Nationals turn tables on Pelicans
Club shuts down league's top offense en route to win in opener
The Carolina League's top offense ran into the postseason's stingiest pitcher Monday night.
Luis Atilano stretched his playoff scoreless streak to 11 innings and Michael Burgess belted a grand slam as the Potomac Nationals rolled to a 15-0 rout of the Myrtle Beach Pelicans in Game 1 of the best-of-5 Carolina League Championship Series at BB&T Coastal Field.
The Pelicans, who scored a league-high 764 runs this season, were unable to push one across against Atilano (1-0). The 23-year-old right-hander, who went 6-7 with a 4.50 ERA in 19 appearances for Myrtle Beach in 2006 before being traded to the Washington organization later that year, shut his former club down over five frames, yielding six hits and striking out four without issuing a walk.
"I always loved pitching here," Atilano said. "But we know it's not going to be easy against Myrtle Beach. Even with the runs we scored here tonight, we know it's going to be very tough. But we really want to get rings and bring the championship to Potomac."
Atilano tossed six innings of two-hit ball in Potomac's playoff opener Wednesday as the Nationals outlasted the Wilmington Blue Rocks, 2-1, in 15 innings en route to a three-game sweep in the first round. But the 6-foot-3, 215-pound native of Puerto Rico didn't have to worry about keeping his team in a close game Monday.
After Dee Brown ripped an RBI single in the opening frame and a run-scoring groundout in the third inning, Potomac broke out the big bats. Francisco Plasencia capped a six-run fourth with a three-run homer and Burgess, who won the South Atlantic League's Home Run Derby earlier this summer, cleared the bases with a drive over the right-field wall to punctuate a five-run sixth.
"Of course I like it when we score a lot," said Atilano, who may be in line to get another start if the series goes the full five games. "It gives you a lot of confidence on the mound. The Pelicans are a tough team so you can never give up on them. I'm not trying to change anything [when we have a big lead]. If it comes to Game 5, I'll be looking for [the ball]"
Michael Martinez fueled Potomac's 16-hit attack with three singles, a double, three runs scored and two RBIs. Andrew Lefave also drove in two runs for the Nationals, who continued their strong pitching after posting an 0.79 ERA during their sweep of the Wilmington Blue Rocks.
"[Atilano] set the tone and the hitters came out and put some runs up," Potomac manager Randy Knorr said. "The guys in the lineup just feed off each other. They kind of feel it and jump on the wagon, so to speak."
Cole Kimball followed Atilano with three hitless frames, walking one and striking out four, and Dan Leatherman worked around a single and a walk in the ninth as Potomac completed its second straight postseason shutout and league-best 16th of the year. Russ Detwiler and three relievers combined on a four-hitter in a 1-0 series-clinching victory over the Warthogs on Friday.
Myrtle Beach starter Scott Diamond (1-1), who went 12-2 with a 2.79 ERA during the regular season, surrendered seven runs -- one earned -- on seven hits and three walks with one strikeout in 3 2/3 frames.
Eric Campbell went 2-for-4 with a double for the Pelicans, who needed four games to dispatch the Winston-Salem Warthogs in the opening round. Game 2 is Tuesday at Myrtle Beach.
John Torenli is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.