Both the Curve and the Power played early games today….
Altoona Curve 3, Harrisburg Senators 2
A fielding error by the Senators in the bottom of the 7th gave the Curve the win, and a split of this rain-shortened series with Harrisburg. Jeff Locke got the start for the Curve, and he buzzed through his first 6 innings. A runner who reached base on SS Jordy Mercer’s throwing error in the 1st was promptly picked off and caught stealing, and a runner who singled in the 2nd was erased with a double play. A hit batter in the 5th was left stranded.
The Curve also were quiet for most of the first 5 innings. 1B Miles Durham walked to lead off the 2nd, but was also eliminated in a double play. Their only threat was when three walks, to Locke, 2B Brock Holt, and CF Starling Marte, loaded the bases for the Curve in the 3rd. But a pop out ended the inning with all three left on base.
The Curve got onto the scoreboard in the bottom of the 6th. Holt led off the inning with a double into right field on a ball that was deflected off the Harrisburg pitcher Erik Davis. Holt moved to third base on a ground out by Marte. Then Mercer blasted a home run over the left field wall to give the Curve a 2-0 lead. The Curve loaded the bases after the homer, on singles by Durham and LF Quincy Latimore, then another single by 3B Jeremy Farrell off a new relief pitcher who is familiar: Jimmy Barthmaier. With the bases loaded, Barthmaier struck out C Eric Fryer, then ended the inning with a ground out by RF Brad Chalk.
The Senators returned the favor in the top of the 7th. Locke got one out, then gave up a double and a single, putting runners on the corners. He was relieved by Tom Boleska, who began by throwing a wild pitch, which allowed the runner from third to come across the plate. A single again gave Harrisburg runners on the corners, and a sacrifice fly brought in the tying run — both runs charged to Locke.
With two outs in the bottom of the 7th, Marte singled into left field. He stole second base, then came around to score when Harrisburg’s right fielder Archie Gilbert made a fielding error on Mercer’s fly ball. The Curve held on to that narrow lead for the next two innings. Michael Dubee retired the side in order with three grounders in the top of the 8th. Noah Krol gave up a single in the 9th, but got three more ground outs, earning his 4th Save of the season.
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.
All of the Pirates’ minor league affiliates lost their season openers on Thursday night:
Erie SeaWolves 3, Altoona Curve 2
One run in the bottom of the 9th made the difference, as the Curve lost in Erie, PA. The SeaWolves were first onto the scoreboard with a pair of runs in the 5th inning. Curve starter Bryan Morris had already escaped from two jams in the early innings. In the 2nd, RF Brad Chalk threw out a runner who was trying to stretch a double into a triple, then Chalk ended the inning when he threw to C Tony Sanchez to nail a runner who was trying to score from second base on a single. Morris loaded the bases in the 4th with a single and two walks, but a timely double play, 3B Jeremy Farrell to 2B Brock Holt, to 1B Miles Durham, ended that inning without a run scoring. Morris’ luck ran out in the 5th, though, when a walk and a 2-run homer gave Erie a 2-0 lead.
The Curve missed a scoring opportunity in the top of the 2nd, when Sanchez singled into left field, and LF Quincy Latimore lined a double just out of the reach of the Erie left fielder. But with runners on second and third, Erie starter Jacob Turner struck out both Farrell and DH Eric Fryer to end the inning. Turner allowed only two base runners for the next 4 innings — he walked Holt, and he hit Sanchez with a pitch. (Sanchez has got to stop being a magnet for opposing pitchers’ pitches.) After Turner left the game, the Curve were able to put men on base again. Farrell singled and Fryer walked in the 7th, though they didn’t score. The 8th inning began with back-to-back walks to Holt and CF Starling Marte. SS Jordy Mercer bunted them over to second and third, then another walk to Sanchez loaded the bases. Latimore came through again, with another double off the left field wall, missing a grand slam by inches, to plate both Holt and Marte and tie the game at 2-2.
Reliever Anthony Claggett finished the 5th inning for Morris with a strikeout and a pickoff of one of the runners Morris had put on base. Aaron Pribanic and Jared Hughes each pitched a perfect inning, with one strikeout for Pribanic and two for Hughes. Michael Dubee struck out the side in the 8th inning to preserve the tie. The Curve batters could not get anything going in the top of the 9th, though, and Dubee came back out to pitch the bottom of the 9th. With one out, a single and a stolen base put a runner in scoring position, and a ground out moved him to third base. Then a sinking line drive, just inches away from the diving Latimore’s glove, fell in for a hit, scoring the runner from third base for the walk-off win.
Dubee was charged with the loss. Morris got a no-decision, with 2 runs on 4 hits and 5 walks, plus 3 strikeouts, in 4.1 innings. The Curve had just 4 hits, two of them doubles by Latimore.
As we continue to look at the minor leaguers in the Pirates’ organization, we’ll move on to the catchers:
Joey Schoenfeld — R/R, 6′ 2″, 187 lb
Schoenfeld was chosen by the Pirates in the 10th round of the 2009 draft. He got in just 5 games with the GCL Pirates in that year, and went 0-for-14 at the plate. In 2010, Schoenfeld was back with the GCL Pirates, sharing playing time with Elias Diaz and Dylan Child. Schoenfeld still needs a lot of work on his defense, though the Pirates believe the potential is there. He threw out 2 of 21 base stealers — definitely a work in progress. With the bat, Schoenfeld hit .273 in July and improved to .296 in August, to average out at a solid .281, with 3 RBI. He did strike out a lot: 21 strikeouts in 23 games (32.8%), but also took a lot of walks (10, or 13.3 %). He’ll turn 20 years old in June, so he still has some time to work on everything. He should begin 2011 in State College.
Elias Diaz – R/R, 6′ 1″, 175 lb
Diaz is a 20-year-old Venezuelan, who made his US debut after just one season in the VSL. Of the three catchers, he got the bulk of the playing time behind the plate for the GCL Pirates in 2010 (38 games). Diaz was the best of the three defensively, including throwing out 21 of 51 base stealers. His hitting needs some work, as he hit just .218, with 2 homers and 20 RBI. Diaz started out stronger, with a .261 average in 6 games in June, then dropping to .227 in July and .182 in August. The Pirates are hoping that he will develop more power over the next few years. He’ll probably begin 2011 in State College, sharing duties with Schoenfeld. He’s got an outside chance of being assigned to West Virginia, where he’d share with Matt Skirving.
Dylan Child — R/R, 6′ 1″, 181 lb
Child is an Australian and a product of MLB’s Australian Academy. He made his US debut with the GCL Pirates in 2010, though of these three catchers, he got the least amount of time behind the plate — just 8 games. He also played 14 games at first base, and 2 at third. Partly because he is relatively new to catching (he was a shortstop initially), he needs the most work on his defense. He threw out only one of 12 base stealers last season. Child needs to work on his hitting as well — he hit .179 in 12 games in July and .217 in 9 games in August. Overall, he had a .180 average with a double and 2 RBI. His strikeout rate was not high — 11 strikeouts in a total of 24 games (18%). Child was listed as a “reserve” on the Adelaide Bite in the Australian Baseball League over the winter, but was never placed on the active roster. With so little playing time behind the plate last year, the 20-year-old will probably return to the GCL in 2011.