Game Recap: 5/16

SeaWolves 18, Senators 4

  • Erie’s Trei Cruz lined Mitchell Parker’s first pitch into left field, bouncing off the wall, as the leadoff hitter coasted into second base with a stand-up double. Four pitches later Colt Keith drilled a home run into the scoreboard seats to give the SeaWolves an early 2-0 lead. It was a sign of things to come for both Keith and Parker.
  • The southpaw became the Senators’ second starter to fail to get out of the first inning this season (preceded by Garvin Alston in a spot start for a doubleheader nightcap against New Hampshire on May 4) when he allowed eight runs on five hits and three walks while recording only one out.
  • Keith made history for the SeaWolves as the former fifth round draft pick hit for the cycle, going 6-for-6 with two home runs and seven RBIs. Keith became the first opponent to collect six hits in a ballgame against the Senators, breaking an 18-way tie of players who had five.
  • Keith wasn’t the only one doing damage to Harrisburg’s collective earned run average either as the SeaWolves pounded out 22 hits and scored 18 runs. Only three games in Senators’ history saw more base hits from an opponent than Tuesday night’s debacle.
  • Surely lost in the rout was Drew Millas’s day at the plate as the Harrisburg catcher went 2-for-5 with his 3rd homer of the year (estimated at 387 feet) and a double to drive in four runs. Donovan Casey, Frankie Tostado, and José Sánchez each chipped in multi-hit games in the losing effort.
  • Down 14 runs headed into the ninth inning, Harrisburg manager Delino DeShields sent position player Jack Dunn out to mop-up the last three outs. Dunn, who previously had two scoreless appearances on the mound for Wilmington in 2021, was touched up for his first run ruining his career 0.00 ERA.
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Similarly matched Erie visiting City Island this week with stars on display

Colt Keith (Photo credit Tom Hagerty/

The Senators are dead even. This season has 16 wins and 16 losses in series against Somerset (twice), Richmond, Akron, New Hampshire, and Bowie. After winning five and losing one last week against the bottom-of-division Bowie Baysox, Harrisburg is back on the FNB Field diamond with the Erie SeaWolves visiting town.

The SeaWolves will bring three of the Tigers’ top five prospects to compete with Harrisburg. The Senators, meanwhile, roster one of the Washington Nationals’ top five prospects, the overall number two, Robert Hassell III.

Colt Keith is the Detroit Tigers’ overall No. 2 prospect and is currently with the Erie SeaWolves in AA ball. Detroit drafted him in the fifth round in 2020, which resulted in a change of plans as Keith was set to play baseball at Arizona State for the Sun Devils. Keith has played both in college and professionally at third base and second base, but many scouts say that he will remain at third base due to a lack of foot speed that will expectedly get worse with age. He also pitched in high school with a range of 89-93 miles an hour which will be helpful for long throws from one corner to another.

Wilmer Flores is the Tigers’ No. 4 prospect and a right-hander for the SeaWolves. The 6-foot-4 pitcher signed with Detroit in 2020 and is pitching at a 94-95 miles an hour range with good location. His curveball is developing with upper 70 speed. Flores will likely start Thursday evening on the island in an important early-season series.

Ty Madden is the fifth overall prospect for the Tigers. Detroit drafted him in 2021, and many fans hope he will be ready for Comerica Park in 2024. After a college career at the University of Texas, Madden provides the SeaWolves with another reliable starter for the stretch on City Island. The right-hander is scheduled to start both Tuesday and Sunday’s game.

The SeaWolves are 17-16 and second in the Eastern League Southwest, one spot above Harrisburg, who sits in third place after a winning stretch against Bowie last week. Just below first-place Richmond, both teams have chances to make it closer to claiming the top spot in the Southwest Division approaching June.

The series begins with a 6 p.m. start on Tuesday evening at FNB Field.

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Senators’ Notebook: Clutch hitting, Frankie Tostado’s grand slam, the bright lights, and the Yankees AA affiliate on City Island

Last week the Senators traveled to Akron, and they could have won all six games or just as easily gone 0-6 against the RubberDucks. So, I guess it’s fitting the two teams split the series 3-3, as the Senators won on Saturday and both ends of a doubleheader on Sunday to finish the stretch on a three-game winning streak.

