McPherson, Curve Stifle Bowie
Altoona won its second in a row over Bowie tonight, 4-2, behind five shutout innings from Kyle McPherson. He allowed just one hit and one walk, while striking out three. Tony Sanchez reached base all four times up with a double, two singles and a hit batsman.
McPherson relied mainly on a fastball that sat at 92-93. His velocity stayed the same through all five innings and he commanded the fastball well. He also threw a fairly effective curve and just a few changeups. Unlike Aaron Pribanic, who pitched last night, McPherson is mainly a flyball pitcher and that was true tonight, although only a couple of balls were hit well. He didn’t throw many pitches before coming out, so it’s likely that the Pirates want to limit his innings with the season winding down.
Matt McSwain, an organizational pitcher, threw two scoreless innings after McPherson and was followed by Bryan Morris, who went one and a third. Morris sat at 93-94, topping out at 95, in his first inning and lost just a little velocity in his second. As a starter he threw a curve, but I didn’t see that pitch tonight. Instead he threw what I think was a hard slider that was generally 88-89. His command was not on the same level as McPherson’s. Morris got into some trouble in the ninth on a pair of looping, opposite-field hits that brought in one run. With the 4-1 score making it a save situation, the Curve brought in Noah Krol, an organizational pitcher who serves as their closer. He got the last two outs for the cheap save, although he let Morris’ second runner score in the process.
As an aside here, I’ve often wondered why the Pirates, along with many other teams, prefer to use organizational pitchers as closers throughout the minors. Not that I want them to convert prospects to relief so they can close in the minors, but I don’t see why, if a team already has a prospect pitching out of the bullpen, you’d go out of your way to avoid using that prospect to close games out. The Pirates go to some lengths to have players get experience in situations they may face in the majors. For that reason, their minor league affiliates always attempt bunts and steals excessively. In fact, tonight they even had firstbaseman Matt Curry bunt with runners on first and second, which he did perfectly. If Curry becomes a power-hitting firstbaseman in the majors, is he ever likely to bunt? (Well, OK, if he plays for Clint Hurdle . . . .) The Pirates also try to get playoff experience for their prospects whenever possible. So why don’t they want prospects getting the final outs of close games? Are they likely to wet the bed and lose all confidence? What’s up with that?
Anyway, of the hitters, Sanchez had the most interesting game. All three of his hits were lasers; whatever has been ailing his bat all year didn’t surface tonight. I also got a clearer idea of why scouts like his glovework so much. Pribanic and McPherson didn’t present a big challenge to his receiving skills, but McSwain and Krol were a different story. McSwain throws from a three-quarters angle and features a sweeping 10-4 curve and a fastball with a lot of run inside on right-handed hitters, so he gets a great deal of horizontal movement. Krol throws from a low sidearm slot and also features a sweeping curve. Sanchez gets out from behind the plate very quickly and blocks pitches well, better than any catcher the Pirates have had in the majors that I can remember.