A rough week of pitching has allowed Frederick to drop into a tie for second place in the Northern Division of the Class A Carolina League.

Since sweeping a doubleheader from Potomac on Aug. 17 and moving within one game of the .500 mark, the Keys have dropped nine of their past 12 games. Frederick entered last night's game with a record of 28-35, the same as first-half champion Potomac.

While the Keys' hitters are on one of their best extended hitting streaks of the season, pitchers have struggled. In its last five games, Frederick has allowed 37 earned runs in 44 innings, for a 7.57 ERA. The Keys' pitchers allowed an average of almost two base runners per inning in that stretch.

Closer Tony Neal, who had been effective for much of his stay in Frederick, has surrendered 10 earned runs in his last five appearances. Reliever Rommie Lewis has given up five runs in his last three games.

Frederick's staff is the league leader by a long shot in several dubious categories, including home runs (125; Potomac is second with 101) and walks (501, well ahead of Salem's 449).

The hitting has picked up some of the slack, but not enough to stop the skid. Infielder Gera Alvarez is 7 for his last 17, and recent roster addition Jacob Duncan is 7 for 15 since joining the squad last week. Outfielder Cory Keylor is 7 for his last 20 with two home runs. The team as a whole has batted .319 in its last five games.

Notes: Chris Carter is 5 for 12 (.417) this season with the bases loaded, including one grand slam. Carter has the fourth-longest active hitting streak in the league at 12 games; during that time Carter is batting .400 with two home runs. . . . Frederick hitters are five off the league lead (held by Kinston) with 112 home runs. The Keys are the league leaders in strikeouts with 955. . . . The Keys are 1-67 when trailing after seven innings.