Slow Curves and Big Doubles: Dash beat the Varnell out of the Nationals

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Taylor Varnell improved on his already impressive Dash debut last time out with six innings of one-run ball, and a four-run Dash fifth led the team to a 4-1 victory over the Potomac Nationals.

The only string of hits the Nationals were able to put together against Varnell came in the very first inning, deep back-to-back doubles giving the P-Nats an early 1-0 lead. After that, though, Varnell kept them so off-balance they were unable to have another inning with multiple baserunners against him. He allowed one single in the fourth, but the runner was almost immediately caught stealing second by catcher Carlos Perez. He allowed a leadoff double in the sixth, then induced a ground ball and two flyouts to end the inning, stranding the runner on second base. 

And that was it! Varnell’s fastball sat in the 90-93 mph range. His slider sat in the low 80’s, and the Varnell Special — that big, slow curve he relentlessly drops into the zone — is around 70 mph. He doesn’t have the overpowering stuff that other pitchers do, but a 20 mph change in velocity between pitches will throw off some batters, especially when he’s successful in attacking the zone with impunity.

Varnell’s debut at the level came last weekend, and while it wasn’t bad, it was uncharacteristic for him. He almost completed five innings, allowing three runs to score on the last pitch he threw for four total runs allowed (three earned), and, most notably, walked five, which was a season high by two. Even with the ugly final line there (4.2 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 5 BB, 7 K), he threw enough junk to be eminently watchable all game. Today was even better: with the walks under control, he was able to keep his pitch count lower and keep more runners off base for a final line of 6 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 5 K. He threw 75 pitches (52 strikes) and just 23 balls (last time out, it was 100 pitches, 60 strikes, 40 balls).

His bullpen behind him didn’t give the P-Nats much to work with, either. José Nin pitched a quick and perfect seventh, and while Jacob Lindgren had a few more issues with a leadoff HBP and followup balk, he also did not allow a run to score. Lindgren, age 26 and working his way back from Tommy John surgery, now has thrown 12.1 innings for the Dash, allowing 10 hits and just one run (earned), with one walk and 16 strikeouts. Will Kincanon’s excellent end to the season continues, striking out none but also allowing no baserunners in a perfect ninth.

The Dash had a four-run outburst in the fifth — all with two outs — scoring in no other inning, but not needing to, either. Tyler Frost, who missed about two weeks on the Injured List and has been on one of his patented hot streaks since his return on August 13, hit his 25th double of the season. Mitch Roman, who’s been battling back from a midseason slump with a .421 batting average over his last 10 games, singled him in, tying the game at one.

Andrew Vaughn, who came into this game batting .188/.317/.313 in 10 games at home but .375/.464/.625 in six games on the road, drew a walk, putting runners on first and second, still with two outs. Craig Dedelow, in an extended cool streak but still hitting the ball 800 mph every time he makes contact, singled to right, scoring Roman and (barely) advancing Vaughn to third. Both Vaughn and Dedelow, neither of them known for being speedsters, both scored on Carlos Perez’s double down the third base line.

Perez ended up with three hits on the day, in addition to throwing a runner out stealing. Mitch Roman followed up yesterday’s four-hit performance with a two-hit performance. Frost, Vaughn, Dedelow, Jameson Fisher, Tate Blackman, and Yeyson Yrizarri all picked up one hit apiece. Steele Walker had the day off.

The Dash return for their final homestand of the year on Monday, August 26. However, the looming specter of law school has returned for me, personally, making this my last game recap of the season. I will still livetweet as many of the final four home games as I can (you can find me on twitter @DestroyBaseball). Thanks to everyone for reading and learning about the Dash with me!

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