Unlike the previous week, the Senators’ bullpen proved fallible in the first three games as Garvin Alston, Tim Cate, and Orlando Ribalta collared the losses late in each contest. But on the offensive side, this team is showing some poise and clutchness when it matters most. The Senators were relentless against the Akron bullpen scoring 21 of their 28 runs in the series in the seventh inning and later.

Plate Appearance of the Week (Pitching)

At seven innings, games in doubleheaders are great for teams to get an early lead and coast the rest of the way. So with Akron threatening in the second inning of Game 1 on Sunday with runners on the corners and one out, southpaw Alex Troop was in a bit of a jam. Pitchers will look the strikeout with a runner at third and less than two outs, and Troop was no different, getting the count to 2-2 before dropping in a slider that froze Joe Naranjo. It was the perfect pitch in the situation, executed flawlessly. Gabriel Rodriguez followed with a pop-up in foul territory to end the threat and keep the game deadlocked.

Plate Appearance of the Week (Batting)

After dropping the series’ first three games, things weren’t looking much brighter for Harrisburg, down 4-0 in the 8th inning on Saturday night. The Senators rallied for two runs on back-to-back RBI singles from Drew Millas and José Sánchez to halve the Rubber Ducks’ lead but only had three outs left to make up the difference.

Walks to Yasel Antuna and Will Frizzell, followed by a Trey Harris single, loaded the bases for Frankie Tostado. Jack Dunn subbed in to pinch run for Frizzell at second base for the added speed with the tying run. It wouldn’t be necessary as Tostado, sitting on a 1-1 breaking ball, crushed the offering deep into the Akron night to change the Senators’ fortunes with one swing of the bat.

Although the forecast for this week doesn’t have the same warm temperatures as the opening week did, it won’t be anything like the Senators just played at in Akron. Rainy and cold seemed to be the norm for much of the week culminating in Sunday’s doubleheader, which was only 45 degrees at the first pitch and featured a snowy mix at one point. Hopefully, that will be the worst they get as far as the weather goes, but a trip to New Hampshire in the first week of May may be worse.

One thing to look for in this week’s series is a change to FNB Field that many fans may have yet to notice in the previous series against Richmond. The Senators installed new lights and adjusted them for better coverage in some of the deeper recesses of the alleys in left and right-center.

EL Players of the Week

3B Colt Keith (Erie) – .542/.593/.875, 1 3B, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 4 R
RHP Gavin Williams (Akron) – 5 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 8 K, 1 BB

This Week

The Somerset Patriots, an affiliate of the New York Yankees, make their lone trip to City Island this year with a six-game series starting Tuesday at 6:30 PM when Jackson Rutledge toes the rubber for the Senators. Highlights of the homestand are Wet Nose Wednesday for a noon game, playing as the Playeros de Harrisburg for the first time this season on Thursday night as part of the MiLB Copa de la Diversión initiative, and an expected big crowd on Sunday with a Hersheypark ticket giveaway to the first 4,000 fans through the gate.

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Senators’ Notebook: Bullpen dominance, one pitch from Joel Peguero, Jackson Cluff’s triple, warm weather attendance, and a wild 13-10 win for Erie

Behind Omar Meregildo’s two home runs on Sunday afternoon, the Harrisburg Senators topped the Richmond Flying Squirrels 6-3. The victory secured the series win and marked the first for the Senators at home since last June when they took five of seven from Bowie.

The big takeaway from the series had to be the bullpen’s dominance. In the six games against Richmond, Harrisburg relievers tossed 31 innings, allowing only two runs on 13 hits for a 0.58 ERA over that stretch.

Ahead in the game or behind, it didn’t matter as each pitcher in the bullpen stepped up to put zero after zero on the board. Every series won’t be like this, but they picked a perfect time as the young starters struggled on the bump. This feat is even more impressive when you consider the increased workload of relievers, in terms of innings and frequency, early in the season.

Plate Appearance of the Week (Pitching)

Easily the worst outing by a reliever was by Evan Lee on Thursday afternoon. The southpaw was on to secure the victory in the ninth inning, up two runs with two outs and a baserunner on first. To say Lee struggled with his control is an understatement. He walked a batter, balked the tying runs into scoring position, and walked the next batter to load the bases. Richmond plated a run when Lee plunked Ismael Munguia with a pitch, his last of the day.

