Potomac can’t wrap up sweep: P-Nats fall, 5-4

p-natsWith a chance for the series sweep, the Potomac Nationals (21-17 Overall, 8-9 Home) scored in the first inning but lost a lead in the second and did not lead again in a 5-4 loss to the visiting Carolina Mudcats (16-23 Overall, 7-13 Road). RHP Phillips Valdez (L, 4-2) allowed four earned runs over six innings, but it was an RBI double by Carolina 1B Joey Meneses in the seventh against RHP Robert Benincasa that proved to be the difference in Potomac’s 5-4 loss.

For the third straight game, the P-Nats struck for a run in the home half of the first inning. After RHP Wes Parsons (ND) recorded two quick outs, Potomac had three straight two-out singles, as 1B Jose Marmolejos, C Raudy Read, and DH Alec Keller each had a hit. Keller’s single plated Marmolejos and made it 1-0. It was Keller’s team-leading 23rd RBI of the season.

The lead lasted just half an inning, as the Mudcats plated a pair in the second against Valdez. A single, two fielder’s choice groundouts, and a hit batsman put runners on second and third with two outs for LF Joseph Daris. Daris, who entered the game with just four RBIs, plated both 2B Ryan Gebhardt and CF Stephen Gaylor with a single to centerfield, as the Mudcats took a 2-1 lead. Daris had three total RBIs on the night.

That’s where the game stood until the fourth inning, when both teams cracked their opposing starter yet again. Meneses started the frame with a single, Gebhardt had a one-out base hit, and Gaylor’s two-out single loaded the bases. After two straight foul balls with a 3-2 count to Daris, Valdez missed with his third payoff pitch and walked in a run that made it 3-1. In the bottom half of the frame, 3B Khayyan Norfork drove home Read with a single and CF Dale Carey tied the game at three with an RBI groundout.

Valdez then gave up his final run in the top of the fifth inning, as Curcio reached on a strikeout/wild pitch, and eventually scored on a two-out single by Gebhardt. That made it 4-3 in favor of the Mudcats as it turned over to the bullpens. RHP Sean McLaughlin (W, 2-1) got the final two outs in the fifth, worked a scoreless sixth, but gave up a run on an RBI single by LF Andrew Stevenson in the seventh. In the top of that frame, Benincasa walked Curcio to begin the inning and he later scored on Meneses’ eventual game-winning hit.

Potomac had a base runner in each of the final two innings, as SS Osvaldo Abreu walked to start the eighth inning against RHP Carlos Salazar, but was caught stealing second. Norfork then had a two-out single in the ninth against RHP Evan Phillips (SV, 5), but Carey struck out swinging to end the game.

Despite the loss, the P-Nats still took the series courtesy of the doubleheader sweep on Wednesday. After the brief homestand, Potomac will head to Frederick for the first time in 2016 and take on the Keys. The series opener is Friday night, with first pitch set for 7:00. RHP Wirkin Estevez (0-2, 3.94) is set to toss for Potomac. Estevez went five shutout frames last time out in Winston-Salem. For the Keys, RHP Lucas Long (1-2, 3.95) will make his sixth Carolina League start of 2016 after he started the season with Single-A Delmarva.

The Potomac Nationals Baseball Network will carry live coverage of the game beginning with the “P-Nats Lead-Off Show” at 6:45. P-Nats Gameday Audio on the Potomac Nationals Baseball Network is available at www.potomacnationals.com or via the TuneIn Radio App.

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