Eight-run eighth dooms P-Nats in 17-10 loss

p-natsEight outs away from clinching a playoff berth, the Potomac Nationals (70-62, 36-28) saw a 9-6 advantage quickly go away and even quicker become an eight run deficit. The Frederick Keys (67-67, 31-33) staved off playoff elimination with a three-run seventh inning and an eight-run eighth inning, which featured nine straight two-out base runners. The Keys scored 11 of the final 12 runs of the game, set a new season high for runs and hits in a game in their 17-10 win over the P-Nats. It was the most runs allowed by Potomac in a game this season, while Frederick’s 22 tied for the most by a single team in a game in the Carolina League this season.

Needing one win in the series to officially be playoff bound, the series opener could not have started much better for Potomac. The P-Nats tagged RHP David Richardson (ND) for two runs in each of the first two innings. CF Victor Robles led off the game with a single, stole second base, and scored on an RBI base hit by 3B Kelvin Gutierrez. After Gutierrez stole second base, he advanced to third on a wild pitch, and scored on a groundout by RF Drew Vettleson. Up 2-0, Potomac began the second inning with consecutive singles from 1B Matt Pageand LF Dale Carey. Robles dropped down a sacrifice bunt right back to Richardson, but the pitcher’s throw to get the lead runner at third base ended up in left field. Two runs scored on the play, as Potomac led 4-0 after 1.5 innings.

The Keys were quick to get back into the game, as Frederick scored three in the second inning, two in the third frame, and one in the fourth. 1B Aderlin Rodriguez started the bottom of the second inning with a single and advanced to third base on a double by RF Conor Bierfeldt. It looked like RHP Austen Williams (ND) would get out of the inning unscathed, as he retired the next two hitters, but 2B Steve Wilkerson made it a two-run game with a two-out, two-strike single. After CF Josh Hart singled, SS Erick Salcedo cut the deficit to one run with an RBI base hit.

In the bottom of the third, Rodriguez drew a leadoff walk and scored on a go-ahead two-run home run from Bierfeldt, the right fielder’s 18th home run of the season. With a 5-4 lead in the fourth inning, Wilkerson led off with a single, the second of his four hits on the night, and scored four batters later on an RBI single from C Wynston Sawyer. After falling behind 4-0, the Keys scored six straight and took a 6-4 lead, which lasted until the top of the seventh.

Neither starter was very effective, as Williams failed to make it through five innings for the first time in eight starts, and Richardson’s pitch count kept him from going beyond five innings. Williams gave up six runs, all earned, on eight hits over 3.2 innings, his shortest start for Potomac in 2016. After a rough first two innings for Richardson, the righty got a double play to end a scoreless third inning and set down the side in order in the fourth and fifth frames. Richardson allowed four runs, three earned, over five innings.

LHP Garrett Cleavinger worked a perfect sixth inning, but recorded just one out in the seventh. After Carey flied out to lead off the frame, Robles and DH Austin Davidson hit back-to-back singles, which knocked the lefty out of the game. RHP Tanner Chleborad (W, 5-3) entered and got Gutierrez to ground into a force out at second base. With men on the corners, C Raudy Read drew a walk, which loaded the bases for Vettleson. Chleborad promptly threw a ball to the backstop, which allowed Robles to score and made it a one run game. The Keys intentionally walked Vettleson, which loaded the bases for SS Osvaldo Abreu. On a 3-2 pitch with two outs, Abreu cleared the scoreboard in left field with a towering grand slam, Potomac’s second grand slam of the season. Abreu’s sixth home run of the year put Potomac on top 9-6, the score at the stretch.

In relief of Williams, RHP Whit Mayberry got the final out of the fourth inning and then worked two more scoreless frames. The righty returned for the seventh inning and gave up a leadoff home run to Rodriguez. The first baseman’s 25th home run of the season made it 9-7. Mayberry struck out Bierfeldt and handed the ball over to RHP Gilberto Mendez. Mendez immediately walked DH Yermin Mercedes and gave up a single to 3B Jomar Reyes. With the tying runners on base, Wilkerson made it a one run game with an RBI single, though Reyes was thrown out after a wide turn around second base. With two outs, Wilkerson stole second base, and Hart tied the game with an RBI triple. Mendez stranded Hart at second base, as Salcedo lined out to Abreu and ended the inning.

Tied at nine apiece after seven innings, the P-Nats went in order against Chleborad in the top of the eighth. RHP Neil Holland (L, 1-3) came on for Potomac to start the bottom half of the frame. Holland got LF D.J. Stewart to ground out, gave up a single to Sawyer, and struck out Rodriguez. With the go-ahead run on base and two outs, Bierfeldt grounded out to third base, but Gutierrez’s throw got past Page at first base. The error by the Potomac third baseman put men at the corners with two outs. After the error, six straight Frederick hitters came away with an RBI hit, while eight straight reached overall after the error. Mercedes made it 10-9 with an RBI single, Reyes plated a man with an RBI base hit, Wilkerson made it 13-9 with a two-run double, Hart plated a man with his fourth hit of the night, Salcedo made it 15-9 with an RBI single, while Stewart made it 16-9 with an RBI double. After a pitch hit Sawyer, Rodriguez had an RBI single, which ended Holland’s night. Holland gave up eight runs, all unearned, and recorded just two outs. LHP Justin Thomas retired Bierfeldt to end the 13-batter eighth inning, as Frederick led 17-9.

In the ninth, Potomac manufactured a run but came well short of a much-needed big rally. Davidson led off the frame with a single, took second base on defensive indifference, moved to third base on a groundout by Gutierrez, and scored on an RBI groundout by Read. Vettleson followed with a double, but Abreu grounded out to end the game, as Potomac fell 17-10.

All 18 starters reached base and all but Read had at least one hit. Every starter for both teams aside from 3B Bryan Mejia scored a run. Eight of Frederick’s starters had multiple hits, while Wilkerson and Hart each had a game high four. Every Frederick starter had at least one RBI. The Keys went 11-20 with RISP while Potomac went just 2-11.

Still just a win over the Keys away from clinching a playoff berth, the P-Nats will turn to RHP J.D. Martin (0-2, 6.00) Wednesday night. Martin has made two of his first three starts with Potomac against the Keys and has given up seven earned runs in 11 innings vs. Frederick. For the Keys, RHP Franderlin Romero (6-4, 6.16) will make his fifth start of the year vs. Potomac. Romero gave up seven earned runs in his last start, a no-decision vs. Winston-Salem, but is 3-0 with a 3.80 ERA vs. the P-Nats. First pitch Wednesday night is scheduled for 7:00pm.

The Potomac Nationals Baseball Network will carry live coverage beginning with the “P-Nats Leadoff Show” at6:45pm. P-Nats Gameday Audio on the Potomac Nationals Baseball Network is available atwww.potomacnationals.com or via the TuneIn Radio App.

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