The Potomac Nationals finally got that big hit with runners in scoring position they had been searching for as Chris Marrero's two-out grand slam in the top of the 7th launched Potomac to a 4-3 victory over Kinston on Tuesday night. The Nationals top hitting prospect finished with three hits but none bigger than his towering fly ball over the left field fence against K-Tribe reliever Matt Meyer to give Potomac the first two games of their four-game set with Kinston. The Cleveland Indians Carolina League affiliate meanwhile, could not figure out P-Nats right-hander Jeff Mandel and wound up losing their eighth straight game.
Mandel (5-1) worked his longest outing of the season pitching into the 8th and allowing just four hits and allowed three runs in his seventh start of the year. The Texas native earned his staff-leading fifth win of the season despite walking five and hitting a batter and did not record a strikeout for the first time this year.
Kinston struck first in the bottom of the 2nd inning when Ryan Blair drove in Ronald Rivas with an RBI single to left off Mandel to give the home team a 1-0 advantage. Further damage was prevented by the crafty right-hander as he got Johnny Drennen to ground out to Stephen King at third base as the K-Tribe stranded the bases loaded in the frame.
The P-Nats, meanwhile, continued to struggle early with runners in scoring position as they were unable to push a run across against Berger who entered the game second in the Carolina League with his 2.12 ERA. Trent Jewett's club stranded six runners on the basepaths from innings three through six and Berger struck out five in his 5.2 innings of work. Potomac entered the contest hitting just .221 with runners on second or third and just .207 with runners in scoring position and two outs.
But in the 7th, with Berger out of the game, right-handed reliever Kyle Landis struck out the first two batters he faced before allowing a two-out single to P-Nats 2B Dan Lyons. Landis then allowed a base hit to Danny Espinosa before he was lifted for the lefty Matt Meyer who suffered the loss in Monday night's 1-0 Potomac victory. Meyer proceeded to walk Francisco Plasencia to load the bases for Marrero who entered the at-bat just 0-for-5 with the bases loaded this season. But on the first pitch, the one they call "Nene" erased all that frustration in clutch situations by clearing the bases with his fifth home run of the season to give the P-Nats a 4-1 lead.
Kinston would not go down quietly however as superstar third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall bombed his seventh homer of the year into deep right field against Mandel to cut the P-Nats lead in half at 4-2. Jewett would pull his starter after Mandel walked Matt Brown who would later come around to score on a groundout by 1B John Allman to make it a one-run game.
But the Nationals bullpen stood firm as Atahualpa Severino shook off a one-out walk to Drennen in the 9th and struck out the last two batters he faced, including Chisenhall to earn his sixth save in as many chances. Landis suffered the gut-wrenching defeat for the K-Tribe having allowed two runs on two hits in 1.0 inning of relief on Tuesday.
The P-Nats will go for the series win and prolong Kinston's lengthy losing streak when they send Brad Meyers to the hill against K-Tribe righty Paolo Espino (0-1, 0.90) with first pitch scheduled 7:00 p.m. from historic Grainger Stadium.
Dan McGinn will rejoin the broadcast along with Anthony Masterson on Wednesday night and you can hear all the action beginning at 6:40 p.m. with the Potomac Nationals pre-game show on www.potomacnationals.com.
Join the party all season long at Pfitzner Stadium with the Potomac Nationals! Single game tickets and mini-plans for the 2009 season are still available. For more information, call (703) 590-2311 or visit www.potomacnationals.com.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.