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Senators drop home finale 6-5 as comeback bid comes up short

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In their final home game of the 2017 season, the Harrisburg Senators came up short in their comeback bid losing 6-5 to the Akron RubberDucks at FNB Field.

The eighth inning was one many players and coaches will wish to forget in the coming off-season. Harrisburg starter Greg Ross, who had been in control most of the night, failed to record an out while loading the bases. That was enough for manager Matt LeCroy to summon Andrew Robinson from the bullpen. The 29-year-old reliever surrendered the tying run on a fielder’s choice, re-loaded the bases on a walk, and then allowed back to back doubles which plated four more runs to give Akron a 6-2 advantage.

But the never say die Senators responded in the bottom half of the inning with a rally of their own. Corban Joseph and Jose Marmolejos led off the frame with a pair of singles. Raudy Read followed with a drive of his own that couldn’t be corralled in deep center field to plate Joseph. Dan Gamache followed with a groundball to Akron first baseman Bobby Bradley who touched first and threw to second for the 3-6 double play. But Akron shortstop Yu-Cheng Chang was too quick on the catch and tag as the ball deflected off his glove into center field allowing Marmolejos to score and advance Read to third. Harrisburg scored their fifth run of the game on a Drew Ward RBI groundout to bring them within a run. That was as close as the Senators would get as their last four batters were retired in order.

***

After sitting out the last two games when he was beaned on the right knee on a sacrifice bunt attempt, Victor Robles wasted little time showing he was healthy in his first start since. The 20-year-old outfielder lined a single to left to lead off the home half of the first and then stole second base, his ninth in 33 games with the Senators, without even a throw from Akron catcher Juan De La Cruz. Two batters later Robles coasted home on a Marmolejos sacrifice fly.

***

Robles’ hit extended his hitting streak to 17 games, the longest string by a Senator since Jesus Feliciano in 2005. Marmolejos, the reigning Player of the Week in the Eastern League, waited until the eighth inning to get a hit giving him 15 straight games as well.

***

Ward struck out twice in four at-bats to bring his season total to 130 tying him for fourth on the Senators’ all-time single-season list with Michael Taylor… Ross struck out a career-high nine over his seven innings of work… Yadiel Hernandez smacked his 12th home run of the season in his first at-bat to give Harrisburg an early 2-0 lead.

Yadiel Hernandez’s walk-off home run caps improbable 6-5 comeback win

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Yadiel Hernandez’s opposite field home run capped the Senators’ improbable, come-from-behind 6-5 walk-off win on Wednesday night at FNB Field. Unable to generate almost anything off Akron starter Shane Bieber, the Harrisburg offense came alive when it got into the RubberDucks’ bullpen for the stunning victory.

“I’m proud of the guys,” manager Matt LeCroy said. “They could have easily folded, but they came into the last two innings and put some good at-bats together.”

Bieber, the Indians’ 21st ranked prospect per Baseball America, stifled the Senators for seven shutout innings allowing four singles and a walk while striking out eight. Harrisburg advanced only one baserunner to second base during Bieber’s time on the mound.

Down 5-0 into the eighth inning, the Senators scored three runs off Akron reliever David Speer. Khayyan Norfork started the rally with a leadoff walk and moved up 90 feet on Corban Joseph’s single. Jose Marmolejos followed with a double into the right-center field gap to score Norfork. The Senators notched two more tallies on a Dan Gamache RBI groundout and a Drew Ward single to narrow the gap to 5-3.

After reliever Derek Self set down the Ducks in a 1-2-3 inning, Norfork reached base on a fielding error to lead off the ninth. Joseph, representing the tying run, followed with another single to put runners on first and second. But then a chain of events seemed to turn the momentum back to the Ducks as Marmolejos struck out and then Joseph was caught stealing on the back end of a double steal. Gamache kept the rally alive and brought the Senators within a run with a single to left field before Hernandez delivered the game-winning line drive on the first pitch he saw.

***

Harrisburg starter Taylor Hill notched a quality start with seven solid innings. The right-hander yielded two runs on seven hits, one walk, and two hit by pitches while striking out a career-high nine batters.

Akron threatened to bust the game wide open in the seventh inning as they loaded the bases off Hill without recording an out. But the 28-year-old kept the Senators within striking distance as he limited the damage to one run allowing a sacrifice fly sandwiched in between by a pair of strikeouts.

“He made some big pitches there with the bases loaded and no outs,” LeCroy said. “He said he was fine. I hollered from the dugout to see if he was okay.”

However, the RubberDucks kept swinging the lumber against Harrisburg reliever Kyle Schepel in the next frame loading the bases once again. This time Tyler Krieger delivered the big blow, a bases clearing double, to push the Akron lead to 5-0.