Joel Peguero was summoned from the bullpen to get out of the jam. Any hit out of the infield scores two more runs and gives the Flying Squirrels a lead; one into the gap would clear the bases. Instead, the 25-year-old right-hander delivered just one pitch to Patrick Bailey, a fastball down and in. Bailey squared the ball but lined it directly to right fielder Justin Connell to preserve the victory.

Plate Appearance of the Week (Batting)

Down 5-0 on Friday evening, the Senators scored a pair of runs in both the 5th and 7th innings to pull within one. Down to their final outs in the bottom half of the 9th, things weren’t looking good for the home team. Leading off the frame was Jackson Cluff, who, to that point in the season, was 0-for-14 with nine strikeouts. A rally didn’t seem imminent.

When Richmond pitcher Evan Gates fired a called strike to move the count to 1-2, it looked like strikeout number ten on the season was looming on the horizon. But a breaking ball called inside evened the count in the matchup. That’s when Gates delivered the fateful pitch, a belt-high 92 mph fastball on the inner half of the plate, that Cluff ripped into the right field corner and used his speed to race into third base. It set the table for a Leonel Valera RBI to tie the game and send it to extras, where the Senators prevailed on a José Sánchez walk-off single.

Unseasonably warm and pleasant days for mid-April were a boon for the Senators as 21,517 fans flocked to FNB Field over the six home dates, including a high of 5,546 on Friday night for Flatscreens & Fireworks.

They weren’t the only ones in the Eastern League drawing well either, as the six host teams (Harrisburg, Binghamton, Bowie, Erie, New Hampshire, and Reading) combined to average 3,071 a game as they drew a total of 110,565 fans in a spectacular week for baseball.

EL Game of the Week

When you rally for a four-run inning in the top of the 10th inning, you have to feel better than good about your chances of walking away with a victory. The Altoona Curve were already riding high after blowing out the Erie SeaWolves in the first two games of their series, 9-1 and 17-6, before scoring four times in the extra frame on four singles and an error.

Even with the zombie runner placed at second, that was a big hole to climb out of for the SeaWolves. But Altoona walked the bases loaded before Josh Crouch doubled home two runs. A throwing error on a routine grounder to Curve second baseman Liover Peguero plated another score and left the tying run 90 feet from home. A timely stolen base from Daniel Cabrera, when Altoona failed to cover, took away the possibility of a routine double-play ball which proved to be huge. So when Mario Feliciano fisted a ground ball to third base, the only play was to come home and cut the runner down instead of going around the horn to end the game.

That left Erie down to its final out, which appeared to come on the next pitch when Trei Cruz hit a chopper to Mason Martin. But the first baseman muffed it and then had no one to throw to at first base when he recovered. The SeaWolves had to feel like they were playing with house money at this point.

“How do you make sense of this,” Sam Lebowitz asked on the Erie broadcast.

“You don’t,” Greg Gania replied. “You just hope it ends here.”

Sure enough, Colt Keith sent the fans home happy on the second pitch of the at-bat with a massive three-run blast to right-center field to walk off with a wild and wacky 13-10 victory.

EL Players of the Week

SS Gage Workman (Erie) – .333/.484/.833, 2 2B, 2 3B, 2 HR, 7 RBI, 7 R
LHP Shane Drohan (Portland) – 2-0, 11 IP, 6 H, 0 R, 11 K, 1 BB, .158 BAA

This Week

Harrisburg travels to Ohio to face the Akron RubberDucks for a six-game series starting Tuesday evening at 6:35 PM when Michael Cuevas gets his second start for the Senators against Tanner Burns.

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April 11 Recap: Richmond 5, Harrisburg 1

The Harrisburg Senators dropped their home opener 5-1 to the Richmond Flying Squirrels on Tuesday night at FNB Field. Check out some highlights that feature defensive web gems, the first AA hit from Will Frizzell, and a couple of hard hit extra-base knocks.

