John Simms walks a tightrope to victory in precarious second inning

Samuel Getty / Harrisburg Senators

Harrisburg starter John Simms impressively worked through the top of the potent Bowie batting order in the first inning recording all three outs via strikeouts. But things started to unravel quickly for the righthander in the second frame.

Eastern League veteran Garabez Rosa led off the inning with an eight-pitch at-bat that culminated in a flare over the outstretched glove of second baseman Stephen Perez. Glynn Davis followed with a bunt that caught the Senators off guard with Perez late to cover first base.

The next batter, Adrian Marin, laced a single back up the middle that chased Rosa home from second base to give the Baysox a 1-0 lead. Bowie appeared on the verge of breaking the game wide open with a big inning. Reliever Ryan Brinley got up quickly in the Senators bullpen and started throwing with a purpose.

Simms struck out Jay Gonzalez to record the first out of the inning although it came at the cost of nine additional pitches. Erick Salcedo followed with a pop-up into shallow left field that Ozzie Abreu tracked down moving away from the infield dirt.

Despite settling down to record back-to-back outs, Simms got a visit from pitching coach Chris Michalak. Deep counts and tough at-bats had the 25-year-old quickly approaching the 40-pitch per inning limit imposed by the Nationals. If Simms were to hit that number, manager Matt LeCroy would have no choice but to remove him from the game regardless of the situation.

And coming to the plate was the hottest hitter on the Baysox, D.J. Stewart, who was already 6-for-10 in the series with a home run and two doubles. Simms fell behind 2-0 before getting Stewart to ground out to end the rally on the 35th pitch of the inning, a full count breaking ball. “I got out of there and I was just thankful I didn’t have to turn it over to the bullpen too early,” Simms said.

“That was a big inning,” LeCroy added. “It could have gotten pretty ugly, but he only gave up the one.”

Buoyed by the change of momentum, Harrisburg responded in the bottom half of the inning with a run-scoring double off the bat of Raudy Read and an RBI groundout from Spencer Kieboom to give the Senators a 2-1 advantage.

Pitching with the lead, Simms made some adjustments as he breezed through the next three innings facing the minimum number of batters. “I’m just happy to have gotten out of that inning when I did and then after that it was just going back to attacking them,” the Rice product said. “I got back into the zone and forced the action.”

Brinley and Phillips Valdez each worked two scoreless innings of relief to preserve the slim margin of victory as the Senators topped the Baysox in the rubber match of the series.

Game 16 vs. Bowie: Lineup and Notes

GAME NOTES 04/23/2017

TODAY’S GAME

The Senators and Baysox play the rubber match of the three game series Sunday night at FNB Field. The Senators evened the series with a 3-1 win in game two, aided by starter Mark Blackmar tossing five innings of one run ball. The Senators are now 2-3 against the Baysox this season after they dropped two out of three to Bowie on the prior road trip. The Senators look to finish off their third series win of the season.

STARTING PITCHING ON A ROLL

After Mark Blackmar limited the Baysox to just two runs in five innings, Senators starting pitchers have allowed two runs or less in four consecutive starts. three of the past four Senators starting pitchers have held the opposition to just a single run, highlighted by Jaron Long and Erick Fedde’s back to back seven inning and one run performances in the final two games against Hartford.

TODAY’S STARTING PITCHERS 

John Simms gets the start in the rubber match of the series for the Senators. Simms pitched against Hartford in each of his first two starts, going 0-1 with four runs allowed over ten and two thirds innings. The right-hander went 1-0 in two appearances out of the bullpen last season, allowing three runs across six frames. Brandon Barker gets the ball for the Baysox. Barker is 1-0 with a 4.85 ERA in three starts this season. The right-hander threw six shutout innings against Richmond in his last start. The 24-year-old is in his second season with the Baysox and was originally drafted in the 14th round of the 2014 draft out of Mercer.

FOLLOW ALONG

Finding the positive with Zach Collier

Samuel Getty / Harrisburg Senators

After posting a .285/.336/.425 slash line in 64 games with the Harrisburg Senators last year, Zach Collier earned a promotion to Triple-A Syracuse in late June. The veteran player had impressed the Nationals’ brass in his first season with the organization for his ability to play all three outfield positions as well as his considerable tools at the plate.