***

Hernandez’s home run, his 11th of the season, marked a career-high for the 29-year-old Cuban…the home run hit by Luigi Rodriguez in the third inning was the 27th long ball Hill has given up this season which ties him for the most allowed in all of minor league baseball…with Indians’ #1 prospect Francisco Mejia starting his first game of his career at third base, the Senators attempted to bunt for base hits three separate times in the game.

Senators can’t hold three different leads in 10-9 loss to RubberDucks

Stephen Perez (Samuel Getty / Harrisburg Senators)

For about ten minutes on Tuesday night, it looked like Stephen Perez was going to be the late inning hero for a second night in a row as he put the Senators up 9-8 over the RubberDucks on a solo home run in the bottom of the eighth inning. But Akron right fielder Taylor Murphy one upped Perez with a two-run shot off Harrisburg reliever Dakota Bacus to give the Ducks a 10-9 lead they wouldn’t relinquish.

After a one hour and 32 minute rain delay to start the game, the Senators wasted little time jumping out to a big four-run inning on a single from Jose Marmolejos and RBI doubles from Raudy Read and Yadiel Hernandez. But Harrisburg starting pitcher Austin Voth labored until eventually Akron broke through for a run in the third and then four more in the fourth before the right-hander’s night was done. The Ducks tacked on another tally as Bobby Bradley greeted reliever Braulio Lara with a solo shot, his 22nd of the season.

Harrisburg tied the game back up at six with singles from Hernandez, Osvaldo Abreu, and Khayyan Norfork along with the aid of a throwing error from Akron catcher Eric Haase. The Senators kept their offense rolling with another two runs in the following frame on an Abreu sacrifice fly and Perez RBI groundout.

But Akron responded off reliever Tim Collins for two in the top half of the sixth inning to tie the game back up at eight. It stayed that way until Perez strode to the plate the bottom of the eighth as the game headed closer to midnight.

***

Catcher Raudy Read was the second Nationals’ prospect in as many nights to go down in a heap with an injury. The 23-year-old backstop was hit in a sensitive area as he tried to block a ball in the dirt. Jake Lowery replaced Read in the middle of the fifth inning and will get the start on Wednesday as manager Matt LeCroy had previously planned to give Read the game off anyway.

A night after taking a pitch off his right knee, the Nationals’ top prospect Victor Robles did not play in the loss. However, LeCroy said he would be in the lineup for Wednesday’s game against the RubberDucks.

***

Hernandez went 3-for-4 with two doubles to raise his batting average on the season to .287…Jimmy Cordero worked two scoreless frames striking out two…the home run to Murphy was the first long ball Bacus has allowed this season since April 12.

Kyle McGowin looks like a completely different pitcher as Senators rally late for walk-off victory

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Through the first 11 innings, the Harrisburg Senators left an astounding 18 men on base as both teams struggled to score runs. So even though Dan Gamache led off the bottom half of the 12th with a double, you knew scoring the winning run wouldn’t be easy. After Gamache was thrown out at home on Drew Ward’s single to left field, once again there was that sinking feeling that the Senators would fail to cash in on their opportunities.

But walks to Yadiel Hernandez and Khayyan Norfork loaded the bases for Stephen Perez, who had entered the game in the top of the ninth inning in Victor Robles’ leadoff position. Perez, who in his first at-bat had popped up a sacrifice bunt attempt, redeemed himself with a single over the Akron shortstop’s outstretched glove to give Harrisburg the 2-1 walk-off victory.

***

In two starts since returning to the Senators, Kyle McGowin has looked like a completely different pitcher than the one we saw here in his first five outings with the club. The 25-year-old right-hander was demoted from Triple-A Syracuse in mid-June and continued an alarming trend in Harrisburg where he was beat up and around until he carried an air of defeat with him to the mound. Through July 9th, McGowin combined for a 1-11 record with a 7.62 ERA and 1.79 WHIP at the two levels.

“He made some adjustments with Mitch (pitching coach Chris Michalak) and Menhart (minor league pitching coordinator Paul),” Matt LeCroy said. “They let him go to Florida to work on it and clear his mind. It’s hard to compete up here when your mind isn’t right. He went down there and did some sim games and then he went to Potomac before coming back.”

Monday night at FNB field, McGowin was poised as he mowed down the RubberDucks’ lineup for the second straight start. He went seven strong innings allowing a lone run, a first inning solo homer to Francisco Mejia, while striking out five and walking just one.

