(SALEM, VA) - The Potomac Nationals dropped the first game of a four-game set with the Salem Red Sox 8-1 at LewisGale Field. Salem's Keith Couch tossed eight one-run innings to earn the victory.
Salem opened the scoring in the second inning against lefty starter Matt Grace. Shannon Wilkerson hit an infield single then stole second and third base. He scored on a Adalberto Ibarra sac fly to open the scoring. Zach Gentile led off the third reaching on an error and scored on a groundout to increase the Red Sox advantage to 2-0.
The Red Sox opened up the game with four in the fourth inning. Drew Hedman led off the inning with a single. Carson Blair drove in Hedman on a two-out double. Gentile continued the inning with another double to open the increase the Salem lead to 4-0. An error allowed the inning to continue and Felix Sanchez made the P-Nats pay with a two-run double to put the Red Sox up 6-0.
Potomac struggled early against Red Sox starter Keith Couch. In each of the first four innings, the Nationals had a hit that was later in the inning erased by a double play. Potomac got the board in the sixth with JP Ramirez scoring on a Adrian Sanchez groundout to make it 6-1 in favor of Salem.
The Red Sox added a run in the sixth against reliever Adam Carr on a Heiker Meneses double into left-center field to give Salem a 7-1 lead. Salem scored another in the seventh with Sanchez knocking a sac fly -- his third RBI of the game.
Down 8-1 going into the ninth, Potomac mounted a rally against reliever Marco Durante. Kevin Keyes blasted a three-run homer to bring the P-Nats within 8-4. It was the first homer since August 4th at Winston-Salem, a shot also hit by Keyes, for the Nationals. The home run snapped a 91 inning drought of four-baggers. Ricky Hague scored on a throwing error by Menses to bring Potomac within 8-5. A Stephen King single brought up JP Ramirez as the tying run and Andrew Jones came out of the Salem bullpen. Jones got Ramirez to ground out to second to end the contest collecting his fourth save of the year.
Couch (9-9) went eight innings without walking a batter giving up just one run. He yielded hits in each of the first six innings to the P-Nats but used double plays to slow the Potomac offense. Couch faced just three over the minimum and retired the last eight batters he faced.
Grace (7-12) took the loss giving up six runs with just three earned. He struck out four batters and walked two.
Tomorrow night at 7:05 PM the Nationals and Red Sox continue their four-game series. RHP Alex Meyer (2-1 (0.93) makes the start for the P-Nats. Potomac returns to the Pfitz for their final home stand of the year starting on August 20th with a 7:05 PM game against Carolina. The Potomac Nationals are celebrating their 35th Anniversary of professional baseball and family fun, for all your ticket needs please visit www.potomacnationals.com.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.