Woodbridge, VA-The rubber match of Opening Weekend 2013 for the Potomac Nationals against the Lynchburg Hillcats (Atlanta Braves) on Sunday afternoon at Pfitzner Stadium began emphatically with Nationals RHP A.J. Cole striking out the side and would eventually unfurl into a seesaw tilt that featured three lead changes. Lynchburg would outlast Potomac and win the opening series with a game three final score of 11-6.
Cole, who was dealt to the Oakland Athletics in the Gio Gonzalez trade that netted Washington a bonafide ace and 20-game winner in the off-season before the 2012 season, was re-acquired by the Nationals in the 2013 trade that shipped Michael Morse to the Seattle Mariners as Oakland served as the third team in the deal.
Cole, the no. 3 prospect in the Washington Nationals system per MLB.com's rankings, threw 5.1 innings and allowed four earned runs on seven hits, while walking just one, and striking out seven (all swinging). He would not factor into the decision.
Lynchburg scored first in the 2nd inning by putting up three runs as LF Robby Hefflinger, hit one of his two home runs on the day, a towering solo shot to dead center field. Then, 3B Fernando De Los Santos ripped a double to left field that scored DH Kyle Kubitza, who went 2-for-3 with two runs, one RBI, and two walks. C Cory Brownsten added an RBI double to right field that chased home De Los Santos.
Potomac tallied a pair of runs in the home half of the 2nd when 2B Adrian Sanchez ripped an RBI triple to right field and 3B Blake Kelso laced an RBI double to right scoring Sanchez.
Hillcats RHP Mark Pope, who did not receive a decision, tossed 3.2 innings and gave up three earned runs on six hits, four walks, and two strikeouts.
The 'Cats walked eleven batters over the course of the game.
The P-Nats tied the game at 3-3 with one run in the 4th frame as RF Caleb Ramsey lined an RBI single up the middle to bring home DH Cutter Dykstra, who finished with three walks.
In the 5th inning, the Nationals gained a lead of 5-3 as SS Jason Martinson cranked his second home run of the season, a solo bomb over the right center field wall followed by a wild pitch by RHP James Hoyt that summoned home 1B Kevin Keyes, who reached by drawing a walk.
Both teams scored in the 6th stanza. Lynchburg scored on a double to the left field corner by Kubitza and Potomac tallied a run with a Martinson sacrifice fly to make the score 6-4.
When Cole left the mound in the middle of the 6th inning, he was the winning pitcher of record.
RHP Tyler Herron (H 1), in his Washington Nationals Minor League system debut, gave up two runs, one earned in 2.0 innings before RHP Derek Self (BS, 1) (L, 0-1) surrendered four runs, three earned en route to blowing the save and earning the loss.
Lynchburg LHP Matt Chaffee (W, 1-0) was stellar out of the bullpen with 2.1 scoreless innings in which he walked just one batter and fanned a trio.
With the score 6-4 in favor of the Nationals, the Hillcats busted out for three runs in the 8th inning and four runs in the 9th inning to put the game out of reach at 11-6. This comeback rally was highlighted by a two-run go-ahead double off of Self by SS Elmer Reyes in the 8th, a throwing error by Keyes at first based that allowed Hefflinger, who walked, to score, and a pair of two-run homers in the 9th from Hefflinger, his second of the game and third of the series, and 1B William Beckwith's line drive homer that barely stayed fair inside the right field foul pole.
In Game One of the upcoming three-game series against the Salem Red Sox, LHP Kylin Turnbull (NR, 0.00) will start for the Potomac Nationals against Salem's RHP Mike Augliera (NR, 0.00) in a Monday night showdown that begins at 7:05pm with gates to The Pfitz opening at 6:00pm.
The Potomac Nationals of the Carolina League play at Pfitzner Stadium in Woodbridge, Virginia, and are the Class-A Advanced affiliate of the Washington Nationals. P-Nats 2013 season tickets and mini plans are on sale now. Renew your season tickets at Pfitzner Stadium for only $50 per seat. Sponsorship opportunities for the '13 season are now available. Plan your corporate outing now in preparation for next season as the P-Nats offer discounted group rates and all-inclusive picnic options. Visit the P-Nats online at www.potomacnationals.com or call the ticket office at 703-590-2311 for more!
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