The Potomac Nationals (20-14, 10-6) received a three-RBI effort from RF Brandon Miller en route to an 8-4 double-up of the Frederick Keys (15-20, 5-12) on Monday evening at Harry Grove Stadium in the series opener.
The Nationals are now the second team to achieve the 20-win plateau in 2014 joining the Myrtle Beach Pelicans (Texas Rangers), a team the P-Nats will see in four matchups on the back leg of the current two-city road trip.
The momentum in this game changed four times starting with the Keys scoring individual runs in the 1st and 2nd innings against Nationals RHP Ronald Pena.
Pena, who didn’t factor into the decision, went 6.0 innings tying the season-long for a Potomac starting pitcher, and allowed four runs, only two earned, on six base hits with no walks and a career-high eight strikeouts.
The P-Nats are now (7-1) when Pena is the starting pitcher.
The Keys tagged Pena in the 1st using an RBI triple from LF Michael Burgess launched to right field bringing home CF Glynn Davis, who was hit by a pitch.
In the 2nd stanza, Frederick C Wynston Sawyer led off with a double lined to the right field corner before DH Tucker Nathans gashed a run-scoring two-base hit off the wall in left center to give the Keys a 2-0 lead.
Frederick RHP Branden Kline, who like Pena did not receive a decision, allowed four earned runs in the 4th inning and would not last into the 5th frame. Kline surrendered six hits and three walks while only fanning one batter.
The Nationals collected the four runs via an RBI double rocketed to right center field by LF Randolph Oduber, a game-tying soft serve single into left center off the stick of DH Mike McQuillan, and a two-run single bulleted into right field by SS Stephen Perez.
Keys RHP Gene Escat dealt 3.0 scoreless innings in relief of Kline while striking out five.
Two unearned runs scored versus Pena in the bottom of the 6th when Keys RF Lucas Herbst dropped down a bunt single along the third base line before Burgess sprayed a low line drive towards Miller in right field. The ball got through Miller and he was charged with an error as the ball rolled ten feet behind him. Herbst scored on the error and as Miller heaved the ball to 2B Tony Renda, the cutoff man, who then sent the baseball in towards the pitcher’s mound when 3B Oscar Tejeda committed an additional error trying to then gun the ball to Oduber, who had crept all the way in towards the third base bag to take the throw from Tejeda, the second cut-off man. No one was covering the third base bag forcing Oduber to take the throw and Tejeda missed the mark allowing Burgess to score and tie the contest at 4-4.
Renda, in his first game back after being activated from the disabled list Monday, went 2-for-4 at the plate with one run scored and one walk.
Miller came up as the leadoff man in the 8th against the losing hurler, RHP Matt Hauser (0-1) with the game still tied and hit a monster solo home run over all three tiers of signage in left field, his 10th tater of the season to put the slugger in 2ndplace in the Carolina League in homers. The moon shot gave the Nationals a 5-4 edge.
Three more runs on offerings from Hauser came in the 9th for the P-Nats on a bases loaded two-run double launched to the right field corner by Miller in addition to a wild pitch that scored 1B Shawn Pleffner, who singled to reach base.
Nationals RHP Derek Self (1-0), the winning pitcher, was stellar through 3.0 near perfect innings. Self allowed only a single to SS Adrian Marin in the 9th and did not walk a batter while keeping the Keys at bay with no runs allowed. Self induced a line out to center field off the bat of Nathans for the final out in the bottom of the 9th inning.
Game Two will feature Potomac LHP Brett Mooneyham (2-3, 7.06) facing Frederick RHP Parker Bridwell (0-5, 6.94). First pitch from Harry Grove Stadium is scheduled for 7:00pm.
The Potomac Nationals Baseball Network, which is accessible at www.potomacnationals.com, will broadcast Game Two in Frederick tomorrow evening as the Nationals continue their three-game bus trip series with the Frederick Keys. Broadcast coverage will begin with the P-Nats Leadoff Show at 6:45pm before the live play-by-play at 7:00pm.