Despite the praise and extensive experience, Collier’s name was absent from all affiliates when minor league rosters were announced just days before the season began. An injury to his ankle late in spring training forced him to start the year on Harrisburg’s disabled list and assigned to extended spring training.

“The timing of his injury was bad for him,” manager Matt LeCroy said.

So instead of heading north with fellow Nationals minor leaguers, Collier toiled away in Florida recovering and rehabilitating. But like much of the struggles and hurdles that have come Collier’s way in the past, he doesn’t dwell on the negative but instead learns from every step so he can apply it in the future.

“I just had to keep in mind that while I was down there I could take advantage of that time to work on some things and I feel like my swing was one of those things,” he said. “I didn’t feel like I had the greatest spring. I didn’t feel all that comfortable. So I think that time I had down there was big for me.”

For the 26-year-old it was just another example of finding the positive when so many others wouldn’t.

In his young life, Collier has already undergone two heart surgeries for a defect, an anomalous left coronary artery, that restricted the amount of oxygen his heart could receive. His first procedure took place when he was a 16-year-old high school sophomore and his second after his career in the Philadelphia organization washed out after six middling seasons in the minors. Collier played the entire 2015 season with the independent Lancaster Barnstormers to prove to Major League organizations that he was both healthy and still as talented as ever.

After his ankle healed and he was game ready, Collier joined the Senators before their series last weekend in Bowie. The outfielder played sparingly in the last week and had amassed only 12 at-bats in limited action before Saturday night’s game against the same Baysox at FNB Field.

In his first at-bat, Collier crushed an 0-1 offering over the bullpen and boardwalk in right field to pace the Senators an early 3-0 lead off pitcher Chris Tillman, who was starting on a MLB rehab assignment. It was an advantage on the scoreboard the Senators would never relinquish. “I take an at-bat at a time regardless of who is on the mound,” Collier said.

“That was good for him and good for our club,” LeCroy said. “That was a big run.”

Getting consistent playing time is going to be difficult with Andrew Stevenson, Alec Keller, and Yadiel Hernandez entrenched as the starting outfield. “I think he can be a big part of this team even though he’s not going to be in there every day,” LeCroy said.

But once again Collier finds the positive attitude in the circumstance. “Going through this is helping me to prepare myself to come off the bench when we play National League games,” the outfielder said. “Learning how to have a quality at-bat and put the bat on the ball.”

LeCroy is relying on the veteran to be a presence in the clubhouse and on the diamond for his young squad. “Once he gets going, we saw what can happen last year. He can carry you for a while.”

Game 15 vs. Bowie: Lineup and Notes

GAME NOTES 04/22/2017

TODAY’S GAME

The Senators and Baysox play game two of the three game series Saturday night at FNB field. Bowie took the opener 8-2 as the Senators finished 0 for 15 with runners in scoring position. The Senators are now 1-3 against the Baysox this season after they dropped two out of three to Bowie on the prior road trip.

LARGEST CROWD

The Senators drew 4,047 fans to FNB field for Friday’s series opener, the largest crowd they have played in front of this season. Their previous high at FNB field was 3,471 on April 8 against Altoona. The game also lasted three hours and 17 minutes, which is the longest nine inning game the Senators have played this season.

TODAY’S STARTING PITCHERS 

The Senators send Mark Blackmar to the mound in game two of the series Saturday night. Blackmar allowed three runs across four innings in game two of a doubleheader against Altoona on April 8 in his only start this season before pitching out of the bullpen for two games. The right- hander is 1-1 and has surrendered five runs and ten hits over eight innings pitched, Blackmar will be opposed by Baysox starter Chris Tillman. The right-hander is on a rehab assignment recovering from a shoulder injury. This is Tillman’s second rehab appearance for Bowie after he allowed one run in two and two-thirds innings on April 17 against Richmond. The former all-star went 16-6 for the Orioles last season, with a 3.77 ERA and 140 strikeouts.

