Skid hits six as P-Nats fall 6-4 to Frederick

p-natsA return back to Pfitzner Stadium was not a cure for the Potomac Nationals (66-57, 32-23), as they dropped their sixth straight game with a 6-4 loss to the surging Frederick Keys (62-62, 26-28). Paired with a win by the Lynchburg Hillcats Friday night, Potomac is now in a first place tie atop the Northern Division and just 5.5 games ahead of the Keys for a second half playoff spot.

In his second start with Potomac, RHP J.D. Martin (L, 0-1) struggled to command the strike zone, as he walked six over five innings. It was the second most walks issued by a Potomac starter thus far in 2016. Martin walked at least one Frederick hitter in each inning that he pitched aside from a perfect second frame.

After two quick outs in the top of the first inning, Martin lost control of the strike zone. The right-handed starter hit DH Wynston Sawyer, walked RF Conor Bierfeldt, and gave up an RBI single to 1B Cam Kneeland. Potomac quickly answered against RHP Franderlin Romero (W, 6-4), though only managed one run out of a bases loaded situation in the bottom of the first. Consecutive one-out singles for 2B Max Schrock, SS Osvaldo Abreu, andRF Drew Vettleson loaded the bases for LF Alec Keller. The Potomac left fielder grounded into a run-scoring fielder’s choice, which tied the game, but 3B Bryan Mejia followed with a line drive to Kneeland at first base. The game was tied at one after one inning.

Both pitchers worked a perfect second inning, but things quickly got away from Martin in the third, as eight Keys came to the plate. Frederick loaded the bases with no outs on a single and two walks. Bierfeldt hit a fly ball down the left field line that was initially ruled a home run, a grand slam, but after the two umpires deliberated, it was deemed a foul ball. Bierfeldt then grounded into a force out at the plate, but Martin walked Kneeland, which brought home a run, and then gave up an RBI single to C Austin Wynns, as Frederick led 3-1 after 2.5 innings.

Romero settled in after a rocky first inning and did not allow another hit until Keller had a bunt single with one out in the sixth inning. Potomac left two men on in the frame, as Romero struck out Mejia and LHP Garrett Cleavinger struck out DH Austin Davidson. In the fifth inning, the Keys made it 4-1 on a sacrifice fly by 3B Jomar Reyes, and made it 5-1 in the sixth inning on an RBI double by LF D.J. Stewart. Martin allowed four runs on four hits and struck out four over five innings.

Down to their final nine outs, Potomac rallied in the seventh inning in large part to an inability by Cleavinger to find the strike zone. The left-handed reliever walked 1B Matt Page, C Jake Lowery, and CF Victor Robles in order to start the inning. With the bases loaded and no outs, Cleavinger hit Schrock, which made it 5-2. Cleavinger departed for RHP Garrett Cortright (SV, 5), who quickly got Abreu to ground into a run-scoring double play, and then the righty induced a groundout from Vettleson. Potomac finished the night just 1-9 with RISP. The P-Nats made it a one-run game on a leadoff home run by Keller in the eighth inning, which made it 5-4 Frederick.

In relief of Martin, RHP Mario Sanchez matched the longest relief outing of the season for Potomac. Over four innings, the righty gave up four hits and two runs. Sanchez surrendered Stewart’s RBI double in the sixth inning, and then gave a run back in the ninth on a solo home run by Bierfeldt. The Keys took a 6-4 lead into the bottom of the ninth, and despite a two-out hit from Schrock, Potomac went quietly and fell for the sixth straight game.

Aiming to avoid a season high seven-game losing streak, RHP Boone Whiting (9-3, 3.64) will get the start for Potomac Saturday night. Whiting gave up six earned runs on 10 hits over just three innings in his last start, a loss to the Wilmington Blue Rocks. For the Keys, RHP Jon Keller (0-1, 1.76) will look for his first Carolina League win in his fifth start. Keller allowed one earned run on two hits over four innings in a no-decision to Potomac last time out. First pitch is set for 6:35pm.

The Potomac Nationals Baseball Network will carry live coverage beginning with the “P-Nats Leadoff Show” at6:20pm. P-Nats Gameday Audio on the Potomac Nationals Baseball Network is available or via the TuneIn Radio App.

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