Altoona Curve Recap 5/31/11

If you looked up the phrase “pitch to contact” in the baseball dictionary you would likely see a picture of Aaron Pribanic. Before the game someone asked me about him in the press box and I said if he’s on his game he will get a ton of groundballs, walk one, strikeout two and won’t look impressive doing it. I was wrong on the last part, his start today was very impressive giving up just 5 hits and only one of them was hit hard. The amazing thing is he didn’t getting a swinging miss until the 25th batter of the game chased a ball outside for strike three. Almost everything hit off him was a weak grounder to an infielder. In fact, two of the hits were very questionable ones that could’ve gone either way and another one hit between Brock Holt and Matt Curry looked like Curry froze on the ball, not knowing if he should get it or get back to first base to cover. The one walk he issued was an 8 pitch AB with some very weak foul balls mixed into it.

Pribanic dominated in Trenton

Pribanic ended up going 7 scoreless innings as the Curve held on for a 2-1 victory. They almost lost out in the 9th when Noah Krol gave up back to back hard hit doubles to break the shutout and put the tying run on base with no outs. He ended up getting a foul pop out by the first base line before a strange play happened. The Trenton batter, Jose Pirela barely got a piece of a pitch that went out in front of home plate but not until it hit his bat for a second time. The umpire ruled it a fair ball and Tony Sanchez tagged out the batter which led to Pirela getting ejected for throwing his helmet, the Trenton manager yelling at all the umps and their hitting coach, Jeff Mantos getting tossed as well before a bag of balls from the dugout made their way onto the field. Krol got the last batter to groundout right back to the box for the final out.

The Altoona scoring didn’t come until the 6th inning when Jordy Mercer, who looked very bad striking out his first two trips to the plate, laid down a perfect bunt to reach first. Matt Curry followed him with a nice double off the right-center field wall that scored Mercer. After a Jeremy Farrell groundout moved Curry to 3B, Tony Sanchez came up with a hard hit liner between 3B and SS for the 2nd Curve run of the game. That of course was all they would need thanks to the brilliant job by Pribanic.

As for the individual batters, Brock Holt leading off had a great game. He looked good in the field getting plenty of work and showed real good range on one grounder getting it on the 3B side of 2B. At the plate he owned the first pitcher blooping two balls between the second baseman and right fielder and blistering a double in his 2nd AB to the RF corner. He had trouble with the switch pitcher Pat Venditte, but then again everyone who faced him had trouble. In Holt’s fifth and final AB he hit a real nice opposite field double off a lefty pitcher finishing 4-5 on the day.

Starling Marte had an abbreviated day and I didn’t see anything from him that would indicate he was injured. In his first AB he hit the 3rd pitch right back up the box for a groundball single. In his 2nd AB he hit the ball in the same exact spot, hit just as hard on the ground and it was right to the SS. Not sure if they switched their defense up because Holt was on 2B instead of 1B like the prior AB but they had him played perfect. In the fourth inning after the 8 pitch walk by Pribanic, a grounder moved the runner to 2B, the next batter hit a line drive back through the box and I got my wish, they were sending the runner on Marte’s arm and although the throw was a little up the 3B line it beat the runner by a lot and with a nice tag from Tony Sanchez, Marte came away with an impressive outfield assist. The next batter hit a lazy flyball that he moved over 20 feet to his right to catch and from there he left the game showing no signs of any injury.

Quincy Latimore was called on to bunt his first AB with Marte and Holt on base with no outs. They didn’t end up scoring but the bunt was a very good one. He next AB he looked pretty bad striking out on two bad pitches out of the zone. He was robbed of a hit his next AB on a sliding catch by the right fielder of a ball blooped down the line. He was hit his 3rd time up, following that with a stolen base which was all on the pitcher and no throw was made. He had a nice long AB his final time up before grounding out. He showed some pretty good speed running down the line making it a close play. Mercer didn’t have much of a game as described above with his two bad strikeouts and then a bunt hit from a cleanup hitter which is likely a sign he felt he had no chance versus that pitcher. He popped out to SS his final AB. In the field he got plenty of work and looked very good.

Matt Curry had the hard hit double that almost left the yard but other than that had a rough game. He had a soft grounder to 1B his first time up followed by a line out to CF that was hit decent but right to the CF who moved in just a couple steps to catch it. His 4th AB was against Venditte and he looked bad vs the sometimes lefty. He had his only swing and miss of the game then followed it with a tap back to the mound for the out. In the field he had some trouble, two grounders ate him up, one he stuck with for the out and the other went off his glove for a questionable hit, it was a big last hop but it hit right off his glove and he let the ball play him. He also had that grounder in the hole he froze on mentioned above.

Jeremy Farrell hasn’t changed much since I saw him in 2009, he can hammer mistakes and look bad with good stuff and he can’t field. He hit a warning track bomb to CF his first AB followed by a nice opposite field single on an 0-2 count his 2nd AB. In the 6th I’ll give him credit for moving the runner from second to 3B on a groundout to 2B and with Curry running that was important as Sanchez smoked the ball. In Farrell’s last AB he faced Venditte and had no chance, striking out. In the field he looks too tentative. He is willing to let grounders play him and he had trouble with a very easy one that bounced off his glove for an error. Prior to that he tried to get a high hopper to his left and booted it but it was called a hit. With better defense on the corners Pribanic would’ve threw a 2 hitter (assuming everything else fell into place) or possibly made it out for the 8th inning.

Tony Sanchez had two different games at the plate. His first AB he grounded weakly to SS followed by swinging at the first pitch his next time up which produced a lazy fly to RF. His second half of the game he smoked the liner between 3B and SS and worked a walk. He really didn’t have much work on defense although he did make a nice tag on the Marte outfield assist and with no one on base he made at least three short hop picks in the dirt and nothing got by him all day.

The big story unless something is wrong with Marte (again I saw no signs of anything even as he left the field after his last catch which was an easy play) was the pitching performance of Pribanic. He peppered the strike zone, had a ton of weak hit foul balls to go with all the ones put in play and still dominated despite some poor defense and the fact he got just one swing and miss all night. He did get his first K on a check swing call but that was a very poor call that went his way. I left Waterfront Park very impressed with my first time seeing him pitch.

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John Dreker

John was born in Kearny, NJ, hometown of the 2B for the Pirates 1909 World Championship team, Dots Miller. In fact they have some of the same relatives in common, so it was only natural for him to become a lifelong Pirates fan. Before joining Pirates Prospects in July 2010, John had written numerous articles on the history of baseball while also releasing his own book and co-authoring another on the history of the game. He writes a weekly article on Pirates history for the site, has already interviewed many of the current minor leaguers with many more on the way and follows the foreign minor league teams very closely for the site. John also provides in person game reports of the West Virginia Power and Altoona Curve.

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