FOLLOW ALONG

Missed opportunities cost Senators early and often in 8-2 loss

Ozzie Abreu’s home run in the ninth inning prevented the Senators from being shutout victims two straight days. (Samuel Getty / Harrisburg Senators)

“Missed opportunities”

It’s a phrase that often gets bandied around clubhouses and locker rooms for any sport at almost every level. Baseball is no different as it causes managers to lose their hair, grow ulcers, chain smoke in the tunnel, or always wonder ‘what if’.

After struggling offensively for most of the game like the Senators did on Thursday night in Hartford, a manager hopes his players deliver in the clutch when that chance finally comes up in a key spot but he knows the odds and reality of the situation.

But when that chance comes up again and again like it did on Friday night against the Baysox, a manager expects his players to come through at least once or twice. Instead, the Senators came up short with every opportunity they were given as the team went 0-for-15 while batting with runners in scoring position.

This was not a collective stretch of bad luck, either, as the Senators hit exactly one ball out of the infield and struck out eight times in those 15 plate appearances. It was a pitiful display of situational hitting by the team as a whole.

“To me you have to have some confidence in that situation that you can do it,” manager Matt LeCroy said. “I feel like some of the guys now are a little tentative. Taking pitches they should hit, and swinging at balls they should take.”

“Some of it is lack of experience, but those things can get you to the big leagues if you do them well.”

The game was a nip and tuck affair through the first seven innings when it was still an eminently winnable contest. Don’t let the final score fool you. The game was much closer than that until Senators reliever Jimmy Cordero dumped a tanker full of gasoline on the small campfire. But early in the game, when it still mattered, the Senators had three opportunities to score by making an out as long as the ball was put in play to anyone other than the pitcher or third baseman.

They failed all three times.

“We just have to get better at it. That’s how you win games,” LeCroy said. “We work on it every day, but you have to be able to carry that over into the game.”

Game 14 vs. Bowie: Lineup and Notes

GAME NOTES 4/21/2017

TODAY’S GAME

The Senators return home for a six game homestand starting with a three game series against the Bowie Baysox. The Senators dropped two out of three to Bowie in the first series between the two on the prior road trip. The Senators have won three of their last four games after winning two of three against Hartford to finish out their seven game road trip. The club was shutout 1-0 in Wednesday’s series finale despite Erick Fedde allowing just one run in seven innings. The Baysox split their last series against Richmond, losing the final two games of the series.

STREAK UP TO 10

With his second inning single, Neftali Soto extended his hitting streak to ten games, the longest such streak by a Senator this season. The Manati, Puerto Rico native has hit safely in every game he’s started this year, and is second on the club with five multi hit efforts on the season. He is second on the team with a .354 batting average and .918 OPS.

TODAY’S STARTING PITCHERS

Austen Williams starts the series opener for the Senators. Williams makes his second consecutive start against the Baysox as he took the loss his last time out at Bowie, surrendering three runs and seven hits over five innings. The right-hander has allowed five runs and 12 hits in 11 innings this season, with 12 strikeouts. Tanner Scott takes the bump for the Baysox. The left-hander threw three hitless innings against the Senators in his last start. The former sixth round is the 11th rated prospect in the Orioles organization per MLB.com.

FOLLOW ALONG

The Coldest Game

Will Bentzel / Harrisburg Senators

With the unseasonably warm April, it might be easy to forget how bitterly cold it was just two short weeks ago for Opening Night at FNB Field. The temperature that Friday never dipped below 40 degrees on the scoreboard, but the 20 miles per hour winds cut through everything you were wearing and chilled you to the bone. Players relied on portable heaters in the dugout, hand warmers, lots of layers, and pretty much anything to stay as warm as possible. Outfielder Andrew Stevenson remarked that it was the coldest game he could ever remember playing in.

But not everyone in the home dugout agreed with Stevenson.

Manager Matt LeCroy remembers cold weather being the norm in places like Rochester and Edmonton during his playing career. “Rochester was cold the longest. I don’t like wearing sleeves and I wore sleeves that year for what felt like the whole year. It was cold all of the time,” LeCroy said. He points to Opening Day 2007 in Rochester as the coldest game he ever played in. “We played a day game at 1 o’clock and I think it started around 37 degrees. It was below freezing by the end of the game,” he said. “They almost called the game.”