“The quality of his strikes are a lot better,” Michalak said. “They are down in the zone with movement and then his breaking ball is a quality pitch. It’s in the zone for a long time and then has a tendency to miss some barrels. He’s pitching with confidence right now.”

***

Robles, the Nationals’ top prospect, was beaned on the side of the right knee as he squared around to lay down a sacrifice bunt in the bottom of the seventh inning. He stayed face down on the ground in pain for about a minute as trainer Eric Montague and LeCroy attended to the 20-year-old outfielder. But Robles eventually made it to his feet, ran the bases, and even played defense the next inning. However, when his spot in the batting order came up the next time, Perez pinch-hit for Robles.

“He said he could go,” LeCroy said. “But I think it got him pretty good.”

After the game, Robles was visibly limping around the clubhouse and the skipper said the rising star will be evaluated tomorrow.

***

Norfork and Gamache led the Senators’ offensive attack with three hits apiece…the bullpen trio of Kyle Schepel, Matthew Crownover, and Derek Self was masterful as they combined for five shutout innings allowing only two baserunners.

Hill’s efforts go for naught as Senators’ offense struggles in shutout loss

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The Trenton Thunder cashed in on a late-inning, bases loaded opportunity to break up a scoreless tie and take the series with a 2-0 victory over the Harrisburg Senators on Sunday afternoon at FNB Field.

Trenton starter Will Carter and two relievers stifled the Senators’ offense, holding them to six hits and two walks while striking out eight. Harrisburg countered with Taylor Hill who was in control as he matched zero for zero through seven innings. But after striking out Jhalan Jackson to lead off the eighth, Hill allowed three straight singles to load the bases.

The predicament chased Hill from the game as manager Matt LeCroy brought in Andrew Robinson. The veteran reliever struck out Nick Solak looking to get one out closer to getting out of trouble. The next Thunder hitter, Mike Ford, delivered a groundball between second baseman Corban Joseph and first baseman Drew Ward. Joseph slid to corral the ball but when he popped up to make a throw lost the handle and the ball trickled away. It was far enough to score two runs on a batted ball that barely made it out of the infield.

Hill yielded seven hits, didn’t allow a free pass, and struck out a season-high six batters while collaring the hard luck loss. “He mixed it up well,” LeCroy said. “He threw inside. He got them off-balance and then started throwing his slower breaking ball and it got him through the middle part of the game.”

The Senators had only two baserunners reach third base in the entire game as a combination of quality pitching from Trenton and abbreviated at-bats from the home side resulted in little to no offensive chances. “They have quality arms,” LeCroy said. “They study. You can tell they know how to pitch every guy.”

“We didn’t get the hit and they did. It’s as simple as that.”

***

Victor Robles, the Nationals’ top prospect, was pulled from the game after batting in the bottom of the fifth inning. LeCroy wasn’t pleased with Robles’ effort running the bases on his flare to center field and subsequent force out at second base on a fielder’s choice.

“We have a certain standard and it was just a teaching point,” the skipper said.

The 20-year-old outfielder finished 2-for-3 including a bunt single to raise his batting average to .306 in 25 games with the Senators.

***

The defeat, their 71st of the season, clinched a losing campaign for the Senators…reliever Kyle Schepel tossed a scoreless top of the ninth for Harrisburg……the shutout was the 11th time this year the Senators were blanked.

Thunder and rain wash away winning streak as Senators fall 6-4

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“Shutdown innings”

It’s a common expression when talking to Harrisburg manager Matt LeCroy. It refers to preventing the opposing team from posting runs immediately following when the Senators score. LeCroy wishes it was another advanced statistic to track and use to evaluate pitchers and teams. It’s been an issue with the Senators all season and it reared its ugly head once again on Saturday night.

Each time the Senators pulled to within one run in the seventh and eighth innings, Trenton wasted little time answering with a run of their own off reliever Matthew Crownover. In the seventh, Zack Zehner led off with a triple and scored on a sacrifice fly from the next batter. An inning later, Nick Solak drilled the first pitch of the frame into the Harrisburg bullpen to push the lead back to two runs.

So instead of the Senators needing just one run to tie to the game up in the late innings, they were forced to score a couple. In each of the last three innings the Senators put their leadoff hitter on second base to start the frame. But instead of strategizing for that one run to tie the game up, they were forced to play for a multi-run rally.

Ultimately, Harrisburg had a golden opportunity in the ninth as they loaded the bases with one out. But Trenton reliever Cody Carroll struck out Victor Robles and Yadiel Hernandez to strand the runners and end the game with the Senators on the losing end, 6-4.

***

Harrisburg starter Austin Voth tossed what LeCroy called his “best outing” as the right-hander silenced the Thunder offense for six innings. As the storm clouds gathered, Trenton got to Voth in the seventh as an error, single, and homer erased the shutout and lead in one fell swoop.

