Behind six strong innings from Aaron Pribanic, the Altoona Curve beat playoff hopeful Bowie on the road tonight, 5-1. Pribanic allowed seven hits, all but one singles, walked one and fanned four. The Curve put the game away with four runs in the first, as Bowie starter Armando Gabino recorded only one out. Starling Marte finished with a single, double and triple in five at-bats for the Curve.
As he generally does, Pribanic relied mainly on his sinker. He struggled a little with his control through the first three batters, missing low frequently, but afterwards consistently kept his pitches around the knees. His velocity also took a few hitters to settle in, but once it did he sat at 91-94, hitting 96 at least once. He threw infrequent curves and sliders, none of which had a lot of depth, but he located his offspeed stuff well. He got a lot of grounders, but not many swings and misses, which is why opponents are hitting .284 against him on the year. He had a shutout until one out in the sixth, when he allowed his only extra-base hit, a HR by minor league veteran Brandon Waring.
Pribanic was followed by Mike Loree, pitching in his second game after signing with the Pirates out of independent ball. Loree was let go after his third year with the Giants and went to indy ball, where he struggled badly in his first year. He emerged as the Atlantic League’s top pitcher this year, though, which may have encouraged the Pirates to pick him up. Loree threw in the upper 80s as a starter in the Giants’ organization, but he threw 89-92 tonight, maybe helped by pitching just one inning. He struck out the side, and the inning was over before I could get any real impression of his offspeed stuff.
Duke Welker pitched the 8th. I think the Pirates may have moved him up to Altoona to help them decide whether to add him to the 40-man roster. At this stage he’s rather like a poor man’s Joel Hanrahan. He throws a very heavy, mid-90s fastball that produces large numbers of grounders. He also throws a slider that he generally buries down and away from right-handed hitters. He had some trouble in this game, although it wasn’t all his fault. He had a runner on second, thanks to a long double, with two outs when he allowed an infield hit on a roller past the mound. The runner rounded third too far, thinking secondbaseman Josh Rodriguez would throw to first. Rodriguez instead had the sense not to make the futile throw and caught the runner in a rundown. Unfortunately, catcher Tony Sanchez dropped a throw out of what appeared to be over-eagerness to chase the runner up the line. No error was charged, I guess because no runners advanced. Welker got two quick strikes on the next hitter, but hit him on the foot with a slider to load the bases. Bowie sent up a pinch-hitter, none other than Welker’s former Bradenton teammate Aaron Baker. The Orioles probably promoted Baker to Bowie to help the Baysox in their playoff chase, but Welker fanned him on three pitches to end the inning. Anthony Claggett then finished the game out.
Some quick impressions of other players:
Starling Marte: He appears locked in. He led off the game by taking two strikes and then lining a triple off the wall in left-center. The ball carried well off his bat; initially it looked to me like it would be in the gap, but Marte missed a HR by just a couple feet. He later lined out, grounded out, and singled and doubled to right. He didn’t have any bad swings or chase anything much off the plate. Of course, he’s already blown out of the water the myth that he has no power.
Brock Holt: He doubled in the first, then hit three weak grounders before being intentionally walked his last time up. I have doubts about whether he has the arm for short; he didn’t make good throws on several DP attempts.
Andrew Lambo: Lambo swung the bat well, with two line singles to right and one fairly well hit fly out. Like most of the Curve hitters, his weakest at-bats came against long-time minor leaguer Eddie Gamboa, a soft-tosser who kept the Altoona hitters off-balance for most of the game after the first.
Matt Curry: Curry did not swing the bat well, instead spending much of the game struggling to get the bat on the ball against pitchers who do not have swing-and-miss stuff. One illustration: the first five Altoona hitters swung the bat five times and made hard contact every time. Curry came up empty with his first two swings, and on quite a few swings after that. He walked in that first at-bat–he DOES have a good eye–but fanned in the next two before grounding out his last time up.
Quincy Latimore–He looks just like what some people have imagined Marte to be. He swung at a lot of bad pitchers he had little chance of hitting and finished 0-4.
Tony Sanchez–The one misplay on the rundown notwithstanding, Sanchez had a good game, going 1-3. His first time up, he hit a long drive to the wall in center for a sacrifice fly. He got caught looking his second time up and grounded out his third, but he lined a hard single to right his last time up. He wasn’t especially challenged behind the plate, as Pribanic threw so many fastballs and had good control. The two steal attempts against Sanchez were successful, but neither was his fault. One was a two-out attempt with runners at first and third, and Sanchez simply held the ball. Sanchez made a good play when Latimore cut down a runner at the plate. The throw was a little off-line, but Sanchez made a nice short-hop pickup and pivoted in time to get the out. He made the tag the right way: he got between the runner and the plate and put the tag on hard, rather than swiping at the runner.