P-Nats leave tying run at third in 6th, 7th, give up four in ninth in loss
Down 5-4 late in Saturday night’s matchup against the Carolina Mudcats (41-31, 2-1), the Potomac Nationals (31-39, 1-2) left the tying run at third base in both the sixth and seventh innings and gave up four runs in the ninth inning in an eventual 9-4 loss. Potomac went just 3-17 with RISP and left 10 runners on base in the loss.
For the third time through three games in the series, the Mudcats scored first. In his Carolina League debut, LHP Tim Cate (L, 0-1) quickly retired the first two batters that he faced but issued consecutive two-out walks, both on 3-2 offerings, to CF Tristen Lutz and DH Mario Feliciano. C Payton Henry gave Carolina an early 1-0 lead as he followed the walks with an RBI single. Cate escaped without any further damage but needed 34 pitches in his first frame. The left-handed starter settled down and spun just 18 pitches over the second and third innings but ran into trouble once again in the fourth frame.
Potomac answered Carolina’s first inning run with a trio of runs in the home team’s first trip to the plate. With one out, 2B Cole Freeman doubled, while 1B Aldrem Corredor tied the game with an RBI single. DH KJ Harrison followed with a single of his own, while RF Telmito Agustin plated a pair of runs with a two-out, two-strike, two-run single. Potomac led 3-1 after one inning.
While Cate established his dominance over his second and third frames, things fell apart for the left-handed starter in the fourth inning. The first four Carolina hitters in the inning each singled. Paired with a throwing error from 3B Bryan Mejia and a sacrifice fly from SS Davin Hairston, the Mudcats put four runs on the board in the fourth inning and led 5-3 after 3.5 frames. Cate allowed five runs, all earned, on seven hits over four innings.
After RHP Nelson Hernandez (W, 7-5) gave up three runs in the first inning, the Mudcats’ starter held Potomac scoreless over his next four frames. Hernandez allowed six hits and struck out one over five innings, as he tied for the Carolina League lead with his seventh victory of the season.
Hernandez departed for RHP Matt Hardy to begin the home half of the sixth inning, and the All-Star reliever immediately gave up a leadoff double to CF Gage Canning. Two batters later, C Jakson Reetz made it a one run game with an RBI single. After Hardy retired SS Osvaldo Abreu, 3B Bryan Mejia doubled into the left field corner, which put runners at second and third. LF Nick Banks drew a walk, but Freeman flied out with the bases loaded, as Potomac left the tying run at third base. An inning later, the P-Nats had Harrison at third base with only one out, but Agustin couldn’t get a ball out of the infield, as he popped out to Hairston. Carolina went back to the bullpen, as RHP Justin Topa got Reetz to fly out to right field, as Potomac once more left the tying run at third base. Topa followed with a perfect eighth inning.
The Mudcats busted the game open against RHP Jonatan German in the ninth inning. After scoreless outings from LHP Aaron Fletcher and RHP Frankie Bartow, the first five batters that faced German reached base. 1B Ryan Aguilar plated a pair of runs with a single, Lutz scored Aguilar with an RBI triple, while DH Mario Feliciano plated Aguilar with an RBI single. German gave up four runs, all earned, on four hits and walked two in one inning. Carolina led 9-4 after 8.5 innings.
While loosening in a save situation in the eighth inning, RHP Rodrigo Benoit entered out of the Carolina bullpen in a non-save situation in the final frame. Freeman began the inning with a single and got to third base with one out, but was left there, as Benoit retired the final three batters that he faced and closed out the Mudcats’ 9-4 win.
Potomac needs a win in the series finale on Sunday afternoon to earn a series split. RHP Andrew Lee (2-4, 3.45) is set to start for the P-Nats. The All-Star had recorded consecutive quality starts before his final outing of the first half, a no-decision vs. the Fayetteville Woodpeckers. For the Mudcats, All-Star RHP Noah Zavolas (3-3, 3.60) is scheduled to pitch for the series victory. Zavolas has been charged with at least three earned runs in three of his last five starts and has just one win in his last six outings.
First pitch at Northwest Federal Field at Pfitzner Stadium on Sunday afternoon is set for 1:05pm. The Potomac broadcast will get underway at 12:50pm with the P-Nats Leadoff Show. You can listen to the Potomac broadcast at potomacnationals.com or on the TuneIn Radio App.