Thompson And Curve Get The Win

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.

The win:
Altoona Curve  6,  Erie SeaWolves  2
(box score)

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.  

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2011 Prospect Watching: Alvarado, Bankston, Navarro, And Holden

Continuing through the Pirates’ minor league pitching ranks:

Gabriel Alvarado –  R/R,  6′ 2″,  175 lb 
Alvarado is a Venezuelan native who made his US debut in 2008 after two seasons in the Venezuelan Summer League.  He moved up to West Virginia for 2009, where he pitched mostly as a starter, with an additional 4 relief appearances.  He earned a 6-10 record and a 5.05 ERA, and in 114 innings, he allowed 135 hits, 64 runs, and 33 walks (2.6 walks/ 9 innings), with 96 strikeouts (7.6 K/ 9 innings).  Alvarado returned to West Virginia for 2010, but this time made just 4 starts and the rest of the time pitched in relief.  He earned a 3-5 record, with 5 saves and a 4.21 ERA.  He threw 83.1 innings, and allowed 86 hits, 39 earned runs, and 26 walks (2.8 walks/ 9 innings), with 60 strikeouts (6.5 K/ 9 innings, a bit down from the previous season).  Alvarado is going to turn 24 years old in May.  He did not shown a lot of progress last season, but he now has two seasons of A-level experience.  With the crowd that is going to be looking for a spot in the West Virginia bullpen, Alvarado will probably begin the season at A+ Bradenton, due to that experience.  He’ll need to get going and get the strikeouts up.  

Maurice Bankston —  R/R,  6′ 4″,  205 lb 
Bankston was the Pirates’ 8th round pick in the 2007 draft.  He pitched for the GCL Pirates in 2007 and at State College in 2008, then moved up to West Virginia to begin the 2009 season.  He struggled in 9 starts there (1-4 and 4.98 ERA, and 48 hits in 43.1 innings), and was moved back to State College later in the season.  He made another 9 starts for the Spikes with better results:  2-4, 2.34 ERA, and 54 hits in 50 innings.  He struck out 25 batters at both levels.  Bankston returned to West Virginia for the 2010 season, but made just 2 starts, and like Alvarado, was moved to the bullpen.  He began the season well, with a 2.93 ERA in 6 relief appearances and 13 hits in 15.1 innings in April.  He slipped to a 4.41 ERA in 6 relief appearances and one start in June, with 16 hits in 18.1 innings.  June was a horrible month for Bankston, with an exploding ERA over 11, and 31 hits in 17.1 innings.  He settled back down for the rest of the season, as he earned a 3.29 ERA in July and finished the season with a 1.32 ERA for August.  Bankston finished the season with a 4.68 ERA and a 7-4 record with 3 saves.  In 82.2 innings, he allowed 43 earned runs and 85 hits.  He walked 29 batters (3.2 walks/ 9 innings), and struck out 58 batters (6.3 K/ 9 innings).  Bankston is in a similar position to Alvarado — he’ll turn 24 in the middle of the 2011 season, and despite not having made a lot of progress in the past couple of seasons, he will likely begin the 2011 season in Bradenton’s bullpen.  

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Marauders Win Second Half Title; Walk-Off Homer For Gonzalez

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.

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Owens Wins #12, Two Homers For Hague As Curve Clinch Title

Tuesday’s action for the Pirates’ lower minor leaguers….

Altoona Curve� 9,� Bowie Baysox� 1 ..���� (box)

The Altoona Curve clinched the Eastern League’s Western Division title tonight with a win over Bowie.� This is just the second time the Curve have won their division in their 12 years of existence, and it follows a 2009 when the Curve spent the season in the cellar.

Six different Curve batters had 2 hits in the game, and 1B Matt Hague’s two hits were both home runs.� The batters provided plenty of run support for starter Rudy Owens, who won his 12th game of the season.� Owens pitched 6 scoreless innings, and struck out 9 Bowie batters.� Owens allowing 2 singles in the 1st inning but kept the Baysox scoreless thanks to an on-target throw in from RF Miles Durham to C Hector Gimenez, to tag out the lead runner at the plate.� Owens retired the next 11 batters in order, then gave up back-to-back singles in the 5th.� A strikeout ended that inning — he struck out 3 batters in the 5th, and two more in the 6th to finish up his night.

