FREDERICK, Md. - The Single-A Frederick Keys took advantage of a defensive mistake by Potomac and another good start from Jake Pettit to beat the Nationals 5-1 tonight in a game shortened to six innings by rain.
The Keys take a one game to none lead in the best-of-five Carolina League semi-final series and host Game Two Thursday at 7 p.m.
Pettit, who entered with a record of 7-0 and 1.62 ERA in 10 Keys starts, did not have his usual fastball command tonight and needed to rely more on his secondary pitches. He did that quite well, giving up just three hits and one run to get the win, throwing 83 pitches over the six frames.
"He was overthrowing his fastball and was high in the zone with it," Keys manager Orlando Gomez said. "He depends so much on his changeup and his BP fastball that when he tried to pump up the fastball he was high with it. He's a smart kid and he'll make the adjustment the next time."
Frederick went to the last of fourth trailing 1-0 and had runners on first and second with one out when Jacob Julius hit a hard grounder right at the Potomac second baseman. It should have been an inning-ending double play ball with no runs scoring, but Jeff Kobernus bobbled it, Potomac got just one out on the play and the inning continued on.
That proved to be a big mistake as Miguel Abreu followed with a three-run homer to left and catcher Brian Ward followed that with a solo shot for a 4-1 lead.
Abreu added an RBI single in the last of the sixth and Frederick had the bases loaded with two outs when play was halted. That is where the game eventually ended as the Keys took the series opener.
After his team struggled to hit much recently, scoring just three runs in a regular-season ending series at Wilmington, Gomez was still confident some runs would be coming tonight.
"I felt we would break out of it. With the day off yesterday, I think a lot of the players recharged the batteries. When they came in today, everyone was very excited about the playoffs," he said.
Abreu went 2-for-3 with four RBIs while Manny Machado was 1-for-2 with a double and walk and Jonathan Schoop was 0-for-3. Dale Mollenhauer, batting leadoff, walked three times in four plate appearances.
So the Keys, searching for their fourth Carolina League championship, open the playoffs with a rain-shortened win in the opener and have lefty Rick Zagone (4-2, 2.97) set to pitch game two on Thursday night.
Check back in the morning for more on the Keys.