Altoona Curve 8/2 Report

Last week, I took a mini-baseball vacation through Pennsylvania (and a one-day stop in West Virginia) to see three of the Pirates’ minor league affiliates as well as the big-league club. This is the second of three reports on the minor league teams.

Also See: State College 7/31

Tuesday August 2 — Altoona Curve

I was really looking forward to the Curve game as they have several players that I saw often last year on the Marauders and some others that skipped that level. I was treated to a great game that the Curve won 11-3 (on the same night the Pirates were losing 11-5). Here’s a quick summary of the players in that game:

Phil Irwin, starting pitcher: Irwin was solid but unspectacular. He did not hit 90 on the scoreboard gun, which I believe is about 2 MPH slow. At times, he was the victim of some bad defense. But he did two things that are very important for pitchers, especially if they don’t have the best “stuff”: he kept the ball out of the middle of the strike zone and he didn’t walk anyone. This limited the damage to just 2 runs over 5 innings, even though he gave up 8 hits.

Bryan Morris, relief pitcher: I was glad to see Morris get into the game as I hadn’t seen him pitch at all last year in his brief stay in Bradenton. Relief pitchers must have different classes in the Fastball Academy, as Morris came in to a 2-out jam, and threw 5 offspeed pitches to get the Mets best hitter on a groundout to end the inning. His one fastball was 93 on the scoreboard. His next inning was a bit messy, mainly due to a fly ball that was misjudged by Qunicy Latimore in left field. Sandwiched around that “double” was a bloop single and line drive single to put runners at the corners with one run in and no outs. A strike out, fly out to RF and groundout later, and Morris escaped that jam with just one run.

Sanchez has struggled this year in Altoona.

Tony Sanchez, catcher: Tony’s hitting troubles are not overstated based on what I saw. Last year, the ball just flew off his bat into the outfield, often into gaps or line shot singles. This game, Sanchez didn’t hit the ball hard once. Even more concerning his defense as two curve balls in the dirt got away from him, allowing runners to advance. Again, last year, he stopped everything. His throws to 2nd between innings were pretty good — not as bad as I’ve heard. But he wasn’t challenged during the game at all. Sanchez is definitely down-graded in my book, but has time to recover. One bad year doesn’t destroy a prospect.

Matt Curry, 1B: Nothing of note for Curry during this game. His hit was a line drive single, but he looked bad on a strikeout and weak grounder to 1B. And he didn’t have anything exciting to do in the field.

Brock Holt, 2B: Holt had a tough day in the field, bobbling two potential double plays. One was a routine DP hit just to his left – he failed to field it cleanly so he ended up just getting the out at first. The other was a little more difficult as he went behind the second base bag to field it, but couldn’t get it out of his glove to the SS. He made up for his fielding with a good day at the plate — two walks, a single, and fly out to deep CF, displaying a bit of power.

Josh Rodriguez, SS: J-Rod looked a lot more comfortable in this game than he did in spring training. He made several good plays in the field and hit an absolute bomb for a home run. Time is running out on him, though, as he will turn 27 in December.

The other Sanchez, 3B: Yunesky Sanchez had a real good game, and I started getting excited about this guy I had never heard of, then I realized he is already 27 and is only playing because Jeremy Farrell is on the DL.

Quincy Latimore, LF: All right, don’t get too excited about this, but Latimore actually looked, uh, patient at the plate this game. He let a few curve balls drop out of the zone that he would have swung at last year. He fouled off a couple good curves as well. And (is everyone sitting down?) he got two hits off curve balls (do you think the book on him is to throw a lot of curve balls?). On the second one, he just hooked the pitch over the third baseman’s head into the left field corner for a triple. He also walked in a 4-pitch at bat. But his most exciting at bat was one I was used to seeing. In the second inning, he swung and missed on a (you guessed it) curve ball in the dirt. The catcher did not come up with the ball, and as Quincy was running to 1B, he “kicked” or (depending on your point of view) incidentally made contact with the ball and was safe at first. This play ignited a huge 4-run inning for the Curve, got the starting pitcher rattled so he couldn’t even finish the inning, and got the opposing manager thrown out of the game.

Starling Marte, CF: Of all things, on the first play of the game, Matt Den Dekker of the Mets hit a deep fly ball to center field. Marte turned and ran back to the wall and missed the ball by about 20 feet. Yes, Starling misjudged the ball by that much. Once Marte picked up the ball, Den Dekker was just rounding second base. For someone with Marte’s arm, this should have been an easy out at third. But the throw bounced a couple times and was offline, so Den Dekker got a triple that should have been an out (twice). This was the only slightly challenging play in the field and I hope an extreme anomaly — because it was eerily similar to the type of play that Nyjer Morgan would make! At bat, Marte looked good and bad — good in that he hit the ball hard a couple times, including a nice line drive, 2-RBI single — bad in that he struck out twice on curves out of the strike zone. If he could just lay off that pitch, this guy could hit at every level.

Andrew Lambo, RF: Lambo got called out on strikes for the 2nd time of the game in the 4th inning on a questionable call and let the umpire know what he thought of the call. He then proceeded to basically throw his batting gloves and helmet at the bat boy. In his next at bat, he hit one of the longest home runs I’ve seen in a while. Take from that what you will. In the field, he made a great throw home to hold a runner at 3B, but misjudged a weakly hit fly ball that he should have caught but instead let it drop in front of him.

Whew. That’s a lot of prospects on one team. And that doesn’t include Farrell on the DL and Jordy Mercer who got promoted earlier in the year. This team should be winning more games than it is based on the talent they have. And similar to State College, this is a great minor league stadium and well worth the trip!

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