Self shines in difficult spot for Senators during 6-1 loss

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After the first two Hartford batters of the game were retired via strikeout and fly out, it appeared like Harrisburg starting pitcher Austen Williams was cruising to a scoreless first inning of work. Eight batters and five runs later, Williams’s afternoon was done as manager Matt LeCroy pulled the righthander with a 1-1 count on leadoff hitter Max White’s second at-bat of the frame.

The Yard Goats’ lineup pounded the 24-year-old’s offerings as he allowed three straight singles, walked a batter, gave up a grand slam, allowed a single to the opposing pitcher, and beaned the final player in the batting order. By this point Williams had thrown 37 pitches in the inning and the Washington Nationals organization has a strict 40-pitch limit per inning on all of their pitchers.

Williams’s start was the shortest for a Harrisburg starter since Phillips Valdez also worked only 0.2 innings last July 3 in Reading.

*****

Derek Self was the first guy out of the bullpen for LeCroy on Sunday and he turned in one of his best performances at a time the team needed him the most. The 27-year-old reliever retired all 10 batters he faced including three strikeouts on a very efficient 35 pitches.

“He gave us three-plus innings,” LeCroy said. “I thought the bullpen did a good job keeping the score where it was and giving us a chance, but offensively we couldn’t get back in it.”

For Self who has had up-and-down results in 72 appearances over parts of four seasons in Harrisburg, it was a gentle reminder of what probably works best for the Kentucky native.

“That was a good learning experience,” Self said. “Myself I know there are times when I get called up for one inning or to close out a game and sometimes you try to do too much. Most times it backfires. Sometimes you just have to take a step back, and pitch with the abilities you have.”

*****

In the top of the fourth inning, LeCroy made an interesting defensive switch as he flip-flopped leftfielder Mario Lisson and first baseman Neftali Soto. For Soto, it was only the second time he played the outfield professionally as the other time was for the Louisville Bats on the last day of the 2012 season.

“He told me he played one day in the outfield when he was 13, so that was good enough for me to put him out there,” LeCroy said.

The expected return of Jose Marmolejos in the near future necessitates finding at-bats for Soto in places other than first base.

*****

The Senators avoided a shutout when Zach Collier singled home Khayyan Norfork from third base in the eighth inning…Soto and Norfork were the only two Senators with multiple hits as the team scratched out only six total…After a disastrous Friday night where he walked the bases loaded for all three batters he faced, Braulio Lara once again found the strike zone to work two scoreless innings.

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