed in the first four frames. Felix Paulino (Win, 2-6) swiped the decision with three innings of scoreless relief and one hit allowed before Jonathan Hennigan finished the game with two hitless innings, two walks, and three strikeouts.

Saturday’s game was delayed one hour and 49 minutes by a rainstorm before first pitch at 8:54 p.m. Following the loss by Hagerstown, the Fresno Grizzlies, Triple-A affiliate of the Houston Astros in the Pacific Coast League, now own the longest win streak in the Minors at eight games, pending the result of a Saturday night game against the Sacramento River Cats.

Sunday: Suns starting pitcher Sterling Sharp matched the longest outing of his pro career with seven innings and allowed one earned run on a first-inning sacrifice fly by Darick Hall in a hard-luck 2-0 loss by Hagerstown (8-3, 46-34) at FirstEnergy Park on Sunday afternoon.

Sharp (Loss, 4-6) allowed a pair of singles in the first inning before Hall drove in the lone run against him. The 21-year-old from Southfield, Michigan allowed one extra-base hit on a two-out triple to the wall in right-center field by Edgar Cabral in the fourth inning but stranded him at third by striking out the side. Sharp finished with six strikeouts in 108 pitches.

Lakewood starter Ranger Suarez (Win, 6-2) carried a perfect game into the fifth inning by retiring the first 13 Suns he faced. In his previous start against Greensboro on June 26, the 21-year-old southpaw from Venezuela took a perfect game into the eighth and exited after 7 2/3 scoreless innings. On Sunday, Jakson Reetz tallied the first base hit against Suarez with a sharply-hit single to center field.

Suarez allowed three singles in seven innings while striking out five and walking one for Lakewood (4-7, 44-37). Trevor Bettencourt relieved him to start the eighth and allowed a leadoff single to Telmito Agustin , but following a sac bunt by Angelo La Bruna , Bettencourt retired the next two batters and stranded Agustin at second.

Hayden Howard entered from the Hagerstown pen in the eighth and allowed a leadoff single to Daniel Brito, who moved to second on a sac bunt by Arquimedes Gamboa and scored on a two-out single by Hall. The Lakewood designated hitter tallied the only multi-hit game for either team and drove in two runs to lead all hitters in the SAL with 60 RBI this season.

Bettencourt (Save, 6) pitched a perfect ninth inning and the Suns fell for the second time in less than 16 hours after a quick turnaround from Saturday night’s 8-1 loss that snapped an eight-game win streak. Hagerstown hitters combined for one run on seven hits in the last two games along the Jersey shore.

Monday: Jake Noll led a resurgent Suns offense with three hits and three RBIs while McKenzie Mills recorded a career-high 10 strikeouts in a 6-3 win over the Lakewood BlueClaws at FirstEnergy Park on Monday night to close out an eight-game road trip with a 6-2 record.

Mills (Win, 10-2) pitched five innings for his sixth consecutive win as a starter. The 21-year-old southpaw from Marietta, Georgia leads the Suns in strikeouts and victories in 2017. His double-digit strikeouts matched the season-best mark set by fellow South Atlantic League All-Star Tyler Watson , who fanned 10 Greensboro batters in six innings on June 25.

The Suns (9-4, 47-34) opened the scoring on Monday with three runs in the top of the fourth inning. Sheldon Neuse lined a single to center for his team-leading 47th RBI in 70 games. The 22-year-old shortstop, ranked sixth-best among all Washington Nationals prospects by MLB.com, now ranks among the top five run producers in the SAL this season.

Noll followed Neuse in the fourth with his own RBI single that plated Daniel Johnson , who stole third base before he scored to make it a 3-0 lead. Noll added to the lead in the fifth by lining a double to left that scored Corredor and Johnson. The 23-year-old second baseman finished 3-for-5 at the plate on Sunday and totaled 5 RBIs during the four-game series.

Lakewood (4-8, 44-38) broke through in the sixth inning when Mills plunked lead-off hitter Mickey Moniak and Darick Hall followed with a home run, his 15th of the year, good for second in the league behind Johnson’s 16 round-trippers. Mills left without recording an out in the sixth and Kyle Simonds allowed a two-out RBI single to Carlos Duran that cut the Hagerstown lead to 5-3.

The BlueClaws never drew any closer as Simonds retired the next six batters and Hagerstown closer Tommy Peterson (Save, 8) faced the minimum in the ninth by inducing a game-ending double play grounder.

Five Suns finished with multiple hits including Corredor, who added an insurance run on a sac fly RBI in the eighth inning that scored Tyler Beckwith . Corredor and Beckwith each scored twice.

Hagerstown’s league-leading offense roared back to life on Monday with six runs on 14 hits. The Suns settled for one run on seven hits during the previous two games but rallied in the series finale to take a four-game split against their SAL Northern Division rivals along the Jersey shore. Hagerstown leads the SAL Northern Division by one game over the Delmarva Shorebirds.

The Suns return home to Municipal Stadium in Hagerstown on Tuesday for an Independence Day matchup and the first of three games in a midweek series against the Greensboro Grasshoppers at 4:05 p.m. Suns righty James Bourque (3-3, 4.96) goes to the mound first against Greensboro lefty Dylan Lee (3-8, 5.19).

 

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