It was an advantage the Thunder would never relinquish collaring the loss for Voth, his second against three wins for Harrisburg. The 25-year-old walked three, struck out two, and allowed six hits in his outing.

***

The two teams endured a one hour, eight minute rain delay called right after Trenton took the lead in the seventh inning…Robles and Drew Ward paced the offense as each had two hits apiece…Darian Sandford stole his 18th base of the season on the front end of a double steal with Robles.

Winning streak reaches a season-high four as Senators muffle Thunder 5-1


Harrisburg used two long balls and some shutdown pitching for a 5-1 triumph over the Trenton Thunder on Friday night at FNB Field. The victory was the Senators’ fourth straight making it their longest winning streak of the season.

“A lot of good things,” manager Matt LeCroy said. “We had the big homers, but we failed a couple of times with the bases loaded that would have given us some extra insurance. I’m happy what the guys are doing. They’re playing hard and playing competitive baseball.”

Starter Wirkin Estevez held down the potent Thunder lineup as the 25-year-old right-hander allowed just one base hit in six scoreless innings of work. At times it wasn’t pretty as Estevez (4-1) walked four batters, but the two-time Tommy John survivor made the pitches when he had to keep Trenton off the scoreboard. A two-out single from Francisco Diaz in the fifth inning broke up Estevez’s modest no-hit bid.

“He (Estevez) made some in-game adjustments even though he walked some guys,” LeCroy said. “I thought he did a nice job. He kept us in and pitched well with the lead.”

The Senators raced out to an early 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning as Victor Robles led off with a double and scored on successive groundouts with good situational hitting from Corban Joseph and Jose Marmolejos. Raudy Read followed with a home run, his team-leading 16th of the season, off Trenton starter Dillon Tate.

“I think he’s getting stronger,” LeCroy said. “A lot of times catchers break down, but you can tell a lot of the work he’s done in the weight room is helping him stay strong. The bat speed is there and he’s able to maintain some good life behind there catching almost every day.”

In the fourth inning, Harrisburg doubled their lead as Dan Gamache jacked a two-run shot with a moonshot over the right field fence. The first baseman has been just what the Senators needed mostly hitting fifth in the batting order.

“I think it takes a little heat off of Raudy to get going and it moves Ward down to take some heat off of him too,” LeCroy said. “He has a good, simple approach to the ball. It shows because he is able to hit good fastballs and stay back on the off-speed.”

Read would get another hit, his third of the game, to drive in the Senators’ final run to add an insurance tally in the eighth.

***

The Senators have the best batting average in the Eastern League during August at .298 and have also scored the most runs (90) in their 17 games. Six Senators, including Joseph’s .524 and Gamache’s .389, are batting .300 or better for the month. The club has also knocked double-digit hits in four of the past five games and is averaging just under 10 hits per game in August.

***

Read has now hit five home runs over his past six games…in Yadiel Hernandez’s last 50 games the outfielder is slashing .331/.415/.528 with 28 runs scored and 29 RBIs…with two scoreless innings to finish the game, Dakota Bacus pocketed his second save with Harrisburg this season.

Rumble Ponies stampede way to series sweep over Senators with 8-6 win

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The Binghamton Rumble Ponies completed a three-game sweep against the Harrisburg Senators with a 8-6 victory. Both teams combined for 28 hits in the game.

Facing Harrisburg starter Wirkin Estevez, the Rumble Ponies brought the lumber in the Sunday getaway day contest. Binghamton scored in four of the five innings Estevez pitched as the 25-year-old right-hander allowed six runs on seven hits and three walks.

Harrisburg though had just as much success off Robert Gsellman, pitching for the Ponies in his third Major League rehab start. The Senators plated three runs in the first and third inning to take a brief 6-5 lead and chase Gsellman from the game. Yadiel Hernandez stayed hot with a double and walk in both innings to drive in three runs. Jose Marmolejos and Jake Lowery each plated a run with an RBI groundout and double respectively.

Binghamton broke the 6-6 tie in the top of the sixth inning off Senators’ reliever Dakota Bacus. A walk, single, and fly out that advanced the lead run to third base set the stage for Kevin Kaczmarski who delivered a single through the box to put the Rumble Ponies up for good. Binghamton added an insurance run in the ninth off Andrew Robinson as Gustavo Nunez hit a solo home run.

The Senators threatened in the ninth as Dan Gamache and Drew Ward led off the frame with back-to-back singles. After a sacrifice bunt from Hernandez pushed both tying runs up into scoring position, Harrisburg couldn’t come up with the big hit as Khayyan Norfork struck out and Lowery flew out to end the game.

