The Pirates have added a minor league catcher, Kawika Emsley-Pai, to the fold. The Washington State native was the Diamondbacks’ 10th round pick in the most recent (2010) draft, signed out of University of Texas. He made his pro debut with the Yakima Bears in the Northwest (short season) league, where he caught a bit more than half of the Bears’ games. In his 42 appearances, Emsley-Pai hit .167, with 3 doubles and 8 RBI. He made just one error behind the plate and had 8 passed balls. Base runners had about a 50-50 chance against him — 17 stolen bases allowed, and 19 runners thrown out. The 22-year-old was released by the D’backs, but the Pirates think he will be able to fill in, probably either at State College or West Virginia.
On to the winter league games:
Bravos de Margarita 9, Leones de Caracas 5 — Los Bravos scored 5 runs in the 7th inning, to put them out of reach for Los Leones. Los Leones scored early, with a 2-run homer in the top of the 1st, and 2 more runs on a single and four walks in the 3rd. C Carlos Maldonado had an RBI walk in that inning. Margarita got onto the scoreboard with a run in the bottom of the 3rd, on a single, a triple, and a sacrifice fly. An error, two singles, and a wild pitch gave Los Bravos 2 more runs in the 5th, to tie the score. In the 7th, Los Bravos pounded out a double, three singles, and a grand slam to take the lead. Jean Machi took the mound for Margarita for the final two innings. He struck out the side in the 8th, then struck out 2 more in the 9th, but also gave up a solo homer, and a single and a walk after the homer. LF Mike Ryan went 0-for-4 for Caracas.
Tigres de Aragua 3, Aguilas de Zulia 2 — A pair of doubles began the bottom of the 11th for Los Tigres, for the walk-off win. Neither team had a hit for the first 3 innings of the game. Zulia scored their 2 runs in the 6th, beginning with a single, a bunt, and an RBI single. Wil Ledezma came on in relief for Aragua, and he gave up an RBI double, to give Zulia a 2-0 lead. Los Tigres tied the score in the 7th inning when LF Lastings Milledge reached base on an error, and came in on a 2-run homer. Both teams threatened in the 8th, but neither scored, and then the bats were mostly quiet until the 11th inning. CF Jorge Cortes singled into left field in the 5th for Los Tigres, but was out when he tried to reach second base. Cortes also doubled in the 8th inning, and was replaced by a pinch-runner, who got as far as third base but did not score.
In the Dominican championship series, Los Toros del Este took a 2-game-to-0 lead with a 3-1 win over Los Estrellas de Oriente. Two runs in the top of the 8th broke a 1-1 tie and gave Los Toros the win. The Puerto Rican League had a night off from their playoff series. The Mexican Pacific League will begin their championship series on Friday.
Canberra Cavalry 5, Sydney Blue Sox 1 (Thursday) — The Cavalry scored 3 runs in the 5th, giving them plenty of insurance over the Blue Sox, who were held to just 3 hits. Jarryd Sullivan pitched 3 scoreless innings for Sydney, allowing only one hit. He gave up a double in the 6th, then retired the side in order in the next two innings.
Adelaide Bite 12, Brisbane Bandits 0 (Friday) — The Bite chomped on the Bandits, in a game that ended early, due to a 12-run lead after 6.5 innings. Back-to-back homers gave the Bite 5 runs in the 2nd inning — a grand slam by 3B Stan Welch (Mets), then a solo blast. Another solo homer began the 3rd inning, and another grand slam, by 1B Tom Brice, came in the 4th. Two singles, a walk, and two RBI ground outs finished the scoring in the 5th. DH Quincy Latimore went 0-for-3 with a walk for the Bite. After a dribbly little hit down the third base line by the Bandit’s lead-off hitter, Bite starter Brandon Maurer (Mariners) retired the next 21 batters he faced, including 8 strikeouts.
The Bite finish the season with a double-header against the Bandits on Saturday. They are currently a half-game behind league-leading Perth Heat in the standings. The Heat are scheduled to play a double-header against the Melbourne Aces on Saturday.
