AA All-Stars: Playing in the Fog

The radio announcers couldn’t see past the infielders. The outfielders couldn’t see the fly balls. The pitchers tried to keep the ball on the ground where their fielders could see it. The hitters tried to keep the ball in the air, where no one could find it.
The fog rolled in over Dodd Stadium in Norwich, Connecticut, and halted the AA Eastern League All-Star game in the top of the 3rd inning. The South Division All-Stars were at bat, with runners on the corners and two outs, and the score was tied at 2 runs apiece, when the umpires, managers, and league president decided that conditions were unplayable.
The Altoona Curve had five representatives at the game. 3B Neil Walker, 1B Steve Pearce, C Brian Peterson, RHP Matt Peterson, and LHP Dave Davidson. Brian Peterson and Davidson were not on the original South Division roster, but were added to the team to replace other players who were injured. RHP Luis Munoz had been on the original team roster, but was replaced by RHP Chris Key of Reading.
There had been some fog during the Home Run Derby preceding the game, and there was more fog as the game started. North Division’s starter Jeffrey Marquez (Trenton/NYY) gave up one hit, to Altoona’s Neil Walker, in the top of the first. Walker’s hit was a single to left field that fell in because the left fielder Matt Carson (Trenton/NYY) couldn’t see the ball well. The three outs in the top of the first all came on infield plays: a line out to first base, and two ground balls.

The North Division put a run on the board in the bottom of the 1st. Eugenio Velez (Connecticut/San Fran) smashed the first pitch he saw right back at starter Dallas Trahern (Erie/Detroit), bouncing it off his leg. Trahern was not injured, and he picked up the ball to throw to first, but his throw was wide, and Velez reached third on the error. Mark Kiger (Binghamton/NYMets) hit a grounder to second base, which pushed the run across. John Bowker (Connecticut/SF) also grounded out, and Sergio Santos (New Hampshire/Toronto) singled into right field. The inning ended when Brett Harper(Binghamton/NYM) hit what looked like it would be another single to right field, but in the increasing fog, the runner Santos had difficulty seeing the ball, and it hit him, for the third out.
William Horne (Trenton/NYY) pitched a perfect top of the second for the North Division, including two strikeouts. One of his strikeout victims was Altoona’s Steve Pearce.
The North Division scored another run in their half of the 2nd inning. Rob Cosby (Binghampton/NYM) led off with a triple into right field. The right fielder Brian Barton (Akron/Cleve) could see nothing in the fog and had no idea where the fly ball was, until it dropped on the ground. Robinzon Diaz’s (New Hampshire/Tor) grounder scored Cosby.
By the top of the 3rd inning, the fog was getting thicker and visibility was rapidly dropping. South Division’s Val Majewski (Bowie/Balt) led off by hitting a ball into center field, which North’s CF Jeff Corsaletti (Portland/Bos) couldn’t find until it bounced to the center field wall. Majewski reached second base on the play. Pitcher Kevin Mulvey (Binghamton/NYM) struck out Altoona’s Brian Peterson, then walked both Jesus Merchan (Reading/Phil) and Asdrubel Cabrera (Akron/Clev) to load the bases. Neil Walker also struck out. Jackson Melian (Erie/Detr) singled into right field, again without the outfielder able to see where the ball was going, and that tied the game as Majewski and Merchan scored.
At that point, it was becoming apparent that conditions were unplayable, and the risk of injury was too high. Both managers and the umpires conferred with the Eastern League president Joe McEacharn, and first a game delay was called. When it became apparent that the fog was not going to disperse any time soon, the game was suspended with the score tied. Unfortunately for the players and fans, there will be no make-up game or time to continue the suspended game.
Before the game eight players competed in a home run derby. From the North Division, the hitters were: Connecticut’s John Bowker (13 homers so far this season), Binghamptons’ Caleb Stewart (13) and Brett Harper (13), and New Hampshire’s Sergio Santos (15). From the South Division: Reading’s Michael Costanzo (league leader with 17 homers), Reading’s Greg Jacobs (14), Bowie’s Oscar Salazar (14), and Altoona’s Neil Walker (12). Neil Walker hit only one home run in the contest. The winner was Sergio Santos.
Other Altoona note:
from Paul Meyer, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Steve Pearce, who hasn’t missed a beat offensively since moving from high Class A Lynchburg to Class AA Altoona two months ago, yesterday was named the Eastern League’s player of the month for June. In 27 games, he hit .404 (40 of 99) with eight home runs and 34 RBIs.
Pearce also was named the player of the month for April while with Lynchburg

