Soto homers again: P-Nats avoid sweep

Potomac NationalsIn danger of their first sweep of the season, the Potomac Nationals (17-13) fell into an early deficit, but plated the final five runs of the game against the Salem Red Sox (17-13) in a 5-2 win Sunday afternoon. RF Juan Soto picked up his sixth home run in his first 12 games in the Carolina League, and then ended the game with his first outfield assist at the High-A level.

Washington Nationals RHP Shawn Kelley (ND) got the start for Potomac in the first game of a rehab assignment, and needed just seven pitches in a perfect first inning. Kelley gave way to the originally scheduled starter, RHP Wil Crowe (W, 5-0) for the second inning, and despite a bumpy first frame, the righty picked up his league-leading fifth win.

The first two Salem hitters reached base against Crowe in the second inning, as 1B Jerry Downs singled and 3B Bobby Dalbec walked. After RF Tyler Hill flied out to right field, DH Kyri Washington reached on an error by 3B Jake Noll, which led to a collision at first base and a run. Two batters later, 2B Carlos Tovar made it 2-0 Salem with a two-out single. That was Salem’s final run, as the Red Sox had just three hits over the final seven innings. Neither run against Crowe was earned.

Potomac answered immediately against LHP Darwinzon Hernandez (ND). While the P-Nats left the bases loaded against the Salem starter in the first inning, they kept Hernandez from completing two innings. SS David Masters began the home half of the second inning with a walk, while LF Telmito Agustin singled. Hernandez struck out the next two hitters, but 2B Bryan Mejia plated two runs with a two-out, two-strike, broken bat bloop single over Dalbec. Mejia’s hit came on the 11th pitch of his at-bat, one inning after he struck out on the 11th pitch of an at-bat. Mejia’s single knocked Hernandez out of the game. The lefty has failed to make it through two innings in each of his starts vs. Potomac.

In relief of Hernandez, RHP Jared Oliver (L, 1-1) got the final out in the second inning, but the league’s top ranked offense took over in the third frame. Soto led off the bottom of the third inning with a home run, his sixth blast in just 12 games. After two quick outs, C Tres Barrera doubled, while Masters followed with a walk. Agustin plated both runners with a triple into the right field corner, his second hit of the game. Agustin’s hit made it 5-2, the eventual final. Agustin ended the day with a .397 batting average, best among qualified hitters in the Carolina League. He is also among the top five in the league in on-base percentage and slugging percentage.

After Crowe struggled in his first inning of work, it appeared as though he might not make it through his second, as he walked a man, gave up a double, and hit a batter in the third inning. With the bases loaded and only one out, Crowe struck out RF Tyler Hill, while Salem left the bases loaded on a strikeout of Washington.

Crowe struck out five over five innings of work, while the Potomac bullpen combination of RHP Jorge Pantoja and RHP Gabe Klobosits (SV, 1) worked three shutout innings combined. Klobosits gave up a leadoff bloop double to Washington in the ninth inning, and after the righty retired the next two hitters, gave up a single to right field to SS Santiago Espinal. On Espinal’s single, Washington tried to score from second base, but Soto threw a one-hop strike to the plate, and Washington was out at the plate by more than five feet. Though holding the runner at third base would have brought the tying run to the plate, the base running blunder earned Soto his first outfield assist of the season.

After a 3-3 homestand, the P-Nats will head out for a seven-game road trip, which is set to get underway Monday night in Wilmington, DE. LHP Matthew Crownover (1-3, 4.02) is set to start against for Wilmington for the fourth time in his first seven starts of the season. Last time out, Crownover lasted just three innings in a loss to Wilmington. For the Blue Rocks, RHP Arnaldo Hernandez will make his third consecutive start vs. Potomac. He has picked up consecutive wins against the P-Nats, and has earned a win in three straight starts.

First pitch at Frawley Stadium on Monday night is set for 6:35pm. The Potomac broadcast will get underway at 6:20pm with the P-Nats Leadoff Show. You can listen to the Potomac broadcast at or on the TuneIn Radio App.

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