Wilmington, DE- The Wilmington Blue Rocks (4-5) scored six runs through the first three innings and held off the Potomac Nationals (5-4) by the score of 6-3 on Saturday night at Pfitzner Stadium. Half of the Blue Rocks runs came on sacrifice flies as they also drew a season-high nine walks. Nicky Lopez and Chase Vallot both paced the offensive unit with a pair of hits.
It was a wild start to a Saturday night. Wilmington's offense got to P-Nats starter Joan Baez (0-1) through the first three innings. In the opening stanza, the Blue Rocks used patience at the plate to jump out to an early lead. After two walks and a hit by pitch loaded the bases with one out, Vallot drove the game's first run in with a single to centerfield to plate Lopez to take a 1-0 advantage. Roman Collins followed and bounced into a RBI fielder's choice and on the play, Potomac's shortstop Edwin Lora tossed an errant throw to first base to allow another run to score to make it 3-0 ballgame.
The Rocks continued their offensive attack in the second inning. After another Potomac error allowed runners to get in scoring position, D.J. Burt and Elier Hernandez each lofted a sacrifice fly to plate two more runs to give the Rocks a commanding 5-0 lead. In the third, Wilmington scored their final run on a Wander Franco sacrifice fly to score Vallot who walked to lead-off the inning.
Potomac tried their luck at comeback and pushed three runs across in their half of the third inning. Kelvin Gutierrez singled home the first run for the P-Nats before Rhett Wiseman bounced into a fielder's choice and two runners scored on a throwing error by Burt at second base helped cut the lead in half, 6-3.
However, A.J. Puckett (1-1) and the Wilmington bullpen was able to ward of the pesky P-Nats from that point forward. Puckett earned his first-career Class-A Advanced win and lasted five innings, allowed three runs, two earned on seven hits and struck out four. Yunior Marte dazzled in three innings of work and allowed a hit and whiffed five batters. Franco Terrero came in for the save in the ninth and closed the game out with a scoreless frame, retiring the tying run at the plate to preserve the victory.
The Blue Rocks look for their first series win of the season in the series finale against Potomac on Sunday, April 16 at Pfitzner Stadium. First pitch is slated for 1:05 p.m. and the Blue Rocks will send LHP Cristian Castillo (0-0, 0.00 ERA) to the hill while Potomac answers with RHP Wirkin Esteves (0-1, 13.50 ERA). Fans can listen to the game as Matt Janus will have the call on 89.7 WGLS-FM.
Pebbles of Knowledge
The Rocks used an unselfish approach at the plate in the win. They worked a season-high nine walks and also had three sacrifice flies that all brought in runs. The Blue Rocks drew just 15 walks in the last four games combined. Burt continues to be a catalyst atop the order and paces the team with seven runs scored and tied for first with Anderson Miller with eight walks.
Wilmington could certainly be in the running for having one of the best bullpens in the Carolina League. After another dominant performance by Marte and Terrero, the unit's ERA has dwindled to a stellar 1.86 mark. The closer by committee method for the Rocks has worked out nicely as Terrero earned his first save of the season and first since August, 31 of last season. In addition to Terrero, Marte and Andres Machado all have a save this season.
With the win, it marks the first winning streak of the season for the Blue Rocks. The Rocks have won a four time this season with each win followed by a losing streak of the three games and most recently, two games.
Franco's hitting streak came to an end in the win as he failed to record a hit in four trips to the plate, ending his hitting-streak one game shy of his longest hitting-streak since 2015. However, Collins picked up a hit and has extended his hitting streak to seven games and has reach base in every single game this season.
THEY SAID IT: Jamie Quirk
On patience at the plate early in the game: "It's hard to hit against a guy like that. He just wasn't finding the strike zone and it's hard to play defense behind him. They made a key error to help us. I kept saying to them, expect strike, take ball. Don't go the other way and expect ball and a strike surprises you. We took our walks and we got our runners in from third. We were 4-for-4 at one point, so that was huge for us."
"We talked about it and it's being patient. We got over anxious earlier in the season and guys trying to do too much. Just move the line and take what he give you and let the next guy do his job. Early on, each guy was trying to do too much. Take what the pitcher gives you, take your sacrifice flies, move down the line and keep going. We did a really good job tonight."
"We have much better lineup balance compared to last year. We had times last year about every third inning we were outs. Much more balance this year and guys up and down the lineup are contributing and that's how you win ballgames. You keep pressuring the opposing pitchers with baserunners inning after inning, it helps wear them down."
On Puckett battling on the mound: "He never caved. He wasn't his sharpest and trying to get his command. His best inning was his last inning. Unfortunately, his pitches were up and he worked way to hard, but he never caved and gave us what we needed."
On Marte dominating: "That's how he's advertised. They say he's that kind of pitcher and it was nice to see. He's not all over the place and he's pounding the strike zone with an upper 90's fastball and mixing in his changeup. He looked phenomenal tonight."
"Winning is contagious but so is losing. It's nice to get out to an early lead and they made a little run at us and got three in the one inning. Winning takes care of all that. We still have a few things to iron out. The bullpen has been outstanding, the starting pitchers have been good. We need to settle down offensively. We took what they gave us, but we still need to drive some balls and get more hits."
25 Years of Blue Rocks Baseball
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.