Read More

Taking a Look Ahead at the Pirates' Second Half

SportProjections.com approached several of the Most Valuable Network’s writers this past week as they put together a mid-season review.  I pitched in my $.02 on the Pirates. You can read my first half summary and my take on the team’s struggling players (and first-half stars), but it really comes down to my projection for the second half: With [Ian] Snell, [Tom] Gorzelanny and Paul Maholm, the Pirates have a legitimate...

Read More

Pirate Pitching Grows, But Still Room to Improve

Like Tuesday, the goal here is to look at the pre-season expectations for the Pirates in comparison to how they’ve actually performed through 2007′s first 88 games. I already talked about the offense, so it must be time to think about the pitching staff. The bullet points refer to the ZiPS projection system made available by Dan Szymborski at Baseball Think Factory this pre-season. Current statistics can be found at Pirates.com....

Read More

Three Tribe Stars in Albuquerque

(photos by NancyZ)
Bryan Bullington -- photo by NancyZ
This is a strange feeling: being happy that Mike Hessman and Brandon Moss have hit home runs.
The International League All-Stars displayed some early fireworks, and then used the power of pitching to hold on to their lead, beating the Pacific Coast League All-Stars by a score of 7-5 tonight in Isotopes Park in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Indianapolis Indians’ representatives to the International League team, starting pitcher Bryan Bullington, shortstop Brian Bixler, and infielder Yurendell de Caster, all got into the game.
The International League All-Stars jumped out to a big start in the top of the first inning. Rochester’s Matt Tolbert was hit by a pitch, Toledo’s Timo Perez doubled to score Tolbert, and then Toledo’s Mike Hessman and Pawtucket’s Brandon Moss hit back to back home runs. That gave IL starting pitcher, our own Bryan Bullington (photo), a 4-run stake when he took the mound in the bottom of the inning.
Bullington struck out the first two Pacific Coast League batters. Then Tacoma’s Adam Jones doubled to center field, and Albuquerque’s Val Pascucci homered to left field, cutting the IL’s lead to two runs. Bullington struck out the next batter, to end the inning.
Brian Bixler  --photo by NancyZ
Brian Bixler (photo), starting shortstop for the IL team, led off the top of the second inning with a single off the glove of the PCL’s shortstop, Colorado Springs’ Clint Barmes. Bixler did what he’s been doing in Indianapolis all season — he stole second base. Columbus’s Brandon Watson, who set a new IL record with his 43 game hitting streak last month, doubled into left field, scoring Bixler.
Bullington returned to pitch a scoreless bottom of the 2nd inning, the first half-inning of the game in which runs were not scored. He gave up a walk to Nashville’s Vinny Rottino, but left him stranded on base, and struck out Salt Lake City’s Terry Evans in the process. Bullington threw 33 pitches (21 for strikes) in his two innings, giving up 2 runs on 2 hits and one walk, with 4 strikeouts.