• It’s tough to score many runs or even prolong any sustained rallies when you struggle to put the ball into play. And boy, did the Senators struggle to do that Tuesday. They struck out a team record 21 times against five separate Flying Squirrels’ pitchers.

The most damaging had to be after Trey Harris led off the bottom of the third inning with a stand-up triple scorched at 106 mph into the gap in the still scoreless contest. Jackson Cluff went from being up 3-0 in the count to going down looking for the first out. J.T. Arruda followed and watched strike three as well. Leonel Valera finished the trifecta with a foul tip into Richmond catcher Patrick Bailey’s glove.

• On the flip side, Harrisburg pitchers walked 10 batters giving Richmond baserunners without the lack of a hit in seven of the nine innings. Ironically, one of those innings without a free pass was the fateful fourth when the Flying Squirrels pushed across all five runs on a home run, three doubles, a single, and an error.

• Although the minor leagues have had the pitch clock since 2015, the implementation this season at the Major League level has had a curious effect on the way umpires are policing the rules even at Double-A. You could see it first hand on Tuesday as Flying Squirrel batters were called out in strikes for not being ready with eight seconds to go two separate times with little leeway including the first out of the game.

• The ceremonial first pitch of the season was delivered by Governor Josh Shapiro. Or I should say, the ceremonial first pitches. The governor’s first attempt was wide and low, scooting by Harrisburg manager Delino DeShields to the backstop. So in the grand tradition of a wiffle ball stuck in a tree, we got a do-over which Shapiro lofted perfectly to the skipper behind the plate. The governor also joined Terry Byrom on the radio for an inning taking over some of the play-by-play duties in the process.

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A noon start brings hope

Mitch Longo beats the throw home on Jecksson Flores’ sacrifice fly (Photo courtesy Harrisburg Senators)

It’s difficult not to compare and contrast the 2022 Senators with the team we saw last year. Manager Tripp Keister and many of the same players returned to City Island. Familiar faces back in familiar places. I’m guessing there’s a German word that describes the tendency for humans to do that.

On Tuesday night, Portland starting pitcher Brayan Bello and four relievers, each throwing harder than the last, shut down the Senators for most of the game in a deflating 7-1 loss that was never in doubt. It looked like more of the same for a team who last year went 42-76, batted .228, and scored a league-low 432 runs.

Wednesday’s day game (by the way, am I the only one that finds it odd this was the schedule immediately after the pomp and circumstance of the home opener?) featured another highly touted starting pitching prospect in the Red Sox system. And like Bello 16 hours earlier, Portland southpaw Jay Groome shoved.

The former first-round draft pick overwhelmed the Senators allowing a lone infield single in five innings. Groome’s surgical precision of efficiency (and the Senators’ nadir in their approach) culminated in a five-pitch inning that ended his day after delivering just 49 pitches.

I feel pretty confident saying that the Senators would have finished the game with a whimper last year, seemingly going through the motions and trying to get off the island as fast as possible. Odds are better than good it would have been a shutout.

But Wednesday afternoon, this year’s edition of the team flipped the script.

Jecksson Flores tied the game up, lifting a fly ball just deep enough with two strikes on him to score Mitch Longo from third base. A walk and hit by pitch loaded the bases for Harrisburg’s hottest hitter, K.J. Harrison.

After starting the at-bat with three straight balls, Portland reliever Dylan Spacke worked it back to a full count. But on the payoff pitch, Harrison laid off an offering off the plate to move everyone up 90 feet and give the Senators the lead. Two pitches later, a wild pitch bounced towards the home dugout, allowing runners to advance for a 3-1 advantage.

A Portland rally in the ninth plated a run but couldn’t find the equalizer giving the Senators the 3-2 victory.

Perhaps it was just a bad day on the bump for Spacke, or maybe it was something more. Something we rarely saw last year. That possibility makes this team infinitely more watchable for the remainder of the season.

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Senators eye 2022 Opening Day with optimism

Jackson Cluff
Photo by Jill Weisleder/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Baseball players are creatures of habit. The ups and downs of the game are tempered by the same routine every day.

Last year, that was tested as COVID restrictions severely limited what you could and couldn’t do and when you could do it.

“It felt like it was a sprint every day,” Harrisburg Senators manager Tripp Keister said. “It never really slowed down because of the rules and the hours you could be at the ballpark. It was tough.”

