Mudcats split doubleheader with Nationals
11-3 victory in game one highlights day's action for Carolina
ZEBULON – After rain postponed the series opener, the Carolina Mudcats and Potomac Nationals played a double header on Tuesday. Carolina broke their six-game losing streak with an 11-3 victory in game one, but dropped game two 3-1 to split the doubleheader. Both games were seven innings.
This was the fourth doubleheader played by the Mudcats this season. Carolina now has a record of 3-5 in doubleheader games this season, and this was the first doubleheader Carolina has split this season.
Mudcats manager David Wallace was happy with his team’s performance in both games, even with the difference in runs scored.
“Pitching is so important,” Wallace said. “Hats off to their guy Robbie Ray for pitching such a strong second game, but overall, I think we played really well. They did what we asked them to do; we just didn’t get the hits we needed to. That’s baseball.”
In game one, every Mudcats batter reached base, and the team scored a season-high in runs for an 11-3 win.
“You need a laugher every once in a while” said Wallace. “We went out there and hit the ball really well, it was fun.”
Coming off his worst start of the season, starting pitcher Cody Anderson dominated the Nationals. Anderson gave up his first hit of the game with one out in the fourth inning after retiring the first 10 Nationals of the game. In five innings of work, Anderson allowed only one hit, struck out four, and didn’t walk a batter. Anderson earned his sixth win of the year after the dominant effort.
The Mudcats jumped in front early thanks to a single by shortstop Francisco Lindor, which was accompanied by a stolen base. Joey Wendle then drew a walk before first baseman Jerrud Sabourin crushed a three-run home run.
After right fielder Jordan Smith singled to left, left fielder Bo Greenwell doubled and Smith scored on an error to give Carolina a four-run lead. Catcher Tony Wolters walked and after third baseman Paddy Matera popped out, designated hitter Zack MacPhee hit an RBI single to drive in Greenwell. A strikeout by center fielder Tyler Naquinended the inning, but in all, Carolina sent 10 men to the plate and scored five runs in the inning.
Carolina faced a new pitcher in the second inning after chasing Potomac starting pitcher Blake Schwartz, who was 5-1 with a league best 1.29 ERA.
Wallace said, “He’s right up there at the top of the league statistically, he just left a couple of balls up in the zone and we put some barrels on it.”
Greenwell singled to start the third inning, and Wolters followed with a walk, and Matera walked to load the bases with no outs. MacPhee struck out for the first out of the inning, but Naquin made up for that with a grand slam, the first for the team this season. After Lindor grounded out, Wendle hit a solo home run to give the Mudcats a 10-0 lead after three innings.
Naquin said it was a great feeling to hit the grand slam. “I got a good slider to hit, but you’ve got to credit the guys on base ahead of me. They were the ones that set up the opportunity,” said Naquin.
Naquin reached on an error to start the fifth inning, and Lindor was hit by a pitch to put two on with no outs. Wendle grounded out to the pitcher, but advanced the runners. With Sabourin at bat, a wild pitch allowed Naquin to score for an 11-0 lead. Sabourin walked, but Smith flew out to end the inning.
Right hander Grant Sides relieved Anderson in the sixth inning and struggled from the beginning. With one out, Sides gave up a solo home run to break up the shutout, walked the next batter, and allowed a two-run home run for three in the inning.
Left hander JD Reichenbach relieved Sides to close out game one.
Game two was not nearly the offensive explosion game one was as the Mudcats fell to the Nationals 3-1 and managed only two hits.
Right-hander Nick Pasquale started game two for the Mudcats; however, he only lasted three innings. Pasquale gave up four hits and one earned run with one walk and three strikeouts.
Both Mudcats starters were pulled early, which was all about managing their innings.
“Just looking out for the future there. We’re looking out for how many innings these guys are getting and try to control that. It’s nothing to do with performance, we just want to manage our pitchers,” said Wallace.
Left fielder Bryson Myles made his return home after coming off of the disabled list on Sunday. While Myles did not collect a hit, he did make a nice over the shoulder catch in the sixth inning. Myles did not play in game one.
Things didn’t get started until the third inning. With a runner on second base, a ground ball was hit in the hole between second and third base. A run scored, but the runner was picked off at first base for the final out of the inning. The two-out RBI single gave the Nationals their first lead of the game.
In the bottom half of the third, Matera collected his second hit as a Mudcat, but Naquin hit into a double play to end the inning.
Right-hander Rob Nixon relieved Pasquale in the fourth inning, and struggled from the beginning, much like Sides did in game one. Back-to-back doubles scored a second run for the Nationals, and it looked like a second run would score in the inning.
However, a single to center field spelled trouble for Potomac as Naquin threw out the runner trying to score at home plate, his sixth outfield assist of the season.
“Wendle tried to make a play on it. It wasn’t a real good runner so I knew I had a chance,” said Naquin. “Jordan (Smith) told me to throw him out at the plate, so I had to stay under control and make a good throw.”
In the fifth inning, Nixon’s troubles continued. With one out, a fielder’s choice allowed a runner on first base, but a wide throw on a pick-off attempt allowed the runner to go all the way to third. Two straight walks loaded the bases, but two consecutive strikeouts got Carolina out of the jam.
Right-hander Jeff Johnson replaced Nixon in the seventh inning. Nixon’s final line was three innings pitched, five hits and one earned run to go along with three walks and four strikeouts.
Matera hit his first affiliated professional home run to cut the lead to one run in the fifth inning.
“That was fun. All of the guys were in the dugout congratulating him,” Wallace said. “I know that was a special moment for him. It was a long time coming.”
With Johnson pitching in the seventh inning, the leadoff batter crushed a home run over the left field wall to give the Nationals a two-run lead.
Catcher Charlie Valerio, Greenwell and Myles came up to bat in the bottom of the seventh and were retired in order to end the game.
Carolina finishes the series against Potomac on Wednesday, the last game at Five County Stadium before the all-star break. Right hander Mason Radeke gets the start for the Mudcats. First pitch is scheduled for 7:15.
Zachary is a senior at NC State where he is majoring in communication-media, with minors in journalism and theatre. You can follow him on Twitter @RealZachFrancis.