Derek Hankins earned his 7th save with 3 innings of work.� He gave up a lead-off homer to the first batter he faced in the 7th inning, and that was Bowie’s only run of the game.� Hankins loaded the bases with three singles following the homer, but got out of the inning with a strikeout.� He allowed only one more hit over the next two innings and struck out a total of 5 batters.

Meanwhile, the Curve batters were steadily stacking up the runs, scoring in 6 of their 9 at-bats.� Bowie held them off in the 1st inning, despite loading the bases on singles by 3B Josh Harrison and SS Jordy Mercer, and a walk to DH Andrew Lambo. Two strikeouts strikeouts ended the inning without a run scoring.� After that, the Curve took off.� Durham singled and CF Anthony Norman tripled for one run in the 2nd inning (1).� Hague was hit by a pitch, then singles by Gimenez and 2B Jim Negrych brought in 2 runs in the 3rd (3).� Hague homered for the first time, a solo shot, in the 5th (4).� Two more runs came in during the 6th.� Norman walked, and LF Jose De Los Santos reached on a fielding error.� Harrison doubled, plating Norman (5), and Mercer’s ground out brought in De Los Santos (6).� In the 7th, Negrych singled and scored on Norman’s double (7).� Hague homered again in the 8th inning, this time with Mercer on base with a single (9).

Three Curve position players have been named to participate in the Arizona Fall League:� OF Andrew Lambo, INF Josh Harrison, and INF Jordy Mercer will be with the Mesa Solar Sox.� Joining them will be C Tony Sanchez. (Each team is allowed one A-level player.)� The Pirates are also allowed three pitchers, though those assignments have not yet been determined.� The Arizona Fall League begins play in mid-October.

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Three Hits For Hernandez; McPherson Strikes Out 9; Avila’s Grand Slam

Back to full action in the Pirates’ lower minor league organization:

Harrisburg Senators � 9,� Altoona Curve� 7 (box)

The 5 Curve players who participated in the Eastern League All-Star Game didn’t have to do any extra travelling after the game, because the rest of the Curve joined them in Harrisburg to begin a series against the Senators.

The Senators jumped out to an early lead, with 3 runs in the bottom of the 1st inning and 2 more in the 3rd inning off Curve starter Jared Hughes. Hughes gave up two walks, a triple, a single, a wild pitch, and an RBI ground out in the 1st inning, and a 2-run homer in the 3rd.� After the homer, Hughes had a batter reach on a throwing error by SS Chase d’Arnaud, then gave up another single.� Then he settled down and retired the next 11 batters in a row.� He pitched 6 innings and allowed those 5 runs on 6 hits and 2 walks, with 3 strikeouts.

The Curve bats were quiet over their first 5 innings, with only a walk to C Hector Gimenez and singles to CF Gorkys Hernandez and RF Miles Durham. They got going in the 6th inning, when Hernandez singled again and 3B Josh Harrison doubled, scoring Hernadez from first base.� 1B Matt Hague blasted a 2-run homer, and the Curve were back in the game, trailing 5-3.

Pinch-hitter Anthony Norman added another 2-run homer in the top of the 7th, after LF Brandon Jones had walked.� With the score tied at 5-5, D’Arnaud walked after the home run, and moved to second base on a wild pitch.� Hernandez’s third single of the game put d’Arnaud on third base, and Harrison’s sacrifice fly brought him in with the go-ahead run.� One more run came across in the top of the 8th.� 3B Jordy Mercer walked, and advanced to second base on a wild pitch.� Durham singled again, but Mercer had to hold at second base because the ball was just at shortstop.� Jones walked to load the bases, and pinch-hitter Yung Chi Chen’s sacrifice fly brought in Mercer.

The Curve were looking good, with a 7-5 lead going into the bottom of the 9th.� Anthony Claggett had relieved Hughes and struck out the side in the 7th.� Mike Dubee pitched the 8th, allowing a single and a walk, but striking out two more batters.� Ramon Aguero took the mound for the bottom of the 9th.� He got the first out… then everything fell apart.� A walk, a single, and a wild pitch put runners on second and third base.� A sacrifice fly brought in the runner from third base, bringing the Senators closer, 7-6.� Another walk put two runners on, and a 3-run walk-off homer gave the Senators the 9-7 win.

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