“Last year, there was a lot of uncertainty,” infielder Jackson Cluff added. “Even in minor league baseball, we talk about how the teams are random, and you can move from one roster to another just like that. But there is a sense of camaraderie that still needs to happen in a locker room. There were a lot of people who didn’t know each other trying to get to know personalities.”

But as the Senators open their 2022 campaign on Friday evening at Peoples Natural Gas Field in Altoona against the Curve, the hope is most of that changes back to the familiar this season.

“What a difference a year makes,” Keister said. “This time last year, we had no idea what we were going to be able to do. There were so many unknowns. This year I feel more comfortable that it’s going to be a normal season.”

There are still COVID-related rules to be followed, but they are more relaxed and less stringent than a year ago.

“It’s a little bit easier to socialize and spend time together,” Cluff said. “There are fewer restrictions on when we can show up to the ballpark and when we can leave. That just plays a big role in being comfortable with your teammates, trusting each other, and getting to watch how people go about their business.”

Coming off a 42-76 record last year, where they batted .228 and scored a league-low 432 runs, the skipper sees brighter times ahead for this squad.

“I had tremendous respect for the guys last year,” Keister said. “We did struggle. Look at the record. We struggled in every facet. But they gave me everything they had. It’s hard to get beat. In the minor leagues, they say wins don’t matter, but they do for morale, for coming to the park every day.”

“I think last year’s offensive group was a work in progress all year. I feel really good about where we are coming into the season.”

And with that optimism coupled with a Major League team firmly entrenched in rebuild mode around superstar Juan Soto, players have to realize they could find themselves on the precipice of realizing their dreams sooner rather than later.

“If you’re this close in an organization where we are right now, and you don’t see you have a tremendous opportunity in front of you, I don’t know what to tell you,” Keister said. “Get hot. Go put together a great month and see where it takes you.”

Notes: Ronald Herrera gets the Opening Night nod as the right-hander squares off against Altoona’s Carmen Mlodzinski…the rest of the rotation follows as: Richard Guasch, Cole Henry, Steven Fuentes, and Evan Lee…minor league free agents Wilson Garcia, Mitch Longo, and Rudy Martin should all add a veteran presence both in the clubhouse and in the lineup.

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That Was The Week That Was: May 18-23

vs. Altoona Curve (Pirates)
2-4 (6-12)
6th Place – Double-A Northeast, Southwest Division

The six-game set hosting the Curve was representative of where the Senators stand three weeks into the season. The offense isn’t going to give you much, but if the pitching, both starters and relievers, can continue at this level, it provides Harrisburg a shot at victory each night. This week’s series visiting Bowie will be a good test of the staff as the 13-4 Baysox are in the top half of the league in most offensive categories.

⚫ With starters Mario Sanchez, Sterling Sharp, and Carson Teel leading the way, the Senators’ rotation is doing a good job throwing strikes and pitching to contact. Harrisburg may be dead last in the Double-A Northeast as a pitching staff in strikeouts, but they’ve also allowed the least number of walks while throwing the least number of pitches per inning. They have also rolled over a league-leading 16 double-plays so far, which has gotten them out of numerous jams.

⚫ After beginning the season 0-for-16, Alex Dunlap broke out in a big way in the Senators’ 6-3 victory over Altoona on Saturday night. In the seventh inning, the backup catcher doubled down the left-field line and scored a batter later on Cody Wilson’s two-bagger. Tied 3-3 an inning later with men on first and third and one out, Wilson laid down a safety squeeze bunt that scored Rhett Wiseman and kept the late rally going. 

It was a great call from Harrisburg manager Tripp Keister too, as Dunlap has struggled to put the ball in play (seven strikeouts) and is a candidate for an inning-ending double play. The skipper knew he could trust Dunlap to get the bunt down, and Wiseman’s insertion earlier as a pinch-runner paid off as the outfielder beat the play at the plate.

⚫ I know I highlighted him two weeks ago, but reliever Gabe Klobosits continues to impress at the back-end of the bullpen. The Auburn University product has dominated in his first go-round at Double-A.

