Sox Slide By P-Nats 5-4 Saturday

Espinal Bashes Third Leadoff Homer of Season

Santiago Espinal hammered a homer to lead off the game for the third time in 2018 (John Wacher)

By Ben Gellman / Salem Red Sox | May 5, 2018 10:22 PM ET

WOODBRIDGE, VA (Saturday, May 5) - The Salem Red Sox may not have made it easy on themselves Saturday night, but they withstood a ninth-inning charge to keep the lead and secure a 5-4 victory over the Potomac Nationals at Pfitzner Stadium.

Salem (17-12) took sole control of first place with the win, despite notching only four hits and striking out 14 times. The Nationals (16-13) wasted multiple critical opportunities throughout the ballgame, stranding 14 runners on base and leaving the tying and winning runs aboard in the ninth. Santiago Espinal led off the ballgame with his fourth homer of the season, matching a career-high; it was the third time in 2018 he had led off the game with a dinger.

The Sox leapt out in front early on against Potomac starting pitcher Kyle McGowin (L, 0-1). With a 1-0 count, Espinal jumped on a fastball and hammered it out to left field for a solo homer to lead off the game and put the Sox ahead 1-0.

Salem doubled their edge in the top of the second inning. With one out, Tyler Hill smacked a double to left, and Kyri Washington sliced a single through the left side. Hill raced home, scoring to run the lead to 2-0. The P-Nats threatened in the bottom of the second, loading the bases with two outs against Sox starter Bryan Mata (ND), but Daniel Gonzalez (W, 5-0) entered to retire Blake Perkins and end the inning with the advantage intact.

The Sox extended their lead in the top of the third inning. Brett Netzer earned a one-out walk, and Jerry Downs was plunked with two outs before Bobby Dalbec worked a walk to load the bases. Hill cracked a single to right, and Juan Soto misplayed the ball, letting it roll all the way to the wall. The bases cleared on the miscue, and Hill wound up at third with Salem ahead 5-0.

Potomac broke through against Gonzalez in the bottom of the third. Soto smoked a one-out double, and Jake Noll knocked a single through the middle, plating Soto to trim the lead to 5-1. The P-Nats added another in the bottom of the fourth. Telmito Agustin singled with one out, and moved up to second on a ground-out by Blake Perkins. Carter Kieboom, who'd slugged a grand slam the night before, singled through the middle to score Agustin and cut the lead to 5-2.

The lead stayed intact until the bottom of the ninth, with Red Sox reliever Algenis Martinez (S, 2) on the hill. Soto worked a leadoff walk, and Noll singled him to second base. Ian Sagdal followed that up with a single of his own, scoring Soto and advancing Noll to third. Martinez fanned Jakson Reetz and got Rhett Wiseman to fly out to shallow right, but Bryan Mejia laced a single to right to score Noll and put the go-ahead run on base. Martinez kept his cool, recovering to whiff Agustin and end the ballgame with the Sox taking the victory.

Mata lasted only 1.2 innings, allowing three walks and a hit-by-pitch against two strikeouts. Gonzalez gave up two runs on five hits and a walk while recording four strikeouts in a season-high 4.2 innings. Martinez surrendered two runs on six hits and two walks while fanning two but did enough to get the save in his 2.2 innings.

The Sox will aim for a sweep of their hosts Sunday afternoon, with southpaw Darwinzon Hernandez taking the ball for Salem against Potomac right-hander Wil Crowe. First pitch from Pfitzner Stadium is at 1:05 p.m., and the pregame show with Ben Gellman and Suzie Cool begins at 12:45 p.m. on the Red Sox broadcast network.

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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