***

Hernandez went 2-for-2 with two walks to raise his batting average to .281 on the season. The 29-year-old outfielder has been on an impressive tear since July 1 as he is slashing .347/.426/.526 in 30 games with 17 runs driven in.

***

Gamache reached base all five plate appearances as the first baseman went 2-for-2 with three walks …Ward registered his sixth multi-hit game in his last 10 played… Braulio Lara and Brady Dragmire each threw a scoreless inning of relief.

Drew Ward grand slam goes for naught in loss to Rumble Ponies

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The Binghamton Rumble Ponies scored five runs in the seventh inning to overcome the Harrisburg Senators, 7-4, on Saturday night at FNB Field.

“That’s been our season,” manager Matt LeCroy said. “We get hits but we can’t hold it or we pitch well and can’t get the hits.”

Held scoreless through the first five innings by Binghamton starter Marcos Molina, the Senators finally broke through to take the lead. Three singles from Victor Robles, Jose Marmolejos, and Raudy Read loaded the bases as Harrisburg moved station-to-station to bring up Drew Ward. The third baseman delivered his first grand slam in his professional career, a towering shot that cleared the right field boardwalk, to give the Senators a 4-2 advantage.

The lead, however, was short lived as about 10 minutes later the Rumble Ponies rallied off Senators’ reliever Tim Collins for the deciding runs. Two walks, a single, and a double knotted the score up at four, but the big blow came when Luis Guillorme connected for a three-run opposite field home run, his first long ball of the season. Marmolejos got a glove on the homer as he leapt but couldn’t quite bring it back over the wall.

Harrisburg starter Matthew Crownover gave the Senators a chance as the southpaw allowed only two runs on six hits in six innings of work. Other than the top of the third when the Ponies plated two, Crownover faced only one batter over the minimum in every other inning.

“He finds a way,” LeCroy said. “He’s still a little up and they hit some balls good off of him. I can’t argue with him giving us a chance to win.”

***

Ward registered his fifth multi-hit game in his last nine games and has raised his average 15 points during the stretch.

“He’s worked hard,” LeCroy said. “He’s just trying to find that good hitting position that gets him on the ball a little bit more. Obviously if you look at the numbers, he swings and misses way too much. It’s looking a lot shorter but he still has a ways to go. Hopefully he can finish up strong here down the stretch.”

***

Robles, Ward, and Yadiel Hernandez were the only batters to reach base twice…Collins, who is making his way back from Tommy John surgery, became the shortest pitcher (at 5’7”) to play for the Senators in the modern era… Kyle Schepel and Ryan Brinley each worked an inning of scoreless relief.

Senators come out on the losing end in rain-shortened game

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For the second straight game, the Senators’ starting pitcher tossed a complete game in a losing effort. Unfortunately, that was because the rains came and washed Friday night’s game away with Harrisburg trailing 3-2 in the bottom of the sixth inning.

Binghamton jumped on Harrisburg starter Greg Ross in the first inning. The 27-year-old allowed all three runs on a double, two singles, and a couple of walks as he faced eight batters before the home team even came to bat.

“He couldn’t pitch down and he was behind,” manager Matt LeCroy said. “He fought himself, but then he settled down and did a nice job. I’m happy because he has had a rough stretch of games. Hopefully that will give him some more confidence to get back to what he’s capable of doing.”

Harrisburg inched back within a run in the second inning as Yadiel Hernandez hit an opposite-field two-run home run off former Senator Tommy Milone. That was as close as Harrisburg would come even though they threatened with base runners in each of the following innings.

Playing under an ominous sky for most of the game, the Senators outhit the Ponies 7-5 as Khayyan Norfork went 2-for-3 to lead the offense.

“We’ve been swinging the bats a little better and playing some better ball,” LeCroy said. “Hopefully we can string some things together here at the end.”

***

The Nationals’ top prospect Victor Robles was removed for a pinch-hitter in the fifth inning. After the game, LeCroy discussed that it pertained to Robles’ technique in the outfield. “We’re working on him catching the ball correctly,” the skipper said. “It had to be addressed. He understands.”

***

Milone, who went 12-5 with a 2.85 ERA for Harrisburg in 2010, was making his second appearance with the Ponies as part of his Major League rehab. The 30-year-old southpaw has been on the New York Mets’ disabled list since May 24.

***

Ross went six innings allowing five hits and walking three while striking out three…Raudy Read picked up his 22nd double of the season with a two-bagger down the right field line…Hernandez is now slashing .387/.435/.597 in 19 games since the All-Star break.