Keys outlast Potomac in 13-inning slugfest, 8-7

p-natsFriday night’s series opener between the Potomac Nationals (65-51, 31-17) and Frederick Keys (58-59 22-25) featured five blown leads and 13 innings of back and forth baseball. After more than four hours, a bases loaded walk-off single to centerfield by DH Yermin Mercedes got the Keys a much needed victory.f

Eight of the first nine innings featured scoring, with 10 half innings featuring at least one run. Both sides struck for a pair of runs in the first, as neither starer got out of the gates quickly or posted a very good final line. LHP Mitch Horacek (ND) gave up four straight hits to start the game, as RBI singles from SS Osvaldo Abreu and C Raudy Read put the P-Nats up 2-0 after half an inning. Horacek gave up five runs, three earned, on 11 hits over 4.2 innings, after he had given up just one earned run total in his last four starts.

Staked to an early 2-0 lead, LHP Matthew Crownover (ND) could not hold the lead through one inning. SS Erick Salcedo led off the bottom of the first inning with a home run, the first of a season high four home runs on the night for the Keys. LF Cam Kneeland drew a walk, and scored two batters later on a sacrifice fly hit by RF Conor Bierfeldt. With the game tied at two, Mercedes led off the bottom of the second inning with a solo home run, which gave Frederick its first of five leads on the night.

Both sides scored a single run in the third inning, as Abreu led off the third inning with a double, moved to third on Read’s second hit of the night, and scored on a groundout by LF Alec Keller. Frederick quickly tied the game at three in the bottom half of the frame, as 1B Aderlin Rodriguez led off with a single, and scored on a two-out RBI base hit by 3B Jomar Reyes. Frederick led 4-3 after three innings.

Potomac took its second lead of the night with a pair of runs in the fifth with help from the Frederick defense. Horacek retired the first two men in the inning, but Keller reached on a throwing error by Rodriguez at first base. 1B Matt Page followed with a single, while 3B Bryan Mejia plated both base runners with a two-out double, as the P-Nats took a 5-4 lead into the home half of the fifth inning.

Crownover returned for the sixth frame and faced two hitters, but did not record an out. C Austin Wynns led off the frame with a double, while Reyes followed with a two-run home run. Crownover gave up six earned runs on nine hits over five+ innings.

Down 6-5 entering the seventh frame, Potomac tied the game on Read’s sixth home run of the season. The Potomac catcher’s solo home run came against RHP Ryan Meisinger. In relief of Crownover, RHP Mario Sanchez worked a scoreless seventh inning but gave up a go-ahead solo home run to Mercedes, the DH’s second home run of the night. Sanchez gave up just one run on two hits over three innings.

With only three offensive outs left, Potomac rallied against RHP Tanner Chleborad (BS) in the ninth. After Abreu grounded out, Read hit his second game-tying solo home run of the night. However, that was the final run that Potomac scored in the loss.

After three frames from Sanchez, RHP Neil Holland entered in the bottom of the ninth inning and worked a perfect frame. Holland then allowed a single but got a double play in the 10th, and then worked around a walk in a scoreless 11th inning.

Potomac threatened in each of the four extra innings. Against LHP Garrett Cleavinger, Potomac got the leadoff man on in the first inning in a single by Mejia, but failed to get a man in scoring position in the 10th. In the 11th, Potomac got three straight one-out hits, but Abreu was thrown out at the plate on a bloop single to left field hit by Keller. RHP Genison Reyes (W, 1-1) came on for the 12th and gave up a leadoff single to Mejia, but 2B David Masters lined into an inning-ending double play. DH Max Schrock hit a one-out double in the 13th, but after Abreu was hit by a pitch, Read grounded into an inning-ending double play.

The Keys went in order against RHP Gilberto Mendez (L, 2-4) in the 12th inning, but the righty did not record an out in the 13th. Bierfeldt drew a leadoff walk, while Wynns reached on a bunt single. With CF Josh Hart attempting a sacrifice bunt, Mendez’s first pitch to the outfielder went to the backstop, which allowed the runners to move to second and third base. Mendez then intentionally walked Hart, which loaded the bases for Mercedes, who gave Frederick a walk-off win with a line drive single to centerfield.

All nine Potomac starters recorded at least one hit in the loss, while Read had a 2016 P-Nats single game high five hits, including two home runs. Potomac’s 19 hits were the most in a single game this season. Frederick pulled within 8.5 games of Potomac for a playoff spot in the Northern Division.

In the second game of the set, Potomac will send RHP Austen Williams (3-3, 3.74) to the hill. Williams has not allowed more than two earned runs in any of his last four starts. For the Keys, RHP Franderlin Romero is set to start. Romero has allowed only two earned runs in each of his last two starts and is 2-0 with a 4.09 ERA in two starts vs. Potomac. First pitch Saturday night is at 6:00pm.

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