If numbers are to tell the tale, Monday’s showdown between Single-A Potomac and Myrtle Beach wasn’t supposed to end anything like this. But statistics on paper don’t account for poised pitching by a 23-year-old right-hander coupled with an offensive onslaught from unforeseen contributors.
Luis Atilano stifled the Pelicans’ league-best offense as the Nationals cruised to a 15-0 Game 1 victory in the Carolina League Championship Series at BB&T Coastal Field. Myrtle Beach scored 764 runs this season, but that didn’t seem to matter against Atilano. He hurled five innings while allowing six hits and fanning four.
Atilano, who went 6-7 with a 4.50 ERA this season, moved the P-Nats to within two victories of a league championship in this best-of-five series. Meanwhile, Michael Martinez led the P-Nats offense with a 4-for-5 night, including a double, three runs and two RBIs.
Andrew Lefave, Jhonatan Solano and Boomer Whiting also turned in multi-hit games. the P-Nats put a six-spot on the board in the fourth inning and five more up in the sixth to ensure victory.
The two teams will meet Tuesday for Game 2, with Jeff Mandel hurling for the P-Nats while Carlos Rivas takes the hill for Myrtle Beach.
Triple-A Columbus center fielder Roger Bernadina is doing more than his fair share of hitting these days. Heading into the Clippers’ Saturday showdown with Toledo, Bernadina had hit safely in 14 consecutive games.
The 24-year-old lefty is batting .352 in 45 games for the Clippers this season, including four homers and 16 RBIs. He began the season at Double-A Harrisburg, where Bernadina hit .323 with five homers and 38 RBIs.
Since joining the Clippers, Bernadina has hit safely in 36 of his 45 games overall. Eight of those contests in this stretch were multi-hit ventures.
Bynum producing significant power for Harrisburg
It’s a whole new season for Senators infielder Seth Bynum. After amassing only 15 home runs in his previous four seasons, Bynum already has a professional-best 20 long balls in 2008.
He’s batting .270 overall with 15 doubles, 14 homesr and 47 RBIs at the Double-A level. In a combined 117 games with Harrisburg and Single-A Potomac, Bynum is batting .266 with 28 doubles and 77 RBIs to go along with his 20 homers.
— Short Season Single-A Vermont infielder Danny Espinosa has gone 12-for-25 with 11 walks in nine games as a professional. he has posted a multi-hit effort in five games.
— GCL Nationals shortstop Esmailyn “Smiley” Gonzalez won the rookie-level batting title after completing his second domestic sesaon with a .350 batting average. The 18-year-old also led the league with a .436 on-base percentage.
The Gulf Coast Rookie League crowned a champion in the East Division on Tuesday, as the GCL Nationals topped the GCL Mets 2-0 to claim rights to a postseason berth. It was the third consecutive shutout for the Nats, which became the third Washington Nationals affiliate to earn postseason rights during the 2008 campaign — Single-A Carolina and the Dominican Summer League Nationals being the others. It’s the first time since 2005 that three Nationals farm teams made the postseason in the same year.
At 33-21, the GCL Nats are in the midst of a four-game winning streak. They’re being paced left-hander Jack McGeary, who leads the GCL with 64 strikeouts. He began the streak of three consecutive shutouts by striking out eight in 6 2/3 innings against the GCL Dodgers.
Marcos Frias followed McGeary with his first professional shutout. He allowed three hits in seven innings in a 7-0 win over the Dodgers on Monday. In the division-clinching win on Tuesday, three Nats hurlers combined for a four-hit shutout. They were led by a six-inning performance by reliever Paul Demny, who came into the ballgame in the third for lefty starter Graham Hicks. Demny allowed just three hits while striking out eight.
Wednesday’s bout with the GCL Marlins is the Nats’ final regular season game of the 2008 campaign.
Andrew Kown took a rather large leap on Thursday night in Columbus. The 25-year-old Washington Nationals prospect made his first start for the Triple-A Clippers after being called up from Single-A Potomac, and he certainly didn’t disappoint.
