Woodbridge, VA- The Wilmington Blue Rocks (11-13) attempted a two-out, ninth inning rally, but fell short in a 6-5 loss to the Potomac Nationals (15-10) Tuesday night at Pfitzner Stadium. The Blue Rocks scored the final five runs of the ballgame, including two in the final inning, when Khalil Lee tripled home a pair of runs to position the Rocks to tie the game. The rally and contest would come to an end when Emmanuel Rivera flew out to left field.
Trailing 6-3 in the top of the ninth and with two outs, the Blue Rocks started their rally. Down to their final strike, D.J. Burt drew a walk and Gabriel Cancel smacked a two-strike single to centerfield to put runners at first and second. Lee followed with a bases clearing triple to right field to pull the Rocks within a run, but was left stranded to end the game.
The Rocks chipped away at the Potomac lead and added two runs in the top of the sixth inning. Burt and Lee each singled to put a pair of runners on base before Brandon Downes drove both in with a two-run single to make it a 6-2 ballgame. In the seventh inning, Chase Vallot hit a solo blast over the centerfield wall for his third home run of the season to cut the deficit in half, 6-3.
After both starting pitchers did not allow a run through the first two innings, Wilmington starter Gerson Garabito ran into trouble in the third inning. The righty allowed three home runs including a solo homer from Telmito Agustin, a two-run shot by Juan Soto and Jakson Reetz hit a three-run home run to make it an early 6-0 deficit for the Blue Crew. The combination of Jared Ruxer , Vance Tatum and Justin Camp combined to pitch 5.1 scoreless innings of relief to allow the Rocks to get back in the game.
The Blue Rocks and P-Nats play the second game of the series on Wednesday, May 2 at Pfitzner Stadium. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. with righty Arnaldo Hernandez (2-0, 1.35 ERA) making the start for the Blue Rocks while left-hander Matthew Crownover (1-2, 3.49 ERA) starts for Potomac. Fans can listen to the game as Matt Janus will have the call on 89.7 WGLS-FM.
PEBBLES OF KNOWLEDGE:
Brandon Downes continues his hot start to the season and drove in two more runs Tuesday night to push his season total to eight in just five games played this season. Sunday afternoon, he hit a three-run homer which proved to be the difference in a 3-0 series finale win over Winston-Salem. He has driven in multiple runs in three of his first five games this season and is tied for fifth on the team in the department.
With Chase Vallot's solo home run in the seventh inning, the Rocks have clubbed a home run in 14 of the first 24 games this season. It was Vallot's third homer of the season, tying him with outfielder Kort Peterson for the most on the team this season. All three home runs hit by the 21-year-old have been hit on the road. He has a solo home run, a two-run blast and a grand slam to his ledger this season.
THEY SAID IT, MANAGER DARRYL KENNEDY:
(On Garabito): "I think he pitched up in the zone a little too much (Tuesday) night. He had good stuff, but just left the ball up and over the plate. (Potomac) made him pay for it. That's one thing about this ballpark and (Potomac) so far this year. If you make a mistake, they will make you pay for it and that six-run third inning killed us."
(On Bullpen's Performance): "The bullpen did a great job (Tuesday) night. They have done a pretty good job all year. We were fortunate to have the off day (Monday) and we were well rested, almost too rested for some of the guys. We were able to get them some work and they were pitch efficient, so they won't be down too many days and we'll be alright."
(On Vallot's Adjustments at the Plate): "Him and hitting coach Abraham (Nunez) have spent a lot of time down at the cage. They made a mechanical adjustment during our last homestand and Chase seems to like it. He has put some good at-bats together since he's had it. Hopefully the home run to dead center will back up what they were working on and hopefully he will get on a roll for us."
(On Lee getting back on track offensively): "That triple was very big for him. Even the infield hit he had earlier in the game, those are the ones you need. Then he comes up in that spot against Potomac's side arm pitcher (Jordan Mills) who has done nothing but eat him up at our place last week and he came up with a big hit. He gave us a chance to get back in the ballgame and also win it."
(On team rallying late): "They never give up. They don't take big innings from other teams and don't dwell on it. Sometimes I wonder what's so funny about this because they are very loose. I have to bite my tongue a lot with them because they are resilient. They scratch here and scratch there and all of a sudden we have a chance to win the ballgame. They are resilient and I try to stay out of the way as much as I can."
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.