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AFL: Phil Irwin Makes His Final Fall Start

In Arizona Fall League action from Tuesday afternoon, Phil Irwin made his final start for Scottsdale and ran into trouble after being spotted a big early lead. Tyler Waldron followed him and picked up the loss in the 9-7 defeat to Surprise, dropping the Scorpions to 10-19 on the season. arizona_fall_league_logo

Phil Irwin came into the game with a 1-2, 7.71 record in four starts, allowing 15 hits and five walks, while striking out 11 in 11.2 innings. The Surprise stadium has Pitch F/X, one of two teams in the league that has it available.

In the first inning, Irwin started with a 2-0 lead already and walked the lead-off batter on four pitches. He got a ground out from the second hitter, which moved the runner to second base. The next batter flew out to center field for the second out. Irwin couldn’t get out of the inning unscathed, as the clean-up batter lined a double into center field to make it a 2-1 score. He got the final out on a ground ball to shortstop. Irwin was sitting 88-89 MPH with his fastball and mixing in a few curves and change-ups. He made 17 pitches in the inning, nine for strikes.

In the second inning, Irwin got the lead-off batter to line out to first base. The next batter flew out to right field two pitches later. He got another line out to first base to end the inning. Irwin needed just seven pitches to get through the second inning.

He came out for the third inning with a 6-1 lead and gave up a line drive single to center field to start the inning. That runner was quickly erased on a double play. Irwin got a pop out to shortstop to end the inning. Despite giving up a hard hit single, it was still an efficient eight pitch inning for Irwin.

Things got ugly in the fourth inning. Irwin allowed three straight singles to begin the inning, loading the bases. It looked like he would be able to battle back, striking out two straight batters, but instead the game fell apart. On a 1-1 curveball to Ryan Rua(who hit 32 homers this year), Irwin was take deep for a grand slam that made it a 6-5 score. He struck out the next batter on three pitches, giving him three strikeouts in the inning. However, Irwin allowed five runs in his four innings of work. It was not the ending he wanted for his Fall season. He threw 61 pitches, 36 for strikes and his velocity got better later in the game. He was sitting 89-90 late, touching 92 MPH in the fourth.

The only Pittsburgh Pirates player in the starting lineup was Gift Ngoepe. He was batting ninth and playing second base. Ngoepe came up with one out and no one on in the second inning and flew out to left field. With the score 5-1 in the third, Ngoepe singled to left field to drive home a run. It was just his fourth hit of the AFL season. In the fifth inning, Ngoepe was called out on strikes for the final out. He led off the eighth inning and had a six pitch AB that ended with a ground out to first base.

Tyler Waldron came out of the bullpen for the fifth inning and allowed a lead-off double, followed two batters later by a one out RBI single to tie the score. That batter moved to second on the throw home, then scored three pitches later on another RBI single. Just like the previous single, the runner moved up to second base on the throw home.

Things didn’t get any better for Waldron, who allowed a double just two pitches later. He walked the next batter, before leaving the game on a high note, picking up the second out via strikeout.  He faced seven batters, threw 24 pitches, 16 for strikeouts. He hit 92 MPH once, sitting 89 MPH with his fastball, while mixing in five curveballs and five change-ups. One more run scored after Waldron left, though it was unearned.

Just two more games remain on the AFL schedule for Scottsdale. They play Wednesday night before finishing up with an afternoon game on Thursday.

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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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  • jg941

    Is Irwin still in rehab mode? Is he………done? Sitting 88-89 on the FB, and with control issues, sound pretty scary.

    • John Dreker

      I wouldn’t look too much into his outings in the AFL, before Taillon got hurt, they were just planning on using Irwin in the Instructional League. His average fastball speed was never much more than 89 like it was today, he relied more on control and a plus curve. Coming back from surgery that caused him to miss most of the season, having some control issues and a slight decrease in velocity isn’t a surprise. He just really needed to get his innings in to build up his arm. The fact he got through it healthy is the most important thing.

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