Wilmington, DE - A pitching duel between a pair of Northern Division rivals turned into another walk-off win for the Wilmington Blue Rocks (52-42/13-11) as they outlasted the Potomac Nationals (40-52/7-15) in 11 innings by the score of 2-1 Sunday at Frawley Stadium. The Rocks loaded the bases and with one out, Chase Vallot singled to left field to drive home Jecksson Flores for the winning run. It was the fourth time the Blue Crew have walked-off their opponents in the last five games, including three consecutive walk-off wins against Lynchburg earlier in the homestand.
In the bottom of the 11th inning, Flores reached base on a fielding error by Potomac's third baseman Bryan Mejia. Brandon Downes advanced him to second base on a sacrifice bunt, Chris DeVito was intentionally walked, and Wander Franco singled to right field to load the bases. Vallot stepped up to bat and on the first pitch, he cracked a single to walk-off the P-Nats.
The Rocks struck first in their initial look at LHP Taylor Guilbeau. D.J. Burt smashed a lead-off triple and Downes drove him in on a sacrifice fly to take an early 1-0 lead. Potomac quickly responded in their half of the second inning against RHP A.J. Puckett. With two outs, Dale Carey singled home David Masters to tie the game, 1-1.
Both starting pitchers settled in nicely after that. Puckett went on to toss six innings of one-run baseball, scattered seven hits and worked around a pair of jams in the fifth and sixth innings. Guilbeau was just as good and lasted seven innings and allowed the lone run. The bullpen for the Rocks continued to be superb, as the combination of Colin Rodgers , Franco Terrero and Walker Sheller combined to throw five scoreless innings of relief.
Wilmington hosts Potomac in the middle game of the three-game series on Monday, July 17. First pitch is scheduled for 6:35 p.m. with RHP Andres Machado (5-7, 4.00 ERA) making the start for the Blue Rocks while LHP Hector Silvestre (7-4, 4.32 ERA) starts for the Nationals. Fans can listen to the game with Matt Janus and Cory Nidoh on 89.7 WGLS-FM.
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For the fourth time in five games, Wilmington walked off their opponent at Frawley Stadium 2-1 on Sunday night. Chase Vallot played hero and recorded the game winning RBI hit in the 11th inning. It is the third time the Blue Rocks have walked off against Potomac this season, the last two coming on back-to-back nights on May 9 and 10. Over the last 19 one-run affairs, the Rocks have come on top in 17 of them, including the string of three-straight walk off wins against Lynchburg earlier this week.
D.J. Burt continued his on-base streak to 14-games on Sunday afternoon with a leadoff triple on Sunday afternoon. The streak is the longest active on-base streak on the Wilmington roster. It was Burt's fifth triple on the season, his fourth extra base hit in July. The second baseman had his 10-game hitting streak snapped with a hitless performance on Friday, but picked up a pair of walks of which he leads the team with 58 on the season. In the last month alone, Burt has raised his batting average nearly 20-points, rallying his .202 batting average on June 13
A.J. Puckett was solid at home on Sunday afternoon. Although he did not factor into the decision, the right hander threw six innings and allowed one run on seven hits while striking out three batters and walking just one. Puckett's command has greatly improved over the course of the season. He has walked just 11 batters in his last nine starters compared to the 30 batters he walked in his first nine starts. The California-native has also set career-highs in strikeouts and has fanned 91 batters in 2017, doubling his strikeout total from 2016.
The bullpen has been the backbone of the Blue Rocks the past five games. The relievers continued their impressive scoreless innings streak into the Potomac series, pitching five shutout frames and striking out seven batters in Sunday's victory. The scoreless innings streak has now extended to an impressive 26.2 innings over a five game span. On Saturday, Colin Rodgers, Franco Terrero, and Walker Sheller owned the last five innings of work and totaled seven strikeouts.
THEY SAID IT: Jamie Quirk
"Well pitched game (on Saturday). We had a little traffic. A.J. Puckett did a great job of pitching out of traiffc. Colin Rodgers did a nice job, Franco Terrero a big job, had a couple stressful at-bats and had to get some stressful outs. Walker Sheller with a nice inning too. I was really happy with the pitching, which obviously credits a 2-1, 11 inning game. We scored when we needed too.
"People probably think, why did you bunt Brandon Downes, he is your number 3 hitter. I knew they were going to walk Chris DeVito but I was very confident in Wander Franco and Chase Vallot. I knew they were coming up; they were going to have to pitch to both of them. Franco gets the big hit and Vallot gets the game winner. I knew it was going to come down to that. I knew they were going to take the bat out of DeVito's hands but it didn't bother me.
"(Vallot's development) is much better. You hear me talk about the heart rate, the situation of the game, and he is starting to slow things down. His at-bats are much better; he is not swinging at balls in the dirt or over his head. He has really calmed down at the plate. Doing a nice job and at 20 years old. He is progressing just like the organization hoped he would.
"It was just a day off (on Saturday for D.J. Burt). I have to give these guys some days off, we are burning them. He looked rejuvenated (on Sunday) and it worked out well, leading things off with a triple. I haven't totally figured it out yet but somebody will have a day off tomorrow. We are playing these stressful, long games and it's hot, we have to give some of these guys a day off.
"The key (for the new bullpen arms) is they have been in big spots. Sheller has had to pitch the last inning in a couple of these games. Grant Gavin gave us three innings (on Wednesday), the 15 inning game. When Richard Lovelady and Yunior Marte left, I had a talk with them and told them it's just an opportunity for someone else. They are going to get on the mound more often and they have to be ready and do their thing, and they are.
"(Jecksson Flores) has done a great job. He is our number 1 shortstop and he has done it very well. He is our jack-of-all-trades. (Sunday) I put him in the outfield. (Potomac) had a tough left handed pitcher going (Sunday) so I gave Nick Heath the day off. It allows me to put Flores out there, being a right handed hitter, and playing Carlos Diaz at short. He is very versatile, aggressive, he loves to be on the field and he has done very well."
25 Years of Blue Rocks Baseball
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