In six appearances over eight innings, Klobosits struck out 14 batters, including six in two frames on Sunday afternoon. The 6-foot-7 right-hander sits in the mid-90s with his fastball and has displayed excellent command throwing 75% strikes with 26 swing-and-miss strikes (out of 70 thrown).

Klobosits hasn’t allowed a run in his last 18 appearances over 27.1 innings dating all the way back to July 11, 2019. 

⚫ It took 18 games, but the Senators played their first extra-inning affair of the season on Sunday. In 2019, Harrisburg played in 15 such contests (over a 139 game season) with a 7-8 record.

Who’s Hot:
Jakson Reetz .357/.500/.429 (5-for-14)
Sterling Sharp 6.0 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 5 K

Who’s Not:
Osvaldo Duarte .053/.182/.053 (1-for-19)
Jhon Romero 1.0 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 2 K

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That Was The Week That Was: May 11-16

vs. Richmond Flying Squirrels (Giants)
3-3 (4-8)
6th Place – Double-A Northeast, Southwest Division

Thursday night, the Senators were a part of history. Not the kind they’d like, however.

Starting pitcher Matt Frisbee and three relievers combined to no-hit Harrisburg for the first nine-inning no-hitter in Richmond team history. The Senators’ team batting average slipped from a ghastly .131 to a dreadful .118, and frankly, as bad as the offense has been in the early season, it almost felt like it was bound to happen sooner rather than later.

Cole Freeman led off the next game with a single up the middle putting thoughts of back-to-back ineffectiveness on the back burner. You might be able to look at Wednesday night’s futility as the absolute nadir of the Senators’ struggles at the plate. Because since then, the Senators have gotten timely hits as they reeled off three straight victories to end the Flying Squirrels’ series. In each of the wins, Harrisburg has answered right back in the bottom half of an inning after Richmond tied or took the lead.

⚫ Harrisburg’s pitching has been the saving grace for the team so far. In this series, the starting rotation provided something they didn’t show in the first six games: a chance to win by keeping the games close and out of an early hole. The five starters combined this week to allow 12 earned runs over 33.1 innings (3.24 ERA).

The relievers continued their impressive start, for the most part putting up goose egg after goose egg. Richmond managed only four earned runs off the bullpen in 20.2 innings of work. Six relievers have yet to allow an earned run, and Frankie Bartow has yet to allow even a baserunner in three appearances.

⚫ Drew Mendoza and Jackson Cluff, the top-rated position player prospects for the Senators, both went on the shelf in the Richmond series. Mendoza has yet to go officially on the injured list, but he hasn’t played since leaving in the seventh inning of Wednesday night’s game. In his first at-bat, the corner infielder fouled a ball off his right foot.

Cluff landed on the 7-day IL after coming up hurt when Vince Fernandez knocked the ball out of the shortstop’s glove, sliding in on a stolen base late in Thursday’s game. Cluff appeared in obvious pain but stayed in the game after a visit from trainer T.D. Swinford.

Humberto Arteaga takes Cluff’s place on the active roster, while Osvaldo Duarte has played short the last three games and gone 5-for-12 at the plate.

⚫ Last week, I lamented about the Senators’ struggles on defense when they committed 11 errors in six games at Somerset. To say they cleaned it up at FNB Field would be an understatement. Harrisburg committed just three errors against Richmond, with only one as a fielding miscue.

⚫ One interesting tidbit from the media Zoom session from the home opener is that the Senators (and the Patriots) were only able to have pre-game batting practice in three of the six days in Somerset. Their batting cage is still under construction, and rain limited what could and couldn’t occur on the field.

“Statistics only tell me what has already happened,” Senators’ manager Tripp Keister said. “I don’t want them to cloud the work and optimistic view they can have each night. Now, if they start letting that bother them, then I need to talk to them about that.”

The skipper hopes two straight weeks back on City Island gets the team back into a routine where the results will follow.

“We’re just trying to be better today than we were yesterday,” Keister said.

