By Michael Marzzacco
The Senators and Chiefs were off for their respective All Star breaks. Only the Suns and PNats were in action this Monday night.
Compiled via team press releases:
POTOMAC (High-A Carolina League): The Potomac Nationals (39-48) dropped the final game of a four-game series with the Wilmington Blue Rocks (48-41) with a 7-3 loss on Monday afternoon at Pfitzner Stadium. The Blue Rocks scored all seven of their runs with two outs to take three out of four games against the P-Nats. C Taylor Gushue launched his team-leading 14th home run in the four-run loss.
Wilmington jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the top of the third inning against LHP Taylor Guilbeau (L, 2-2). Guilbeau retired two in the inning, but with runners on first and second, 3B Wander Franco lined a two-run double into the right-field corner. Franco was thrown out trying to stretch his two-run double into a triple.
Potomac took the lead with three runs in the fourth and fifth innings. Gushue evened the score with his team-leading 14th home run of the year in the bottom of the fourth. His two-run shot upped his Carolina-League leading RBI total to 58 on the season. 2B Austin Davidson delivered the P-Nats’ only lead of the game with an RBI single in the bottom of the fifth. The Red, White & Blue led 3-2 after five from the Pfitz.
However, the Blue Rocks wasted no time taking the lead back. With two outs again, DH Chase Vallot and C Nathan Esposito singled. Then, LF Roman Collins laced a liner to left-center scoring both runners. Like Franco in the third, Collins was also thrown out trying to stretch a double to a triple. The clutch two-out knock gave the Rocks a 4-3 lead they would not relinquish.
The two-run sixth inning chased Guilbeau from the game falling a run extra of his fourth quality start in a row. Guilbeau finished six innings, allowing four runs on seven hits and three walks. The left-hander fanned two Wilmington batters in his sixth start of the season.
Former All-Star closer RHP Francisco Rodriguez made his Potomac debut on Monday afternoon. “K-Rod” allowed three runs (0 ER) in the top of the ninth inning. 2B D.J. Burt drove in two more with a two-out RBI single. The Blue Rocks second baseman would score on a throwing error by Gushue trying to throw out CF Nick Heath trying to steal second.
The P-Nats threatened with two base runners in the bottom of the ninth inning against RHP Walker Sheller. However, Sheller settled down to strike out the final batter of the game and secure the 7-3 win. With the victory, Wilmington defeated Potomac in 8 of 12 contests from Pfitzner Stadium in 2017. The Blue Rocks and P-Nats will meet one final time at Frawley Stadium from 7/16-7/18 to close out their regular season schedule against one another.
Potomac will have an off day on Tuesday before it hits the road for a seven-game road trip. The road series begins with a four-game series against the Salem Red Sox. The P-Nats will throw LHP Hector Silvestre (7-3, 4.31) in the series opener on Wednesday against RHP Shaun Anderson (2-2, 5.05) for the Red Sox.
First pitch on Wednesday is scheduled for 7:05 pm at Haley Toyota Field in Salem, VA. Potomac coverage of the game begins at 6:50 pm with the P-Nats Leadoff Show on the Potomac Nationals Baseball Network. The broadcast will be streamed live on potomacnationals.com or by using the TuneIn Radio and MiLB First Pitch apps.
HAGERSTOWN (Low-A South Atlantic League): Anderson Franco drove in more runs than any other Hagerstown hitter in a single game this season and McKenzie Mills struck out a career-high 10 batters in consecutive starts to tally his seventh straight win as the Suns (11-6, 49-37) avoided a four-game sweep against the Kannapolis Intimidators, 8-5, on Monday night at Intimidators Stadium.
Franco went deep twice for his first multi-homer game this season. The 19-year-old designated hitter, ranked among the top 15 Washington Nationals prospects, opened the scoring with a two-run homer to left-center field in the top of the second and hit the second grand slam by a Suns hitter this year on a round-tripper to left that gave the Suns an 8-1 lead in the seventh.
Franco finished 2-for-5 at the plate with 6 RBI. The native of Bani, Dominican Republic beat the previous Hagerstown season highs of five RBI in a single game set by Daniel Johnson and Sheldon Neuse in a 16-2 win over the Asheville Tourists during a seven-inning contest in Hagerstown on April 8 and a pair of five RBI performances by Franco and Carter Kieboom during a South Atlantic League record 30-hit day for the Suns in a 22-4 road win over the Lexington Legends on April 30.
Neuse, the only other Suns hitter to swat a grand slam this season, finished 2-for-3 on Monday with two runs scored and an RBI double in the top of the fifth. Jake Noll followed with an RBI liner to right that scored Neuse from second. Johnson also scored twice during his 2-for-5 evening while Telmito Agustin added two more hits to finish the Kannapolis series 5-for-13 with two home runs and three RBI.
Mills (Win, 11-2) tossed three scoreless innings to open the game before giving up a leadoff homer to 2017 Chicago White Sox first-round-pick Jake Burger in the fourth. Mills bounced back to retire the next six batters in a row and worked around a pair of singles in the sixth by striking out the side to finish with double-digit strikeouts. The 21-year-old lefty, drafted by the Nationals in the 18th round of the 2014 MLB Draft, matched his previous high of 10 strikeouts in five innings at Lakewood on July 3.
The Intimidators (8-11, 47-40) made things interesting with a four-run bottom of the seventh. Mills issued a bases-loaded walk to Micker Adolfo and exited with the bases loaded and two outs. Kyle Simonds entered and Burger added a three-run bloop single that cut the Hagerstown lead to 8-5. All three runs were charged back to Mills, who finished with five earned runs on six hits in 6 2/3 innings.
Simonds rebounded with a scoreless eighth inning and Phil Morse (Save, 1) earned his first save with the Suns after walking one, hitting another, and striking out three in the bottom of the ninth to give the Suns their first road win at Kannapolis in eight attempts this season. Mills took credit for his eleventh victory, moving him one win ahead of Columbia Fireflies starter Jordan Humphreys (10-1) for the South Atlantic League wins lead.
Hagerstown currently leads the SAL Northern Division second-half standings with an 11-6 record since the All-Star Break. Following a league-wide off day on Tuesday, the Suns return home to Municipal Stadium in Hagerstown on Wednesday at 7:05 p.m. for the first of three games against the Charleston RiverDogs, Class A affiliate of the New York Yankees.
Suns right-handed starter James Bourque (4-3, 4.68) goes to the mound first on Wednesday and the RiverDogs will match with righty Austin DeCarr (1-1, 6.75) on Bark in the Park night with dogs welcome to attend the game alongside any ticket holder. To purchase tickets, call (301) 791-6266 or visit hagerstownsuns.com.