It wouldn’t have been a new experience for LeCroy as he remembers that happening too. “We got cancelled because it was too cold in Edmonton. It was sunny with clear skies,” he said. “Two days in a row, we got ‘colded’ out.”

Pitcher Greg Ross grew up in Maryland and went to Frostburg State located in the Allegheny Mountains on the eastern slope of Big Savage Mountain so he’s used to playing in the cold. “I think my senior year of college we had five home games,” Ross said. “It was a full season of that weather.”

“It’s funny seeing the southern guys come up and say this is cold,” he said. “Nah, this is a good day up here.”

Even the grounds crew and front office staff remember a colder game just three short years ago. A Wednesday morning matinee at then Metro Bank Park was delayed for 46 minutes while the field thawed out and the first pitch temperature rose to 34 degrees. The grounds crew chipped away ice from the edges of the playing surface for what was and is the coldest start-time temperature team officials can remember.

Pitching coach Chris Michalak grew up in Joliet, Illinois, attended Notre Dame, and played in numerous “cold weather” cities during his minor league journey including Edmonton. So when he has stories about cold games, you just turn on the tape recorder and let him go.

“I remember we played at Purdue in March and it’s no fun,” he recalled his college days. “The worst is in the bullpen because you would be freezing and then they expect you get loose. There would be times when I could not feel my finger because I would have it outside my glove. It hurt so badly every time the ball would come back to me. The worst thing is to sit down there, with no cover, and it’s drizzling. We didn’t have heaters at that time. You’re just down there shivering.”

“There were many times when I sat down there re-evaluating what I was doing.”

As for the coldest game he played in though? That’s an easy answer for Michalak. “I pitched one time in Colorado Springs,” he said. “There was frozen sleet and the wind chill was in the 20s. It was miserable. My toes were cold. I couldn’t feel anything. I have real bad circulation too so there were times I couldn’t feel the ball.”

“I remember the guys were giving me a hard time because I wore a mask on the mound,” Michalak said. “I didn’t care. It was freezing.”

 

Senators Return Home for Six Game Homestand

Halloween Night and Two Hersheypark Ticket Giveaways Highlight Homestand

Friday, April 21, at 7:00 p.m. vs. the Bowie Baysox (AA Orioles), gates open at 6:00 p.m.

  • Fireworks and Flatscreens presented by Arooga’s. We’re giving away three flatscreen TVs throughout the game! Make sure to register to win at the ballpark. Plus stick around postgame for the best fireworks in Central PA.
  • Two Senators players, Alec Keller & Stephen Perez, are signing autographs in the team store postgame for approximately 20 minutes

Saturday, April 22, at 6:00 p.m. vs. the Bowie Baysox (AA Orioles), gates open at 4:30 p.m.

  • Trick or Treat Backpack and Hersheypark Ticket Giveaway presented by Holiday Inn Harrisburg East. The first 1,000 fans 12 & under receive a Senators Trick or Treat Bag with a Hersheypark ticket presented by Holiday Inn Harrisburg East! Hersheypark tickets are valid through June 30th for youth admission only. Please see Hersheypark ticket for details.
  • Halloween Night. Break out your favorite Halloween Costume and join us for a night of fun and trick-or-treating! Kids come early and join in the Halloween costume parade on the field. The team is also wearing a Halloween themed specialty jersey that will be auctioned off during and after the game!

Sunday, April 23, at 1:30 p.m. vs. the Bowie Baysox (AA Orioles), gates open at 12:30 p.m.

  • Hersheypark Ticket Giveaway presented by Hersheypark. The first 2,000 kids 12 & under receive a Hersheypark Ticket to enjoy the park this summer! Hersheypark tickets are valid through June 30th for youth admission only. Please see Hersheypark ticket for details.
  • Signature Sunday! Two Senators players, Alec Keller & Stephen Perez, are signing autographs from 12:45 p.m. to 1:05 p.m. on the dugout tops!
  • Rite Aid Family Day presented by Rite Aid. Show your Rite Aid Plenti card at the box office for $2 tickets (excludes Club seats)! You also receive 1/2 price kids zone wristbands when you show your Rite Aid card in the kids zone! Tickets must be purchased at the box office.
  • Kids Run the Bases presented by Meiji. All kids are invited to run the bases at FNB Field after the game!

