Caolina Mudcats squander hot bats, lose to Potomac, 5-4
ZEBULON, N.C. – Despite a stellar pitching effort from Shawn Morimando, the Carolina Mudcats fell 5-4 to the Potomac Nationals in Monday’s series opener.
Morimando went 6.1 innings allowing two runs on just two hits as he attempted to become the first pitcher in the Carolina League to seven wins.
Carolina drew first blood off Potomac starter Brett Bach in the bottom of the second, but the Mudcats were unable to break the game open.
After a one-out walk to Jeremy Lucas, Alex Monsalve connected with a single to center to put Lucas in scoring position. Bach forced Jerrud Sabourin to fly out, but couldn’t escape the inning unscathed as James Roberts singled to left scoring Lucas to put the Mudcats up, 1-0.
The Mudcats continued to threaten in the second as Luigi Rodriguez reached first on a fielding error by Nationals third baseman Khayyan Norfork to load the bases for LeVon Washington. However, Washington couldn’t cash in and was retired on a close play at first after grounding to short.
Morimando was dominant early, facing the minimum batters through 3.2 innings before the southpaw issued a walk to Oscar Tejada and hit Shawn Pleffner. He carried a no-hit bid into the fifth, but quickly lost his no-hitter and shutout.
Carolina jumped back ahead in the bottom of inning. Bach hit Washington before Joe Sever singled to put two on with no outs. Erik Gonzalez followed with a single to right scoring the speedy Washington from second.
With runners on the corner, Anthony Gallas grounded into a double play as the Nationals allowed Sever to score in exchange for the two outs as Carolina went up 3-1.
The Mudcats missed a golden opportunity to add insurance runs in the bottom of the sixth. In his Potomac debut, reliever Chris Manno walked Monsalve, Roberts and Luigi Rodriguez to load the bases with one out. But Manno recovered to strikeout Washington in a matchup of lefties before the Nationals turned to Travis Henke who forced Joe Sever into an inning-ending groundout.
Morimando’s evening ended in the seventh after walking Norfork. In relief, Josh Martin (3-4, 2.61 ERA) walked Will Piwnica-Worms before Miller singled to left plating Norfork to bring the Nationals within a run. However, Martin kept Morimando in line for the win retiring Severino and Tony Renda to end the frame.
Manager Scooter Tucker praised Morimando’s ability to consistently find the strike zone.
“He threw strikes and put the ball in play, and when you do that you give your defense a chance to make the plays like they did tonight,” said Tucker. “That’s usually a pretty good combination.”
Morimando felt his variety of pitches and locations kept Potomac’s lineup guessing.
“I tried to take my time and execute pitches mixing it up between inside and outside to try to keep the hitters off-balance, and it was working,” said Morimando.
But Potomac jumped all over Martin in the eighth to surge ahead of Carolina saddling him with the loss, as Morimando would have to settle for a no decision. Tejada singled to right before Pleffner walked putting runners on first and second. Norfork drew the Nationals even with a single to left scoring Tejada. Piwnica-Worms then gave Potomac its first lead of the game with a line drive to right scoring Pleffner. The Mudcats turned to Elvis Araujo to stop the bleeding, but Potomac doubled their lead as Miller brought in Norfork to put the Nationals up 5-3.
Despite their recent struggles, Tucker said he remains confident his bullpen will get back on track as long as they throw strikes.
“If guys get hits, they get hits but walking people we cannot do,” he said.
Carolina got one back in the eighth as a Washington double drove in Rodriguez, who was on first after a two-out single to right making it 5-4 Potomac heading into the ninth.
Araujo kept the Mudcats close with a 1-2-3 top of the ninth, but Carolina’s offense went quietly in the ninth as Potomac closer Robert Benincasa earned his tenth save of the season.
The Mudcats outhit Potomac 12 to 7, but left ten men on base and went only 3 for 13 with runners in scoring position.
Tucker remained optimistic, crediting Potomac’s pitching staff.
“Unfortunately we didn’t get it done tonight (with runners in scoring position),” Tucker said. “Sometimes it’s our fault and sometimes you have to give them credit, I think it was a combination tonight.
Carolina falls to 27-35 on the year while the Nationals improve to 35-28.
First pitch is set for 7:00 p.m.