McGowin’s struggles continue as Ducks fly away with 5-2 Independence Day win

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Kyle McGowin was acquired by the Washington Nationals from the Los Angeles Angels this past off-season as part of the trade involving Danny Espinosa. After getting drafted in the fifth round out of Savannah State, McGowin found himself on many prospect lists for the Halos including Baseball America which had him as high as 10th in the Angels’ system after the 2014 season.

But since changing teams, McGowin has struggled to say the least. Assigned to Class AAA Syracuse out of extended spring training at the end of April, the 25-year-old allowed 34 runs on 51 hits and 20 walks in 45.2 innings over nine starts.

That earned him a reassignment to Harrisburg where Tuesday’s outing was his fourth loss in as many starts for the Senators. The 6’3” right-hander was torched for five runs on seven hits, including two home runs off the bat of Eric Haase, and two walks in the 5-2 loss to the Akron RubberDucks.

From a numbers perspective, things have gone from bad to worse for McGowin since dropping down a level. With Harrisburg, he now has a 9.45 ERA, 2.15 WHIP, and opponents are hitting .366 off him. He has also allowed at least a run in 12 of the 20 innings he has pitched as a Senator.

“His inability to pitch in and hit on that fastball has created a lot of problems for him,” manager Matt LeCroy said. “There were too many elevated balls. He was behind in the count and had to throw the ball over. They (Akron) did a good job of making him pay for his mistakes.”

LeCroy did point to his last inning of work as something for McGowin to build on though. After Khayyan Norfork slipped and let a routine fly ball drop in right field, Akron had runners on second and third base with one out in the fifth inning. Instead of letting the misplay unnerve him on the mound, McGowin composed himself and struck out the next two batters to end the rally and keep the deficit at only five runs.

“He’s in the process right now of trying to change some things in his delivery,“ LeCroy said. “Hopefully, he’ll get it because obviously there are some things that need to change.”

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Phillips Valdez continues to impress since coming off the disabled list in late May after tweaking his delivery. The lithe 25-year-old tossed three scoreless innings on Tuesday evening while striking out five.

Since May 26, Valdez has pitched to a 1.37 ERA and fanned 17 while only walking four in 19.2 innings over 10 appearances. “He’s been really good,” LeCroy said. “I’m proud of him. He’s pitched down in the zone. His sinker is starting to work better. His breaking ball is much sharper.”

On Tuesday, Valdez threw a season-high 44 pitches but 31 were strikes as his control has improved greatly with the modifications to his posture and delivery. Whereas before he was throwing strikes only 57.9% of the time, he’s now at 66.5% since the change.

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After failing to get a run home from third base with one out in the first inning, the Senators were held at bay by Akron starter Matt Whitehouse. Finally in the seventh inning, Harrisburg rallied by loading the bases on a leadoff walk, single, and infield error. A wild pitch allowed Corban Joseph to score the first run for the Senators and moved Osvaldo Abreu and Darian Sandford up 90 feet each. A Norfork groundout pushed another run across, but it was the closest the Senators would get off Akron reliever Jordan Milbrath.

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The combination of July 4th and Lee Greenwood’s appearance drew 7,417 fans to FNB Field making it the eighth largest crowd in modern team history…Norfork reached base three times on two singles and a walk…Harrisburg went a combined 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position.

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