On what could only be described as a brutally hot day with a heat index over 100 degrees, the Potomac Nationals hosted the Fayetteville Woodpeckers at Pfitzner Stadium in Woodbridge, VA yesterday. Both games ended up featuring late inning comebacks (game one even went into extra innings) as the teams ended up splitting the doubleheader.
Perhaps in typical minor league baseball fashion, fans braved the heat in order to get the giveaway for the day — a Juan Soto bobblehead. Even before the gates opened, there was a line that stretched at least a hundred yards as people were waiting to get in (quite a feat when you consider there are usually only about a thousand people who show up to a typical game at the Pfitz). For those who stuck around, Fred McGriff was also there signing autographs for about 90 minutes halfway through the first game and there were postgame fireworks.
The opening game featured Potomac taking an early lead as they scored three runs in their half of the second. Despite going a strong seven innings (which is all they play per game during a Carolina League doubleheader), Fayetteville’s right hander JP France allowed the bases to be loaded with no outs before giving up an RBI single to second baseman Osvaldo Abreu. Right fielder Gage Canning added to the lead later in the inning when he hit a two run double before being stranded on second.
The Nationals appeared to be on cruise control as righty Kyle Johnson pitched four innings of one hit, shutout baseball but he ran into a bit of a jam in the fifth inning as he gave up a two run homer to catcher Scott Manea and a two out rally from Fayetteville in the sixth inning led to him giving up the tying run on a RBI single from DH Ross Adolph.
Fans were hoping Potomac would be able to start a two out rally in the seventh to win the game when Abreu got another hit, but that hope faded quickly as the next batter ended up hitting a blooper out to right field to end the inning. The Woodpeckers were retired in order during the top of the eighth, however, and the Nationals ended up winning on a walk off walk (thanks in part to the rule where extra innings start with a runner on second in the Carolina League).
Game two started out on a similar story arch as the afternoon affair with Potomac scoring three runs in the bottom of the first. Fayetteville’s starter didn’t even last the full inning as he was struggling with his command and was pulled with two outs (though the call for relievers to “get hot real quick” came from the coaching staff with just one man out). Potomac’s starter, Ryan Tapani, on the other hand, had a strong outing as he struck out 10 batters before leaving the game with a 4-1 after five innings.
Things looked all fine and dandy for the home team until the Woodpeckers came up to bat in the seventh inning. With the bases loaded, Fayetteville cut into the lead with a sacrifice fly from Chandlor Taylor and they went ahead 5-4 on a three run homer from Jonathan Arauz (who also happened to have an RBI single in the first inning). There wasn’t any excitement in the bottom of the seventh as the Nationals didn’t even hit the ball out of the infield and were retired in order.
While it won’t be another doubleheader in the scorching heat today, the heat index will once again reach triple digits today and first pitch will be at 1:05 this afternoon. The P-Nats are channeling the movie Frozen as a promotional theme, however, so hopefully that will cool everyone down a little bit on the hottest day of the summer so far.