A few roster moves before we get to the games:
The Pirates have signed 1B Gerlis Rodriguez to a minor league contract. Rodriguez, a Dominican native, played for State College in 2010. He played about half of his 48 games at first base, and did some DH’ing. Rodriguez hit .201, with 8 doubles, one triple, one homer, and 24 RBI. He walked 11 times and was struck out 34 times. Rodriguez will probably be back with the Spikes when their season begins next month.
Two minor league pitchers have been released: RHP Gabriel Alvarado and RHP Maurice Bankston. Alvarado was with the West Virginia Power for the past two seasons, mostly as a starter in 2009 and then as a reliever in 2010. Bankston also spent most of the last two years with the Power, and he also started in 2009 then moved to the bullpen in 2010.
Richmond Flying Squirrels 5, Altoona Curve 3
Jeff Locke gave up 4 hits and 4 walks in 5 innings, but got out of jams with timely double plays in his start for the Curve. Unfortunately, the bullpen gave up 4 more runs and the Squirrels took the win. The only run Locke gave up came in the bottom of the 1st. After a lead-off single, Locke got two fly outs, then gave up a walk and an RBI single. Another walk followed, before Locke ended the inning. A double play ended the 2nd inning with two runners left stranded (walk and hit batter), and a second double play eliminated a lead-off single in the 3rd. Locke also worked around a double and a walk in the 4th, then retired the side in the 5th.
The Squirrels’ starter retired the first 10 Curve batters in order. The first hit he gave up was a big one — a solo home run over the left field wall by CF Starling Marte. The Curve took a 2-1 lead in the 5th inning, on a line drive double by 3B Jeremy Farrell, a passed ball, and an RBI single lined into center field by C Tony Sanchez.
The lead lasted only one inning. Tom Boleska relieved Locke to begin the bottom of the 6th He allowed the first three batters he faced to reach base — two walks and a single back to the mound. Boleska struck out the next batter, then a grounder force out at second (but not the double play) let the tying run score. An RBI single gave Richmond a 3-2 lead. Boleska pitched a scoreless 7th inning, then Matt McSwain took over for the 8th. The first two batters McSwain faced both smacked solo home runs, and Richmond was up 5-2.
The Curve scratched out one more run in the top of the 9th. With two outs, LF Quincy Latimore worked a walk, then SS Jordy Mercer and Farrell hit back-to-back singles, plating Latimore. But that was all they were able to get, as Sanchez’s line out ended the game.
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.
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.