Two Homers From Mercer Lead Altoona to Victory

Mercer hit two homers, leading Altoona to a 6-4 victory.

Altoona got a great pitching performance last night from Rudy Owens, who turned in five innings, allowing two runs on seven hits, with two walks and seven strikeouts, arguably out-pitching future Hall of Famer Andy Pettitte, who was pitching for Trenton.  The problem was, Owens didn’t get much run support, leaving with a 2-2 tie after five innings, despite several opportunities by Altoona to put more runs on the board.  Altoona got another strong start tonight from starter Jeff Locke, and this time the offense came through with the support.

Josh Harrison got things started in the first inning with a solo homer, a no-doubt blast to left field to make the score 1-0.  Coming in to tonight, Harrison was hitting for a .261/.292/.565 line with two homers.  The solo homer was all Harrison managed tonight.  Meanwhile, Locke started with two strong innings, allowing just one hit and striking out four.

Locke ran in to some trouble in the third inning.  He started off with a hard hit double to the left field gap, followed by a hard liner to right fielder Miles Durham, allowing the runner to advance to third.  A double by Austin Krum brought in Trenton’s first run.  Locke allowed two more hard hit balls, but both went for fly outs to end the inning.

Altoona got the runs back in the bottom of the third.  Miles Durham led off with a walk, then stole second.  Anthony Norman drew a walk to put runners on first and second with no outs.  Chase d’Arnaud attempted a sacrifice bunt to move the runners over, but Trenton pitcher Dellin Betances threw wild to first, bringing in a run and allowing d’Arnaud and Norman to advance to second and third.  Jordy Mercer followed that up with a three run homer, breaking the game open to put Altoona up 5-1.

Locke settled down from his rough third inning, striking out the side in the fourth inning.  Locke got two outs in the fifth inning, and would have had another easy inning had it not been for an error by Jordy Mercer.  Mercer ranged to play a grounder right behind the second base bag, but dropped the ball on the changeover for the throw.  The play was ruled an error, and the runner scored after two singles allowed by Locke.  Locke got out of the inning with a 5-2 lead, and an unearned run.

After a leadoff single in the sixth, Locke retired the next three batters, with one strikeout.  Locke came out for the seventh inning with three left handers due up and Derek Hankins warming up in the bullpen.  Trenton second baseman Matt Cusick bunted a hard shot right to first baseman Matt Hague for the first out.  After Austin Krum walked, Locke got a ground ball up the middle from Justin Snyder.  Chase d’Arnaud made the backhand play right beside the second base bag, flipped the ball to Mercer at short, and Mercer threw to first to complete the double play and get out of the jam.

Locke finished with seven innings, allowing two runs, one earned, on six hits, with two walks and eight strikeouts.  It was the second strong performance by Locke in the Eastern League playoffs.  Last week Locke pitched 4.2 innings, allowing three runs, one earned, on four hits, with four walks and five strikeouts.  Locke only needed 96 pitches tonight, with 64 going for strikes.

Derek Hankins made the game close in the eighth.  With his first pitch, Hankins allowed a solo homer to Trenton right fielder Daniel Brewer.  Hankins followed that up with a first pitch homer to catcher Austin Romine.  After a five pitch walk, Hankins received a visit on the mound from Altoona pitching coach Tom Filer.  Hankins struck out two in a row, then issued another five pitch walk, before being pulled for Daniel Moskos, who came on for the four out save.  Moskos got the strikeout to end the inning, leaving Altoona up 5-4 going to the bottom of the eighth.

Mercer added some insurance in the bottom of the eighth with a solo homer, his second homer of the game and third of the post-season, putting Altoona up 6-4.  On the night, Mercer went 2-for-4 with two homers and three RBIs.

Moskos allowed a leadoff single to Krum, who was on fire for Trenton tonight, going 3-for-4 with a double, and a walk.  After a fly out to center field, Krum stole second with one out.  Daniel Brewer came up and hit a liner to center field, which was caught thanks to the speed of Anthony Norman.  Moskos closed out the game, striking out Austin Romine on three pitches, and giving Altoona the 6-4 victory.

Moskos has now pitched 4.2 shutout innings in the 2010 post season, with two hits allowed, two walks, and four strikeouts.  Tonight was his third save of the post-season.

With the victory, Altoona tied the series at 1-1.  The two teams will now go to Trenton for the final games of this best of five series.  Justin Wilson takes the mound for Altoona tomorrow, going up against Trenton right hander Adam Warren.  Wilson had a strong outing last time out, pitching six shutout innings, allowing two hits, five walks, and striking out seven to give Altoona a 2-1 lead in the first round of the playoffs.  Wilson has been battling control issues at the end of the season, but has managed good results his last two outings, despite high walk rates.

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Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with AccuScore.com, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

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