Sunday’s action in the Pirates’ lower minor leagues:
West Virginia Power 7, Augusta Green Jackets 0
Three Power pitchers powered up to shut out the Green Jackets. Colton Cain made the start and earned his first win of the season. He allowed just one hit and one walk in 6 innings. Cain retired the first 9 Augusta batters in order, then gave up both the hit (a double) and a walk to begin the bottom of the 4th. A double play and a pop out got Cain out of that little jam, then he retired 6 more batters to end his outing. Kevin Decker allowed a single in each of his two innings, but maintained the shutout. Ryan Beckman gave up two singles in the 9th, but left both on base to end the game.
The Power began their scoring with an unearned run in the top of the 2nd. C Elias Diaz reached on a fielding error in right field, then advanced to third base on RF Dan Grovatt’s single. 2B Kevin Mort brought Diaz in with a sacrifice fly. Grovatt led off the 5th with a walk. He was forced out at second on Mort’s grounder, though Mort avoided the double play and was safe at first. LF Andy Vasquez plated Mort with a triple into right field.
The 6th was the big inning for the Power. CF Mel Rojas and 1B Matt Curry started the frame with back-to-back singles, and after two outs, Diaz walked to load the bases. Another walk to Grovatt forced in Rojas, then Mort drove in Curry and Diaz with a line drive single into center field. The Power tacked on another run in the 7th, when SS Gift Ngoepe doubled, Rojas singled (his third hit of the game), and a fielder’s choice on Curry’s ball let Ngoepe score. It was Curry’s turn to double in the 9th, and he scored on Avila’s RBI single.
The Altoona Curve and the Richmond Flying Squirrels were rained out in Altoona tonight. They will make up the game in August.
West Virginia Power 8, Augusta 5
The Power scored in each of the first 4 innings to stay ahead of the Augusta Green Jackets on Saturday evening. 2B Drew Maggi got the game off to a good start with a double into right field. 1B Matt Curry walked, then with Maggi off and running, a ground out by 3B Eric Avila let Maggi score. RF Justin Howard drove in Curry with a single into center field. Augusta got one of the runs back in the bottom of the 1st with a triple and an RBI ground out off starter Tyler Waldron.
Back-to-back singles by DH Elias Diaz and C Kawika Emsley-Pai opened the top of the 2nd, and gave the Power runners on the corners. A passed ball let Diaz score. SS Gift Ngoepe walked, but was out in a grounder force out, as Maggi got to first in time to avoid the double play. Another grounder forced out Maggi at second, but CF Mel Rojas also beat out the throw to first, and Emsley-Pai scored. Augusta also scored one run in the bottom of the inning, on a bases-loaded RBI ground out.
The Power took a big step ahead in the 3rd. Avila led off with a double, and after two outs, four consecutive singles drove in 3 runs. Diaz plated Avila, and Emsley-Pai plated Diaz; Ngoepe’s single put two runners on, and Maggi’s single scored Emsley-Pai. Another single by Avila and a fielding error on a fly into center field by Howard gave the Power an unearned run in the 4th.
Augusta kept tacking on runs, but one at a time — a solo homer in the 4th, and a run on two singles and a sacrifice fly in the 5th. Waldron pitched 5 innings and allowed 4 runs on 8 hits and a walk, with 4 strikeouts. He was relieved by Zach Foster to begin the 6th. Foster pitched 3 hitless and scoreless innings and hit one batter, who was promptly caught stealing by Emsley-Pai. Jason Townsend pitched the 9th and gave up the final Augusta run, on two singles, a passed ball, and an RBI ground out.
Waldron earned his second win of the season. Emsley-Pai went 3-for-4, with an RBI and 2 runs scored. Besides the singles in the 2nd and 3rd, he also singled in the 8th inning, but was left on base. Maggi, Avila, and Diaz all had 2 hits in the game.
Wins all around for the rest of the Pirates’ minor leaguers:
Altoona Curve 10, Erie Seawolves 7
Three home runs and a 4-run 2nd inning sparked the Curve to their second win of the season on Sunday afternoon. The scoring got started in the top of the 1st, when 2B opened the game with a single, moved to third on CF Starling Marte’s double, and scored on SS Jordy Mercer’s RBI ground out. The Curve made it 5-1 with 4 more runs in the 2nd. DH Eric Fryer led off with a walk, but was forced out at second on RF Jose Hernandez’s grounder, though they avoided the double play. Holt singled, then stole second base, giving the Curve two runners in scoring position. Hernandez scored on Marte’s RBI ground out, Mercer drove in Holt with a double, and C Tony Sanchez followed with his first homer of the season, driving in Mercer as well.
The Curve tacked on another run in each of the next two innings. 3B Jeremy Farrell reached base on a throwing error in the 3rd, and scored on Hernandez’s double. Marte led off the 4th with a solo home run. They took a break for two innings, then Farrell added his 2-run homer in the 7th, bringing in Sanchez, who had singled. Altoona’s final run came in the top of the 9th, with a two-out double by LF Quincy Latimore, an intentional walk by Farrell, and an RBI single by Fryer.
Holt had 3 hits in the game, raising his average to .400. Marte (.375), Sanchez (.300), and Farrell (.313) each had 2 hits.
Jared Hughes made the start for the Curve. He pitched 4 innings, and allowed 3 runs. A double and a single gave Erie one run in the 2nd inning, then a walk, a double, and two ground outs scored two runs in the 3rd. Mike Colla relieved Hughes to begin the 5th. A hit batter and a triple gave the Sea Wolves one run in the 6th, but Colla kept Erie from scoring in his other two innings. Anthony Claggett pitched the 8th inning and gave up two home runs — a solo homer to open the inning, then a 2-run homer after a single. Noah Krol took the 9th, and loaded the bases with a walk and two singles, but got out of the jam with a strikeout and a game-ending double play. Colla earned the win, and Krol earned the Save.
The Pirates played two split-squad spring training games this afternoon (Monday):
Orioles 6, Pirates 4
The Pirates were held to 5 hits at McKechnie field this afternoon, but one of the big ones was a 2-run homer over the left field wall in the bottom of the 9th by RF Miles Durham, who was up from minor league camp. 1B Lyle Overbay also singled for the Pirates, scoring the first Pirates’ run of the game in the 5th. 3B Pedro Alvarez knocked in the remaining run for the Pirates, in the 6th inning. LF Jose Tabata led off the inning with a single, stole second base, then scored on Alvarez’s single Alvarez also doubled for the Pirates.
LF John Bowker, SS Brian Friday, CF Mel Rojas, 3B Andy Marte, 1B Steve Pearce, 2B Chase d’Arnaud, 2B Jim Negrych, and C Wyatt Toregas all got into the game for the Pirates.
Paul Maholm took the loss for the Pirates. He gave up a run in the 1st inning on a double and a single, then another on a solo homer in the 2nd. Jeff Locke allowed a run on two hits in the 6th. He allowed a single and a walk, then with two outs, an RBI single brought in a run. Justin Wilson got the first out, then walked the next three batters to load the bases in the 8th. A double and a sacrifice fly drove in all three of the base runners. Jeff Karstens pitched 2 scoreless innings, then Tyler Yates, and Mike Crotta each pitched a scoreless frame. Cesar Valdez finished up the 8th for Karstens, then pitched a scoreless 9th, facing only 4 batters.
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.