Three wins for the Pirates’ lower minor league teams on Tuesday:
Altoona Curve 2, Akron Aeros 0
Starter Bryan Morris threw 6 shutout innings to lead the Curve over the Aeros in Akron. Morris scattered 4 hits and a walk, while striking out 3 for his first win of the season. The only real trouble he had was in the bottom of the 1st, when rehabbing Grady Sizemore began the inning with a walk. After two grounder force outs, a single, Akron had runners on first and second. A single lined into center field had the runner from second charging for home, but CF Starling Marte fired in to C Eric Fryer, who tagged out the runner at the plate. Morris sailed through his remaining 5 innings, allowing just two more hits — singles in the 2nd and the 5th. Brian Leach, Michael Dubee, and Noah Krol each pitched one scoreless inning of relief. Leach and Dubee each allowed one walk, but Dubee struck out the other three batters he faced. Krol earned his second Save of the season.
Both of the Curve’s runs scored in the 3rd inning. 3B Jeremy Farrell began the rally by being hit by a pitch. Fryer singled, and RF Jose Hernandez sacrifice bunted both runners into scoring position. 2B Brock Holt grounded to first, but a fielding error let him reach safely and gave Farrell the chance to score. An RBI grounder by Marte brougth in Fryer with the second run. Marte stole second base and moved to third on a wild pitch, but the inning ended before he could come around to score.
Marte singled after Holt walked in the 5th inning, and both Farrell and Fryer singled in the 7th, but neither of those threats yielded any runs. Farrell lined into right field in the 9th, and rounded second easily, but was thrown out when he tried to stretch it into a triple. He would have scored if he’d stopped at second, because Fryer followed with his own double. Fryer was 3-for-4 in the game, and Farrell went 2-for-3.
It’s like they said in the movie “Bull Durham”: some days you win, some days you lose, some days it rains. Again on Saturday, the Pirates’ lower minor league affiliates experienced all three.
It rained again in West Virginia. The Power and the Savannah Sand Gnats will try for a double header again on Sunday. As best as I can tell, Friday’s game has been “cancelled” and won’t be made up.
Altoona Curve 6, Erie SeaWolves 2
The Curve finally put one in the win column, as they out-hit the SeaWolves 14 – 3 on Saturday afternoon. All but one member of the starting line-up had at least one hit, and while C Eric Fryer didn’t smack a hit, he contributed two walks and scored a run. CF Starling Marte, who had been hitless in the Curve’s first two games, led the onslaught with 4 hits — 3 singles and a double. 2B Brock Holt, DH Kris Watts, and 3B Jeremy Farrell all had two hits, and Holt and Farrell each drove in two runs.
Erie scored the first run of the game in the bottom of the 1st, on an infield single by the first batter of the game, followed by a bunt and a balk by starter Aaron Thompson, and an RBI ground out. Thompson settled in after that, and did not allow another run nor another hit. He walked one and struck out two in his 6 innings of work.
The Curve tied the game in the 3rd inning. Fryer walked, then came around to score on a wild pitch. They took the lead in the 6th, when Marte doubled. SS Jordy Mercer singled, driving in Marte. Watts also singled, and he scored moments later when Farrell singled. RF Brad Chalk added another run in the 7th — he tripled, then came across the plate on Holt’s RBI single. The Curve rallied again in the 8th, for two more insurance runs. Watts started with his second single. Farrell brought him home with a double, and Holt followed up with an RBI single to plate Farrell.
Reliever Brian Leach pitched a scoreless 7th inning and began the 8th, allowing a single. Michael Dubee took over for Leach, but the runner scored on an RBI single. Dubee also pitched a perfect 9th, earning his first save. Thompson earned the win.
Continuing to look at the first basemen in the Pirates’ minor league organization:
Aaron Baker — Bats L/ Throws R, 6′ 2″, 220 lbs
Baker was chosen in the 11th round of the 2009 draft, and began his pro career right away with the State College Spikes. He was promoted to A level West Virginia for 2010, where he hit for close to the same average — .247 with the Spikes and .253 for the full season in West Virginia. Baker’s power performance improved, as he hit 34 doubles, 18 homers, and 79 RBI for the Power. His high strikeout rate in State College (54 strikeouts in 62 games, 24%) continued in 2010 with 115 strikeouts in 115 games (25%), but he also continued to work a reasonable number of walks — 52 (10%). Baker’s best months at the plate were April (.282, 12 RBI) and May (.278, 16 RBI). His average slipped to .179 in June, though hit hit 5 homers and 12 RBI. He bounced back up to a .274 average in July and hit 7 homers and 21 RBI, then slid back to .247 in August, with 2 homers and 16 RBI. He’d had a big righty-lefty split in 2009, but that disappeared in 2010 (.252 against left-handers and .253 against right-handers). In the field, Baker played all his games at first (with a few DH appearances). He made a whopping 19 errors at first, and that’s going to need a lot of work. Baker should be the primary first baseman at A+ Bradenton for 2011, with some possible back-up by Matt Curry. The Pirates would like to see him continue to increase the power numbers, and cut back on the strikeouts.
