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.
Continuing to work our way up through the pitchers in the Pirates’ minor league organization:
Jhonathan Ramos – L/L, 5′ 8″, 156 lb
Ramos is a 21 year old Venezuelan native, who split the 2010 season between State College and West Virginia. After some time in extended spring training, Ramos began the season in West Virginia in June. He made two starts and five relief appearances, and at first did well, with 5 scoreless innings over his first two games. He gave up 6 hits in those two games, but after that, he just kept giving up hits and runs. In 15 innings for the Power in June, Ramos allowed 14 earned runs and 28 hits, though just 2walks, and 13 strikeouts. He earned a 0-1 record and an 8.40 ERA. Ramos was sent to State College for July and most of August, and he did well there, with a 3-1 record and a 1.62 ERA in 16 relief appearances. He threw 33.1 innings and allowed 22 hits and 4 walks, with 28 strikeouts. Ramos returned to the Power at the end of the season for 2 more games. He pitched a total of 4 scoreless innings and allowed one hit, no walks, with 5 strikeouts. Ramos spent the winter pitching in the Venezuelan Winter League for Los Bravos de Margarita. He made 18 relief appearances for 13.2 innings, and earned a 3-2 record and a 2.63 ERA. He still gave up hits (13), but only 4 earned runs and 5 walks, with 9 strikeouts. Ramos is another reliever who should be in the mix for a bullpen spot in West Virginia, but that bullpen is going to be crowded. Ramos could return to State College for a part of the season, or possibly get a try in A+ Bradenton.
Marc Baca – R/R, 6′ 2″, 220 lb
Baca was the Pirates’ 42nd round pick in the 2009 draft. He’s pitched entirely in relief for the Pirates, beginning at State College in 2009, where he made 18 appearances for 18 innings, and earned a 1-3 record and a 3.00 ERA. Baca was promoted to West Virginia for 2010, where he ran hot and cold. He began the season with a 2-0 April, with one save and a 5.59 ERA. He pitched 9.2 innings and allowed 6 earned runs with 13 hits, 4 walks, and 5 strikeouts. The next two months went very well, with a 1-1 record and 2 saves, and a 0.98 ERA. He pitched 27.2 innings and allowed 3 earned runs, with 24 hits, 10 walks, and 27 strikeouts. Baca had some tough outings in July, and allowed 16 runs on 18 hits in 8 games. He also walked 9 batters and his strikeouts dropped to 6. August/September were not a lot better. He pitched 18.2 innings in 9 games, and allowed 13 runs (6.27 ERA) on 20 hits. He walked 8 and struck out 13. Overall, Baca earned a 5-3 record and a 5.26 ERA for the season, with 4 saves. In 65 innings, he allowed 75 hits and 38 earned runs, with 31 walks and 51 strikeouts. The strikeout rate (7.1 K/ 9 innings) was better than in 2009 (5.0 K/ 9 innings), but the walk rate (4.3 walks/ 9 innings) was a little worse than in 2009 (3.0 walks/ 9 innings). Baca’s fastball velocity is in the high 80′s. At age 24, he doesn’t appear to be ready for A+, but he could get squeezed out by all of the other prospects who are also going to try to fit into the West Virginia bullpen.
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.
The Dominican and Puerto Rican Leagues wind up their round-robin playoff series this weekend, while the Venezuelans continue theirs for another week or so.
PUERTO RICAN LEAGUE
Criollos de Caguas 5, Gigantes de Carolina 2 – Los Criollos began the scoring with a fly out-RBI for 3B Ramon Vazquez after two singles. An RBI single gave them a run in the 3rd, and a 2-run homer made it 4-0 in the 5th. Los Criollos wrapped it up with a run in the top of the 7th, on two singles, a walk, and a throwing error. Carolina scratched out a run in both the 7th and 8th innings. SS Luis Figueroa singled and walked for Los Criollos, but did not score.
Leones de Ponce 7, Senadores de San Juan 2 – A 4-run inning in the top of the 8th gave Los Leones the win. San Juan out-hit Ponce, 10 – 9, but they couldn’t bring the runners around, leaving 11 on base. RJ Rodriguez pitched the bottom of the 9th for Ponce, but gave up three consecutive singles to open the inning, which drove in one run. He struck out two, then loaded the bases with another single, then ended the inning with a grounder force out.
Aguilas de Zulia 7, Bravos de Margarita 4 – Los Bravos got the game started with 3 runs in the top of the 1st, on three singles and two throwing errors. But Los Aguilas scored a run in the bottom of the 1st, another in the 3rd, and took the lead with a 3-run homer in the 5th. They added a run on a double and a triple in the 6th, and their 7th run on a double, a hit batter, and a single in the 7th. Jhonathan Ramos came on in relief for Los Bravos after that run scored in the 7th, and he ended the inning with a ground out. Ramos came back out to begin the bottom of the 8th. The first batter of the inning reached on a fielding error, then Ramos gave up a single. A ground out and a line out followed, and then Ramos was relieved. Another ground out ended the inning without a run scoring.
Caribes de Anzoategui 6, Leones de Caracas 5 – This one took 13 innings to decide. Los Leones broke a 2-2 tie in the top of the 8th when C Carlos Maldonado started a rally with a single. He was replace by a pinch-runner, who scored on an RBI single. Los Caribes tied the score again with a 2-run homer in the bottom of the 9th, and the game went into extras. Neither team could get much going in the 10th or 11th, and though Los Caribes threatened in the bottom of the 12th, they still could not get a run across. Los Leones broke the tie in the top of the 13th. A double, an intentional walk, and a fielder’s choice loaded the bases. A grounder to third was fired back to the plate, for a force out at home. Then LF Mike Ryan, who had already singled twice and walked three times in the game, grounded to second base. The runner going from first to second was out, but Ryan was able to beat out the throw to first, and a run scored. But Los Caribes were not done yet — a single and two walks loaded the bases in the bottom of the frame, and a line drive single into left field drove in two runs for the win. Jose Ascanio pitched a perfect inning in the bottom of the 8th for Caracas.