Brian Bixler led off the 4th inning as well, and added an insurance run for the IL. He reached first base safely, when he hit a grounder to PCL third baseman, Albuquerque’s Scott Seabol, whose throw to first base bounced near the bag and caromed off. Bixler promptly stole second base again, this time without even drawing a throw from the PCL catcher Rottino. Rochester’s Matt Tolbert lined a single into center field, allowing Bixler to score easily from second base. Toledo’s Timo Perez also singled, scoring Tolbert, and the score was 7-2 in favor of the IL.
The Pacific Coast League came back with three runs in the bottom of the 4th. Omaha’s Craig Brazell homered off another IL pitcher, Pawtucket’s Travis Hughes. Terry Evans doubled and Vinny Rottino walked, and a wild pitch by Hughes advanced them to third and second bases. Clint Barmes’ sacrifice fly scored Evans, and a single by Iowa’s Eric Patterson scored Rottino, lifting the score to 7-5.
Pitching dominated after the 4th inning. IL pitchers struck out a total of 11 batters, and PCL pitchers struck out 8. No pitcher stayed in the game for more than an inning after Bullington’s two for the IL in the 1st and 2nd, and the PCL’s (Portland) Jack Cassel’s two in the 2nd and 3rd.
In the top of the 6th, Brian Bixler came to bat one more time, against Travis Driskill of Round Rock. Bixler struck out, as Driskill set the side down in order. Bixler also struck out on a foul tip in the top of the 9th, against Tucson’s Chad Harville.
Yurendell de Caster -- photo by NancyZ
Yurendell de Caster (photo) entered the game in the bottom of the 6th, as a defensive substitution at third base. Two former Indianapolis Indians also entered the game in that inning: Mark Johnson (with the Indians in 2004), now playing for Tucson, batted for C Vinny Rottino (grounded out to second), and stayed in the game to catch for the PCL; Jim Brower, with the Indians earlier this season, and now pitching for Columbus, came in to pitch. Brower faced only one batter, Albuquerque’s Robert Andino, and induced a fly out to end the inning.
De Caster got an at-bat in the top of the 7th, and he grounded to the second baseman, for a force-out at second.
The PCL threatened in the 8th inning. De Caster had an assist for the first out, handling a routine grounder to third base. Sacramento’s Daric Barton singled, Colorado Springs’ Sean Barker doubled, and former Indian Mark Johnson walked. But IL pitcher, Rochester’s Bobby Korecky, struck out Robert Andino to end the inning with the bases loaded.
Norfolk’s Cory Doyne, the IL leader in saves with 26, came in to pitch the bottom of the 9th for the IL. He got a strike out, a ground out, gave up a single to Tacoma’s Adam Jones, and then struck out Albuquerque’s Val Pascucci to end the game.
Indians’ Bryan Bullington was the winning pitcher. PCL starter, Tacoma’s Justin Lehr, took the loss. He pitched only the first inning, giving up 4 runs on one walk and 3 hits, 2 of which were homers. Norfolk’s Cory Doyne earned a save. The MVP of the game was Toledo’s Timo Perez, who went 3 for 4 with a double and 2 RBI. Indians’ Brian Bixler was one of 3 IL All-Stars who played the entire game; also playing the entire game were Timo Perez in left and then center field, and Pawtucket’s Brandon Moss in right field. For the PCL, Iowa’s Eric Patterson at second base, Tacoma’s Adam Jones in center field, and Albuquerque’s Val Pascucci at DH all played the entire game.
Oops –ESPN2′s broadcaster Eduardo Perez, in giving the after-game wrap up, said that Bryan Bullington’s four strikeouts in two innings should be good news for the “Milwaukee Brewers”.
The “Zooperstars”, who appeared in last Saturday’s game here in Indianapolis, entertained between innings of the game.
Next year’s AAA All-Star Game will be held at Slugger Park in Louisville, KY. (Close enough for a road trip?)
Go Tribe!

Read More

Bud Selig Says He Doesn't Care about the Pirates

I listened to MLB.com’s broadcast of Bud Selig’s annual town hall chat yesterday. You can view that 18-minute video here. Selig talked about the playoff system, steroids, expansion, the All-Star Game format and the internationalization of baseball. Of course, the salary cap and “competitive balance” were topics for discussion, too. The commissioner slapped Pirate fans in the face. Mr. Selig, for the good of the...

Read More

LaRoche, Bay, Paulino Flop in the First Half

As I mentioned this morning, the goal here is to look at what we expected the Pirates to do in comparison to how they’ve actually performed through 88 games. The bullet points refer to the ZiPS projection system made available by Dan Szymborski at Baseball Think Factory this pre-season. Current statistics are from Pirates.com. Catcher Paulino: 452 AB, .272/.327/.378, 8 HR, 49 RBI, 1 SB Doumit: 290 AB, .252/.322/.438 Cota: 220...

Read More