Kown pitched seven innings in Columbus’s 6-1 win over Richmond, allowing just one run on seven hits throughout the outing. Given how much movement the young right-hander has endured this season, such a promising start to his Triple-A career is rather welcomed.
Kown was 0-2 with the P-Nats of the Carolina League, appearing in three games — starting one — while compiling a 3.00 ERA. He briefly stayed with Double-A Harrisburg earlier this year, but allowed eight runs on eight hits in 2 1/3 innings of relief work before heading down to Potomac.
This time around, Kown made good on the change of scenery. In the meantime, Columbus climbed one game above .500 with a 66-65 record in the International League West. They’ve won four in a row since dropping seven straight on Aug. 10-17. Still, the Clippers are in third place in the IL West, 15 games behind Louisville.
Potomac Nationals RHP Luis Atilano was selected as the Pitcher of the Week for the Carolina League for the period of July 21-27 after allowing just two hits over 10 innings split between two starts.
The right-hander, a member of the Washington Nationals’ Class A affiliate, is 4-0 with a 2.39 ERA in 10 appearances, six of them starts, and his batting average against is a sparse .202.
Acquired in 2006 from the Braves, the 23-year-old Atilano becomes the fifth Potomac player to garner Player or Pitcher of the Week honors. Right-hander Jordan Zimmerman, outfielders Edgardo Baez and Marvin Lowrance and infielder/outfielder Leonard Davis have also brought home the award for Potomac — all four have been promoted through the system since.
It’s been a rough Major League season in the nation’s capital, but the Nationals have enjoyed a banner year in the Minors, and they have the third-best organizational record in all of baseball to show for it.
Entering action July 24, six clubs had combined for 311 wins this season, and three of them were leading their respective divisions.
The Nationals have adopted in the last few years a strategy of drafting the best players available during the First-Year Player Draft, flooding their system with as many elite prospects as they can find. It’s shown early returns at the lower levels of the system, where players like John Lannan and Justin Maxwell excelled and progressed quickly en route to accelerated journeys to the Majors.
In Class A Hagerstown, slugger Michael Burgess, who general manager Jim Bowden touted as one of the best power hitters in his high school class, leads the entire organization with 18 home runs. One step higher at Class A Potomac, 2007 first-round pick Ross Detwiler continues to improve his control, and he’s posted a 3.86 ERA in four July starts, striking out 19 and walking just four in that time. Baseball America taps the left-hander as Washington’s projected future No. 1 starter.
Detwiler is one of a bevy of young pitchers the Nationals hope will continue to progress through the system. While the Missouri State product is still sharpening his craft in Potomac, players like Jordan Zimmermann, Shairon Martis, Tyler Clippard and Craig Stammen have all shown enough to warrant progression through the Nationals’ system.
Zimmermann, all of 24, is 4-2 with a 3.50 ERA in 14 starts at Harrisburg, and he’s struck out 70 batters in 79 2/3 innings.
Mock is already in the Majors operating out of the bullpen, and he and Clippard have both made spot starts for Washington this year. Martis earned a save in the 2008 Futures Game, and Stammen made just six starts in Double-A before earning a promotion on the back of a 3-1 record and a 1.64 ERA during that stretch.
The Nationals’ Minor League pitching depth is giving early returns at the highest level as well, as highly-rated right-hander Collin Balester took the spot of injured starter Shawn Hill in early July and has a 1-2 record in four Major League starts. His 5.75 ERA is a bit deceiving as well, as he’s allowed just one run in two of those four appearances.
The Nationals have some offensive talent in the Minors as well, most notably in the form of the just demoted Triple-A center fielder Roger Bernadina. Another fast climber through the system Bernadina began his season in Double-A Harrisburg and was in Washington by late June.
He struggled at the Majors and found himself sent down to Triple-A Columbus, where he’s made the most of his opportunity. In nine games in the Ohio capital, the fleet-footed Bernadina is hitting .469 with five doubles, two triples, a home run and a perfect 5-for-5 record in stolen base attempts.