Big first inning highlights Potomac 6-2 win

p-natsIn a game that started with two pitchers who looked like they wouldn’t make it through the second inning, both LHP Matthew Crownover (W, 3-4) and RHP Corey Ray (L, 6-6) pitched at least five innings, as the Potomac Nationals (63-48, 29-14) took down the Wilmington Blue Rocks (40-71, 13-29) 6-2 Saturday night. It was the fourth straight win for Potomac and the 17th victory in 21 matchups with the Blue Rocks in 2016.

The Potomac offense got an early boost, thanks to a lack of command by Ray. The right-handed starter walked the first two batters of the game, and 2B Max Schrock plated both LF Alec Keller and SS Osvaldo Abreu with a two-run double. Later in the inning, with C Raudy Read and RF Drew Vettleson on base, 3B Austin Davidson hit a two-out, three-run home run over the right field wall. Davidson’s third home run of the season made it 5-0 Potomac seven batters into the game and proved to be the difference in the victory.

After a first inning in which Crownover struck out three and gave up a double, the lefty struggled in the second and needed more than 35 pitches to get through the frame. 3B Mike Hill singled with one out, while C Chad Johnson followed with a double that went off the glove of 1B Matt Page. 2B Brian Bien drew a walk, which loaded the bases. Crownover retired SS Carlos Diaz, but CF Cody Jones plated a pair with a two-out, two-strike, two-run single. Crownover then struck out LF Anderson Miller and stranded a pair of men in scoring position, as the P-Nats led 5-2 after 1.5 innings.

Once the two starters made it through the order for the first time, each settled in. Crownover retired 10 of the final 11 batters that he faced, as the lefty struck out a career high eight over five innings. Ray meanwhile stranded two in scoring position in the second inning and retired 11 of 12 batters from the second through the sixth before he gave up another run. Two-out walks drawn by CF Dale Carey and Keller in the sixth loaded the bases for Abreu, who struck out on a pitch in the dirt, but reached via a wild pitch. Ray’s wild pitch, his final pitch of the night, plated Davidson from third base and made it 6-2 Potomac.

Both bullpens were stellar over the back half of the game. LHP Kyle Kubat inherited a bases loaded jam in the sixth inning and struck out Schrock. Kubat faced seven Potomac hitters and set them all down, as he was perfect over 2.1 innings. For Potomac, RHP Whit Mayberry (SV, 1) worked four scoreless frames in his first relief outing of the season. Mayberry got a double play to end the sixth, stranded a runner at first base in the seventh, worked a perfect eighth frame, and worked around a single in a scoreless ninth inning.

Seven of the nine Potomac starters reached in the victory, while five different starters scored. Potomac managed just three hit after the three-hit, five-run first inning and got outhit 8-6 in the win. The Blue Rocks went 1-9 with RISP in the loss and are now 3-26 with RISP in the series.

With a series victory in hand, the P-Nats have an opportunity for a four-game sweep Sunday night, as they host the Blue Rocks in the series finale. RHP Austen Williams (2-3, 4.10) is set to take the ball for Potomac. Williams has not given up more than two earned runs in any of his last three starts, and is 2-0 with a 2.37 ERA over that span. For the Blue Rocks, RHP Andy Ferguson (0-2, 2.63) will make his fourth start of the season for Wilmington. The righty is 0-1 in his last two starts but has allowed just one earned run over his last 11 innings. First pitch Sunday night is set for 6:05pm.

The Potomac Nationals Baseball Network will carry live coverage beginning with the “P-Nats Leadoff Show” at 5:50pm. P-Nats Gameday Audio on the Potomac Nationals Baseball Network is available at or via the TuneIn Radio App.

The series vs. Wilmington concludes Sunday, with first pitch at 6:05pm for another Family Fun Day. Pre-game player autographs will be available, while kids can run the bases, presented by Kids N Motion. WTOP brings another fireworks display to The Pfitz after the game Sunday night.

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