James pitches Express past Cardinals

STRASBURG –Strasburg Express starting pitcher Keegan James didn’t feel like he had his best stuff Friday night, but it was enough to help his team to another victory.

James was able to get out of a few jams, and lead Strasburg to a 2-1 victory over Front Royal in Valley Baseball League action at First Bank Park.

“I felt like I competed without my best stuff. I felt like I gave ourselves a chance to win,” James said. “My cutter through the first three innings was the best it’s ever been. I can live off my fastball — that’s what helps me get through the game like I do.”

James allowed just six hits in six innings and struck out six.

The Express took the lead in the bottom of the first. Strasburg’s Haiden Lamb, who went 3 for 4 with two bunt singles, led off with a double. With two outs, he scored on a wild pitch by Front Royal starting pitcher Erne Valdes.

“He uses what he was given and that’s his speed,” Strasburg manager Butch Barnes said of Lamb. “That is one fast individual, and it’s kind of special to watch him lay down a bunt. They can be playing it and he can still get there. That tells you how fast he is, but hey you got to be able to do it and you got to be able to utilize it and he does.”

The Cardinals had plenty of opportunities to score in the first few innings. They stranded four in the first three innings, and then left the bases loaded in the fourth.

“It’s the tale of the season so far,” Front Royal manager Victor Gomez said of struggling with runners on base. “I don’t know if its a mental lapse, a lack of intensity in those situations, trying to do too much, but we’re not good in them plain and simple. There’s no excuse of them. They’re not doing anything to reinvent the wheel. They are throwing offspeed pitches a little more, like everyone else in the game of baseball does and we’re just not adjusting.”

The Cardinals (9-8) tied the game in the top of the fifth. With two outs, Front Royal’s Bernabe Carmargo homered off James.

Strasburg (13-5) battled right back in the bottom of the fifth. Strasburg’s Michael Curry led off with a double off Valdes. A groundout by Tyler Green moved Curry to third. Erick Degaldo’s groundout drove in Curry for a 2-1 lead.

Barnes said he was very happy with how his team manufactured some runs against the Cardinals. He said he wasn’t happy with their approach at the plate in a loss on Wednesday to New Market.

“We had a big push on situational hitting tonight and have been working on it in our workouts,” Barnes said. “We manufactured a few runs and it worked out for us.”

The Cardinals had a solid pitching outing from Valdes, who allowed just four hits in six innings, and struck out four. Front Royal reliever Jacob Ramos pitched two scoreless innings.

“Our arms they’re buying into throwing strikes and not trying to more than get three outs before they score one run that’s your job as a pitcher,” Valdes said. “You’ve got to keep it simple and honestly they’re doing a good job of that. Hopefully we’ll keep a doing a good job of that. We just got to get the bats going, try not to be as streaky as we’ve been. We’ve been very, very inconsistent — one day yes, one day no. We’ve got to pick it up.”

Strasburg relievers Ryan Anderson, Alex Schnell and George Eubanks combined for three scoreless innings.

“I’m really thrilled with the way we pitched it tonight,” Barnes said. “They came in and they did a good job all the way. We pitched really well tonight. That’s a testament to our pitching coach Dave Kopp, and he’s been working with the guys and they’ve been working hard.”

Contact staff writer Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or tkeeler@nvdaily.com