Calvin Anderson — R/R, 6′ 7″, 240 lb
Anderson was the Pirates’ 12th round pick in the 2008 draft. He moved up to A+ Bradenton for the 2010 season, where he was the starting first baseman (plus a few games as the DH). He started the season with a so-so April, a .239 average, one homer, and 8 RBI. May began in the same vein, then Anderson had a 12-game hitting streak in the second half of the month, during which he went 22-for-46 (.478) with 3 homers and 16 RBI. That included a 5-RBI game on May 22nd, and a 4-for-4, 4-RBI game on May 26th, and Anderson was named the Florida State League Player of the Week for that week. Unfortunately, that hitting spree came to an end, and Anderson did not do that well again for the rest of the season. He finished with a .259 average, 29 doubles, 11 homers, and 73 RBI. Strikeouts had been a problem for Anderson in previous seasons, and that did not change in 2010 — 141 strikeouts in 125 games (30%). In the field, Anderson struggled even more than Aaron Baker did — 23 errors at first base. The combination of low hitting and difficulty in the field may make the Pirates re-think the idea of moving Anderson up to AA Altoona for 2011. If he remains at Bradenton, though, he’s going to be squeezed by Baker, and without some big improvement this season, Baker may well pass Anderson by.
Sunday’s action with the Pirates’ lower minor league affiliates… this is the season finale for the Spikes, and the regular season finale for the Marauders.
West Virginia Power� 4,� Hagerstown Suns� 3 ….��� (box)
Elevys Gonzalez was the hero in the bottom of the 10th inning with a blast over the right-center field wall for a walk-off homer.� The Suns had scored first with a solo home run off Power starter Eliecer Navarro to lead off the 2nd inning and another solo blast to begin the 4th inning.� Navarro scattered 5 more hits over the rest of the first 5 innings without allowing a run to score.� He began the 6th inning by giving up a walk, then an RBI double to give the Suns their third run.� Maurice Bankston relieved Navarro to finish the 6th inning, then went on to pitch 2 scoreless innings.
The Power got one run back in the bottom of the 4th, with the help of 3 consecutive walks.� CF Evan Chambers walked first, but was caught stealing second base.� Walks to 1B Aaron Baker and DH Jose Hernandez put two runners on base, then C Ramon Cabrera skipped a ground-rule double over the left-center field wall, scoring Baker.� A pop out ended the inning without any further scoring.
The bottom of the 7th began with the Power trailing 3-1.� Cabrera led off with a line drive single up the middle, then LF Rogelios Noris doubled, and 3B Andy Vasquez tripled, tying the score as both Cabrera and Noris scored.� Vasquez was cut down after rounding third base, on the throw in from the outfield.
Bankston hit a batter with a pitch in the bottom of the 8th, but left him stranded.� Jhonathan Ramos pitched a 1-2-3 inning in the 9th.� The Power went down in order in ther 8th.� Noris singled and stole second base in the bottom of the 9th, but could not come around to score, and the game went into extra innings.� Ramos gave up a one-out single in the top of the 10th, but then struck out the next two batters.� That set up the bottom of the 10th, when Elevys Gonzalez greeted the new Suns’ reliever with the game-winning homer.
Thursday’s action for the Pirates’ lower minor league affiliates:
West Virginia Power� 3,� Rome Braves� 0 …��� (box)
On July 24th, Power starter Phillip Irwin pitched 7 hitless and scoreless innings.� Tonight, he again threw 7 scoreless innings, though this time he scattered 3 hits.� Last time, he walked two batters, and tonight he did not walk any.� Both times, Irwin struck out 8 opponents.� Irwin’s toughest inning tonight was the 4th, when he gave up a double and a single, and hit a batter.� Luckily, the first runner was doubled off second base in a line-out double play.� The other two runners pulled off a double steal, but a strikeout ended the inning with them both still in scoring position.� Irwin retired the next 9 batters in order to finish his evening and earn his 6th win.� Zach Foster earned his 6th save with two scoreless innings of relief, allowing only a walk.
The Power were held to just 5 hits, but they also took advantage of three Rome errors in one inning.� In the 2nd, 1B Aaron Baker began the inning by reaching base on a fielding error.� He moved to second base on a passed ball, but was out at third when RF Andy Vasquez reached on a fielder’s choice.� Vasquez stole second base, and scored on LF Rogelios Noris’ RBI single.� Noris advanced to third base when the Rome pitcher made a throwing error on a pick-off attempt, then scored on C Jairo Marquez’s double, which was also complicated by a fielding error.� Marquez added another run in the 5th, with a solo home run, his second of the season.� Vasquez singled in the 4th inning, but was thrown out trying to steal second base.� SS Benji Gonzalez doubled to lead off the 8th inning, but was left stranded.