Offense solves Esparaza, Hill shines on the mound, and K-Rod debuts in Senators 7-3 win

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“You can sum up the game of baseball in one word: ‘You never know.’” — Joaquin Andujar

The Senators knew they were in for an uphill battle on Wednesday night against Akron starter Matt Esparaza as he came into the game with a 5-0 record and 1.82 ERA in six starts since his promotion to Class AA in late May. Three weeks ago, the 22-year-old right-hander dazzled in his only previous outing against Harrisburg when he carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning.

Darian Sandford dispelled any similar thoughts when he led off the home half of the game with a line drive single into center. After Corban Joseph walked, Jose Marmolejos went the opposite way for a three-run homer to give the Senators a 3-0 advantage and to put Esparaza in the unusual position of pitching from behind.

The Ducks fought back in the top of the fourth as they strung three base hits together, the only three Harrisburg starter Taylor Hill would allow, to plate two runs and cut the deficit down to one. But the Senators responded with two of their own when Osvaldo Abreu doubled home Drew Ward and Alec Keller in their next at-bats.

An inning later, Marmolejos walked on four pitches to chase Esparaza in his shortest stint with Akron. Raudy Read followed with a home run, his eighth of the season, on the first pitch from reliever Jacob Lee to put a definitive exclamation mark on the Senators’ offensive outburst in their 7-3 victory over the Ducks.

“I thought we used the whole field against him,” manager Matt LeCroy said. “It was a good win for us. I thought it took some of the pressure off Hilly.”

***

Prior to the game, the Senators announced the addition of Francisco Rodriguez to the roster. K-Rod ranks fourth on the all-time saves leader board with 437 career saves over his 16-year MLB career including leading the American League three times. The 35-year-old was released by the Detroit Tigers on June 23 and subsequently signed to a minor league deal with the Nationals.

Rodriguez allowed an unearned run in ninth as the right-hander walked one and struck out one.

“He’s here trying to get back,” LeCroy said. “Having a guy who has been through what he has been through is going to be good for us.”

A couple of great tidbits from author and Senators historian Andy Linker:
▪ LeCroy was 0-for-6 against Rodriguez with four strikeouts during the manager’s playing career
▪ Rodriguez became the third oldest Senators player in modern history after Orlando Hernandez and Charlie O’Brien

***

It’s rare when you see LeCroy come out to the mound for a coaching visit that doesn’t involve a pitching change. It’s even rarer when he does it with the Senators leading 7-2. But in the top of the seventh inning, the manager emerged from the dugout and made his way to the mound.

Instead of talking to Hill though, LeCroy spent the entire 30-second visit speaking directly to catcher Read. At one point, Hill even backed away from the conversation realizing he wasn’t going to play a part in it.

Apparently Read had spent the first part of the inning voicing his displeasure to home plate umpire Mike Provine about his at-bat that ended the previous inning. “I was just trying to keep him (Read) in the game,” LeCroy said. “He and the umpire were getting after it.”

***

Hill improved to 4-1 with seven strong innings…Sandford, Abreu, and Alec Keller rapped out two base knocks apiece to lead the 10-hit attack…Sandford stole two bases to add to his team-leading total of 10 on the season.

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