The winter league playoffs are winding down. The Puerto Rican League championship series (best of 7) between Los Criollos de Caguas and Los Leones de Ponce will begin on Wednesday. The Dominican League championship series will be played between Los Estrellas de Oriente and Los Toros del Este, and that series (best of 9) will also begin on Wednesday.
Caribes de Anzoategui 4, Bravos de Margarita 2 — Jean Machi pitched a perfect top of the 9th inning for Margarita, but it was too late. Los Bravos scored first, with a solo homer in the 4th. Los Caribes tied the score in the 6th with a run on a single and a double. They added 2 unearned runs in the 7th, started with a fielding error and a bunt. With two outs, Jhonathan Ramos came on in relief for Margarita, but he gave up a double and a single, each of which drove in a run. Another solo home run gave Los Caribes an insurance run in the top of the 8th. Los Bravos rallied in the bottom of the 8th, scoring on three doubles, but the rally ended there, giving Los Caribes the win.
Tigres de Aragua 4, Aguilas de Zulia 2 — LF Lastings Milledge started Los Tigres’ 3-run rally with a lead-off single in the 2nd inning. A sacrifice bunt with a throwing error and a single with a fielding error brought in two runs, and a sacrifice fly added the third run. CF Jorge Cortes also doubled for Aragua in that inning. Milledge worked the second of two walks in the 5th inning, and an insurance run came in on an RBI single. Milledge also walked in the 3rd inning. Zulia scored one run in the 6th on a double, a single, and a sacrifice fly, and they also collected a solo homer in the 8th.
MEXICAN PACIFIC LEAGUE
Algodoneros de Guasave 8, Tomateros de Culiacan 2 — Guasave had two big innings in their win. The 5th began with a solo homer, then a hit batter, two singles, and a ground out added 2 more runs. They scored 4 more in the 7th, after two outs had been recorded. A hit batter and two singles brought in one run. Another hit batter loaded the bases, and an RBI single plated a run. 1B Yurendell de Caster drove in 2 more runs with a double. SS Luis Cruz went 0-for-4 for Culiacan. The win gives Guasave the series win (4 games to 2) and advances them to the championship round, where they will face Los Yaquis de Obregon, beginning on Friday.
Adelaide Bite 6, Brisbane Bandits 1 — DH Quincy Latimore was back in action in Australia early on Wednesday morning with the Bite. He walked in his first at-bat, then in his second trip to the plate, he drove in the Bite’s first two runs with an RBI double. Two walks and a wild pitch had given the Bite two runners in scoring position in the top of the 3rd, ready for Latimore to bring them in. The Bandits got one run back in the bottom of the 4th. Adelaide came back with another run on a hit batter, a walk, and a double in the 6th. The Bite added 3 more runs in the top of the 9th, beginning with a solo homer. A double, two singles, and a sacrifice fly plated two more runs. Latimore reached base on an error in the 8th, and was replaced by a pinch-runner.
Cheering for Pirates’ players and friends in the few winter league playoff games on Sunday….
Gigantes del Cibao 8, Toros del Este 2 — A 7-run 7th inning by Los Gigantes included a 2-run homer and a 3-run homer, and it gave them all the firepower they would need. Former Indy Indian Tim Harikkala finished the 5th inning after Los Toros scored their runs, then loaded the bases with a double and two walks in the 6th, though another reliever was able to end the inning without a run scoring. Juan Perez pitched the 8th inning for Los Gigantes and struck out the side.
PUERTO RICAN LEAGUE
Leones de Ponce 7, Gigantes de Carolina 6 — 2B Benji Gonzalez singled and tripled for Los Gigantes, but Ponce pulled it out with 2 runs in the bottom of the 10th. Los Gigantes began the game with 3 runs in the top of the 1st. They added a run in the 6th on a single and Gonzalez’s RBI triple. A double and a single gave them another run in the 7th. Los Leones scored one run in the 5th, then tied the score with 3 walks and a grand slam in the 7th. The game went into extra innings, but Carolina quickly scored a run in the top of the 10th with a single and a double. But in the bottom of the frame, Ponce had a runner reach base on an error, and a 2-run homer gave them the walk-off win. Gonzalez also singled in the 4th but was caught stealing.