Who’s Hot:
Cole Freeman .300/.364/.400 (6-for-20)
Nick Wells 5.0 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 6 K

Who’s Not:
Rhett Wiseman .071/.133/.143 (1-for-14)
Jhon Romero 2.0 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 2 K

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That Was The Week That Was: May 4-9

@ Somerset Patriots (Yankees)
1-5 (1-5)
6th Place – Double-A Northeast, Southwest Division

The Harrisburg Senators are lucky they got out of Somerset with one victory in their opening six-game series. The offense was anemic. The fielding even worse. The team comes home to FNB Field to right the ship as they take on the Richmond Flying Squirrels beginning Tuesday evening.

  • The Senators scratched out a measly 22 hits in the six-game set as they managed to push across only 13 runs. Their .120 batting average ranks 120th out of 120 minor league teams after a week of play. That’s correct — dead last.

    Where do I even begin?

    The team has struck out a total of 66 times, including four games in double-digits. Harrisburg led for a total of only three of the 54 innings they played against the Patriots. Nine of the 13 position players are hitting .100 or lower.

    The struggle with such a small sample size at the outset of the season is pinpointing the issues. Is this a by-product of 20 months without real games? How much can we attribute to ramping back up to game speed after an abbreviated spring training? Or are some players overmatched at the Double-A level? 

    We’ll need more time and more at-bats to figure out the answers to those questions.

  • The struggles are not just limited to the Senators either. The four Nationals’ affiliates have begun the season with only three wins against 21 losses. Fredericksburg (Low-A) was swept in their opening series, while the other three mustered only one win apiece.

    Washington’s minor leaguers are hitting a cumulative .173, and only the Triple-A Rochester Red Wings are above the dreaded Mendoza line. It’s bad all over. So that means no help is coming from above or below the Senators. Everyone in the system is looking for the same answers.

  • When you’re scuffling at the plate as much as the Senators are, the last thing you can afford to do is give the opponent extra outs. But that’s precisely what they did last week at TD Bank Ballpark, committing 11 errors and allowing a passed ball.

    At the hot corner alone, the Senators have botched four ground balls from three different third basemen. One of those, Manuel Geraldo, also misplayed two other balls at second base. Shortstop Jackson Cluff has already thrown two away.

    Once again, it’s not a problem that appears to be limited to just the Senators. The other three teams in the Nationals’ organization have committed 27 errors led by Fredericksburg’s 14 in the first six games. 

    Usually, cold and rainy April weather is justification for sloppy play in the first month. You can’t make that excuse this year. Perhaps the way teams approached spring training and handled the coronavirus restrictions adversely affected their readiness for the season. It sure seems like they’re still playing catch-up.

    “I think we’re going to have to be very patient at times,” manager Tripp Keister said during Media Day last Monday. “I don’t want to use the word sloppy, but there was definitely a rush to get guys ready after Major League camp. Quite frankly, we haven’t had a chance to cover everything we want to do.

    “I’ll give you an example. We did bunt plays with the pitching staff, and we did bunt plays with the infielders. But we never did bunt plays with them together. We’re going to do those today. But things like that, it’s my job to address anything that hasn’t been covered.”

  • The highest-ranked prospect on the team, southpaw starter Tim Cate, has been roughed up in both of his outings. In fact, of the eight home runs the Harrisburg pitching staff has allowed, Cate has accounted for half of them. And all of them were in the first inning in both games putting the Senators in early deficits.

    Cate’s struggles begin with getting and staying ahead of hitters. Too many times in his dreadful starts, the lefty put himself in hitter’s counts, and the Patriots made him pay.

    Cate pitched to a 4.91 ERA and 0.55 WHIP while batters hit .154 off him when ahead in the count. But get behind, and the offensive fireworks go off to the tune of a 23.14 ERA and .455 batting average.

  • Trying to find a glimmer of hope in the darkness…

    In the lone victory on Wednesday night, a trio of bullpen arms, Gabe Klobosits, Alberto Baldonado, and Frankie Bartow, combined to throw four scoreless innings. But more impressive was their ability and willingness to command their pitches in the strike zone. Too many times, pitchers at this level will nibble because they’re afraid of getting beat. Klobosits and Bartow showed otherwise in their first taste of Double-A.

    Klobosits did it again on Sunday. So far, the 36th round draft pick has been unleashing bullets firing 25 strikes on 34 pitches.

    Now, can we get the guy a uniform top he’s not swimming in?
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