Nationals sweep doubleheader over Mudcats
Potomac won game one 5-2 and game two 9-4 on Sunday.
ZEBULON, NC — The Potomac Nationals continued their dominance over the Carolina Mudcats winning both games of Sunday’s doubleheader to complete the franchise’s first series sweep at Five County Stadium.
A gem from starter Hector Silvestre carried the P-Nats to a 5-2 win in the first game before Potomac’s offense exploded for nine runs in the first three innings of game two en route to a 9-4 victory.
Silvestre grabbed the win in game one, but his start was just a strike away from being much more memorable. With a full count and two away in the seventh and final inning, Yandy Diaz broke up Silvestre’s no-hit bid with a triple to right.
With the Mudcats trailing 5-0, Diaz’s late hit sparked a rally that gave Carolina a chance at an improbable comeback. Jeremy Lucas followed Diaz’s triple by homering to left as Silvestre quickly lost both his no-hitter and shutout. LeVon Washington and Luigi Rodriguez then ended Silvestre’s outing with back-to-back singles as the Nationals turned to reliever Gilberto Mendez with the tying run coming to the plate in James Roberts.
Roberts earned a walk to load the bases, bringing Ryan Battaglia to the plate as the potential winning run in a game the Mudcats had appeared out of. However, Mendez then extinguished Carolina’s glimmer of hope, forcing Battaglia to pop out as the righty earned his eighth save of the season.
Despite ultimately being in vain, Mudcats manager Scooter Tucker was proud of the heart his team showed in mounting the late push: “We went from being completely out of it to having the winning run at the plate. We gave ourselves a chance, I’m proud of the way they fought back.”
Silvestre (1-0, 3.55) earned his first win with Potomac behind 6.2 innings of work in which the 21-year-old allowed two earned runs on four hits.
Tucker could do little but tip his cap to Silvestre after watching the right-hander befuddle his lineup for much of the contest.
“He pitched a nice game, he really did,” Tucker said. “ We hit a few balls well right at people but he didn’t let us get anything going, threw a lot of strikes, and stayed ahead in the count.”
Adam Plutko (3-6, 4.63) took the loss for the Mudcats, allowing five earned runs on eight hits in a 6.1 inning start. He struck out five while not issuing a walk.
Plutko managed to equal Silvestre early, cruising through the first three innings with a no-hitter of his own. But Isaac Ballou provided the Nationals with the breakthrough to open the top of the fourth, homering over the short fence in right to put Potomac up 1-0.
An unusual sequence to open the sixth yielded another run for the Nationals as Ballou and Tony Renda hit consecutive ground-rule doubles as Potomac grabbed a 3-0 lead.
Potomac chased Plutko out of the game in the seventh, as Tucker went to the bullpen following Estarlin Martinez’s RBI double to right scored Norfork. With the newest Mudcat, Luis DeJesus, on in relief, Potomac added their final run on Ballou’s single up the middle as Martinez came in to score putting the Nationals up 5-0.
Tucker felt the result was a bit tough on Plutko, who had to battle some unlucky bounces and a lack of run support.
“I thought he pitched well, they hit some balls which were opposite field down the line which is more misfortunate than anything he really did wrong,” Tucker said. “Obviously, we didn’t do anything offensively to help him,” added the former Indians catcher.
Game two would not fare any better for Tucker and his Mudcats as Potomac abused Carolina starter D.J. Brown early.
With Renda on first with one away in the top of the first, a wild pitch moved the second baseman into scoring position before Shawn Pleffner’s single up the middle drew first blood for the P-Nats. Potomac wasn’t done in the first, as a Perez single set the table for Mike McQuillan to bring in a pair with a double to right.
Potomac picked up right where they left off in the top of the second as singles from Craig Manuel, Ballou and Renda loaded the bases with nobody out. Pleffner followed with a base hit of his own to left, driving in two more. Brown then managed to get consecutive groundball outs from Randolph Oduber and Perez, but Potomac remained content as a run scored on each as the Nationals’ lead ballooned to 7-0.
A tough outing for Brown (2-6, 4.75) was over quickly, as the right-hander was pulled after a 1.2 inning start in which he allowed seven earned runs on seven hits. He walked a pair and struck out one.
But Potomac wasn’t done scoring, grabbing two more runs in the top of the third off reliever Rob Nixon. Norfork struck out to open the inning, but Nixon then walked Brandon Miller and allowed Manuel to single. A wild pitch moved the pair to scoring position, before Ballou brought both in with a single to left.
Lucas, one of the few bright spots for Carolina Sunday, got the Mudcats on the board in the bottom of the second with a solo homer, his second of the afternoon.
The Mudcats then struck for three in the bottom of the third as they attempted to climb out of the early hole against Potomac starter Dakota Bacus. Logan Vick led off with a ground-rule double to left before singles from Hankins and Yhoxian Medina loaded the bases. Jerrud Sabourin then brought in two with a base hit to right. A wild pitch to Diaz moved Medina up to third, before the shortstop scored on Diaz’s groundout to bring the Mudcats within five.
From there, pitching took over as neither team managed a run over the final four innings. Bacus (4-6, 4.49) earned the win for Potomac, allowing four earned runs on six hits in 5.0 innings.
Sunday’s losses drop the Mudcats to just 4-12 this season against the Nationals and 21-22 on the second half as Carolina has fallen below .500 for the first time since June 27.
After a disappointing weekend, Tucker relishes the opportunity to see his team right the ship and get back in the win column.
“We’ll forget about these, and go back out there playing like we always do,” Tucker said. “Tuesday is a new day against a new team in Frederick, we’ve just got to put these behind us like we do when we go somewhere and do it (sweep) to them.”
Carolina is off Monday before traveling to Frederick for a three-game series against the Keys. Cole Sulser (4-9, 5.23) will take the hill for the Mudcats in Tuesday’s opener with first pitch from Harry Grove Stadium set for 7 PM.