Monday, April 24, at 6:30 p.m. vs. the Reading Fightin Phils (AA Phillies), gates open at 5:30 p.m.

  • Military Monday. To say ‘thank you’ for all you’ve done serving our country, we’re offering all current members and veterans of the military a free box seat ticket to the game.  Their families are welcome to half-price box seat tickets. Ticket promotion is only valid at the box office.

Tuesday, April 25, at 6:30 p.m. vs. the Reading Fightin Phils (AA Phillies), gates open at 5:30 p.m.

  • Karns Max Saver Tuesday presented by Karns! Bring your Karns receipt to the box office for buy 1, get 1 free box seat tickets for that night’s game! Tickets must be purchased at the box office. Ticket offer excludes Club seats. Max four tickets per receipt.
  • Tasty Tuesday! An $8 ticket add-on is available for purchase which includes a hotdog, popcorn, nachos, soda, and a mighty mini ice cream sandwich! Tasty Tuesday add-ons are available on-line, over the phone, or at the FNB Field box office!

Wednesday, April 26, at 6:30 p.m. vs. the Reading Fightin Phils (AA Phillies), gates open at 5:30 p.m.

  • Wet-Nose Wednesday presented by Rossmoyne Animal Emergency Trauma Center. Your favorite four-legged friend is invited to the park with you every Wednesday!
  • Winning Wednesday! If the Senators win the game, your ticket is good for a free Ollie’s or reserved seat for the Friday, May 5 game against the Hartford Yard Goats! Plus, one fan wins a Pennsylvania Lottery / Harrisburg Senators Prize Pack!

The Senators box office is open Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., and Saturdays from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Tickets are available via telephone during the same hours as the box office hours. Tickets are also available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, online at www.senatorsbaseball.com. You can find the Senators on Facebook at facebook.com/senatorsbaseball or @hbgsenators on Twitter.

Game 13 at Hartford: Lineup and Notes

GAME NOTES 4/20/2017

TODAY’S GAME

The Senators and Yard Goats play the final game of the series Thursday night. Wednesday’s game was postponed to a later date due to rain. The Senators evened up the series with their 9-2 win in game two, led by a grand slam by Mario Lisson and the second consecutive five hit game by Andrew Stevenson. The club improved to 4-1 against the Yard Goats this year and dropped Hartford to 0-4 at Dunkin Donuts Park. The Senators try to extend their season long three game winning streak while the Yard Goats try to stop a six game losing skid.

FIVE HIT WONDER

Andrew Stevenson finished 5-5 Wednesday, giving him five hits in a game for the second straight night. He’s the first Senators players to ever accomplish the feat, and it has happened in the minor leagues just once since 2005, last occurring when Emerson Landoni went 5-5 on July 12 and 13, 2015 while playing for the Mississippi Braves. Stevenson is 10-12 in the series with three doubles, five RBI and six runs scored, and has hit safely in eight consecutive at bats.

TODAY’S STARTING PITCHERS

Erick Fedde gets the ball for the Senators in the series finale. The right hander did not allow an earned run in his first two starts of the season, limiting opponents to just seven hits in eleven innings while striking out nine. The 24-year-old is the number two ranked prospect in the Nationals organization according to MLB.com. Yency Almonte makes his first start against the Senators this season. The 22-year-old is the 16th rated prospect in the Rockies organization per MLB.com and has a 2.53 ERA with 11 strikeouts through two starts this season.

FOLLOW ALONG

Senators Roster Moves: Greg Ross promoted to Syracuse, RC Orlan up from Potomac

Greg Ross will get his first taste of Triple-A after a promotion to Syracuse (Samuel Getty / Harrisburg Senators)

Prior to Wednesday’s game against Hartford, right-handed pitcher Greg Ross was promoted to Syracuse. For Ross, it marks his first time at Triple-A in his seven year professional career. The 27-year old was 2-0 with a 3.27 ERA in two starts with the Senators in 2017.

The corresponding move for Harrisburg was the assignment of reliever RC Orlan to the Senators. The southpaw was 5-6 with a 3.36 ERA in 52 appearances with the Potomac Nationals over parts of the last three seasons.