Potomac Nationals outduel Wilmington, 2-1
The Potomac Nationals (31-27, 15-16) edged the Wilmington Blue Rocks (29-29, 16-13) by the final score of 2-1 inside the confines of Frawley Stadium in series Game Two on Wednesday evening thanks to a terrific job by the P-Nats’ pitching corps.
With the victory, the P-Nats have forced a rubber match confronation in the Game Three finale.
The Nationals are now (13-6) in their one-run affairs during the 2014 season.
Nationals starter, RHP Brian Brach (1-0) was exquisite through 6.0 innings in which he allowed one unearned run on just three hits while striking out four batters, hitting one batter, and walking none.
Brach faced the minimum over the course of 3.2 innings before allowing a sharply hit single to Wilmington 3B Hunter Dozier in the 4th frame.
Brach used a 6-4-3 double play to get out of the 2nd stanza and allowed his only run of the game which did not affect his earned run average in the 6th.
The Nationals touched up Blue Rocks starting hurler, LHP Jonathan Dziedzic (5-4) for individual runs in the 2nd and 4th innings. Dziedzic, the losing pitcher, allowed a pair of earned runs on four base hits including a home run. The southpaw gave out one free pass to first base and fanned two.
The P-Nats manufactured the first run of the game in the 2nd as 1B Shawn Pleffner, who was announced today as one of two Potomac Nationals named to the 2014 Carolina League Roster along with SS Stephen Perez, popped a two-base hit up the left field line and later in the inning, came to the plate. After RF Randolph Oduber chopped a groundout to second base to advance Pleffner to third base, Nationals CF Will Piwnica-Worms lofted an RBI sacrifice fly that was snared on the run in the left-center field gap by the speedy LF Terrance Gore.
Pleffner, as part of a 3-for-4 night at the plate with two runs scored and two doubles, stepped up and golfed a solo home run off the second tier of signage in right field to begin the 4th inning. This was Pleffner’s second four-bagger of the ’14 campaign and the deep fly gave the Nationals a 2-0 lead.
Wilmington, who collected just five base hits in the game, benefited from an error committed by Nationals 3B Oscar Tejeda in the 6th to push across their first and last run of the game. With one out, Gore hit a high bouncer that Tejeda could not get the handle on once he corralled the ball in his mitt, and it went as Tejeda’s seventh error of the campaign. Wilmington SS Raul Mondesi smacked a tall hopper over Pleffner for a single and CF Bubba Starling struck out swinging before Dozier cranked a ground-rule run-scoring double that bounced off the left field warning track and traveled over the barrier to make it a 2-1 game. The fact that the ball went over the wall actually saved an additional run that would have scored against the Nationals. Blue Rocks DH Zane Evans was struck out looking by Brach which led to Wilmington Field Manager, Darryl Kennedy being ejected by Home Plate Umpire, Chase Eade.
Nationals RHP Derek Self was phenomenal out of the bullpen going 1.2 scoreless innings in which he surrendered just two hits and one walk. Self pitched out of a jam in the 7th by stranding the single from 1B Cody Stubbs. Wilmington RF Daniel Rockett grounded out to Perez at shortstop to finish the 7th and P-Nats RHP Robert Benincasa (SV 9) entered to ink the final out of the 8th. Benincasa got Evans to foul out to Pleffner on a popup which left Starling’s single and the walk worked by Dozier.
Benincasa shut down a Blue Rocks threat in the 9th to convert his ninth save in 11 save chances this season. Benincasa fanned Stubbs looking before Blue Rocks SS Jack Lopez flew out to shallow right field. Wilmington C Cam Gallagher waited out a walk which came on a 3-2 offering. Benincasa then induced a foul popout behind the batter’s circle that was a geyser off the bat of Rockett. The falling baseball landed in the mitt of Potomac C Pedro Severino to ensure the Nationals’ 31st victory in 2014.
Benincasa finished the game with 1.1 scoreless innings under his belt.
The rubber match finale of this three-game, one-stop road trip set for the Nationals is scheduled for 6:35pm on Thursdaynight. The Nationals will throw RHP Dakota Bacus (2-1, 3.13) at Blue Rocks Christian Binford (3-3, 2.68).