Senadores de San Juan 8, Criollos de Caguas 2 — Another game with 3 runs scored in the top of the 1st, and Los Criollos were chasing Los Senadores for the rest of the game. Los Criollos scored their runs in the 7th, on a pair of doubles and an RBI single by 3B Ramon Vazquez. SS Luis Figueroa singled in the 4th, but was left on base.
A few signing notes for former Pirates, all minor league contracts:
1B Brad Eldred signed with the Giants, P Ian Snell and INF Ramon Vazquez signed with the Cardinals, and OF Matt Kata signed with the Rangers.
Cheering for a few Pirates’ players and friends in the winter league playoffs….
PUERTO RICAN LEAGUE
Leones de Ponce 2, Criollos de Caguas 1 — RJ Rodriguez earned his 3rd save of the playoffs with a perfect 9th inning of work. Los Leones scored their runs in the 4th, on three straight hits — a single and two doubles. Los Criollos’ only run came in the top of the 6th, on a double, a ground out by SS Luis Figueroa which moved the runner to third, and a RBI single. 3B Ramon Vazquez singled to lead off the 5th for Los Criollos, but he was caught stealing second base.
Gigantes de Carolina 5, Senadores de San Juan 4 — Benji Gonzalez made the start at second base for Los Gigantes, and he scored their first run. In the bottom of the 1st, Gonzalez singled, advanced to third on a throwing error, and scored on a sacrifice fly. San Juan scored 3 runs in the top of the 2nd, and Los Gigantes countered with a run in the bottom of the 3rd, on 3 singles. They tied the score in the 7th with a double, a hit batter, and an RBI single. The tie continued into the top of the 10th, when Los Senadores took the lead with a single and a double. But four singles in the bottom of the inning drove in 2 runs to give Los Gigantes the win.
Cheering for the Pirates’ players and friends in winter league playoff action …
Tigres de Aragua 5, Bravos de Margarita 4 — A double and a single in the top of the 10th gave Los Tigres the winning run. Los Tigres had started the scoring in the top of the 1st, on three singles, including an RBI single by LF Lastings Milledge. Los Bravos countered with a 3-run homer in the bottom of the 4th. Milledge tied the score with a solo home run in the top of the 6th. With Jean Machi on the mound for Margarita in the top of the 8th, a walk, a sacrifice bunt, and a wild pitch put a Tigres’ batter on third base, and he scored on an RBI single. Machi came back to pitch a quick 1-2-3 inning in the top of the 9th. Los Bravos tied the score again in the bottom of the 9th on a solo homer. Los Tigres broke the tie in the top of the 10th, then held off Los Bravos in the bottom of the frame. Wil Ledezma pitched a perfect 6th inning for Los Tigres, then gave up a 2-out single in the 7th. C Raul Chavez and 1B Hector Gimenez picked that runner off first base to get Los Tigres out of the inning. Gimenez went 0-for-4 at the plate, and Chavez went 0-for-2. Miguel Perez came into the game as a late-inning defensive replacement behind the plate, but did not have a plate appearance.
Leones del Caracas 10, Caribes de Anzoategui 6 — Seven runs in the top of the 1st gave Los Leones an edge that Los Caribes could not overcome. Los Leones sent 11 batters to the plate in the 1st inning, and the first 6 batters reached base safely: single, single, walk, grand slam, single, single (by C Carlos Maldonado). After a pop out, LF Mike Ryan hit a 2-run homer, which was followed by a double, before the inning ended. Maldonado added another RBI single in the 2nd inning, and Caracas picked up another 2-run homer in the top of the 9th. Los Caribes scored in all but one of the first 6 innings, but four of those innings brought in just one run, not enough to catch up.