Monday evening’s games in the Pirates’ lower minor leagues
Harrisburg Senators 6, Altoona Curve 2
The Curve were able to put runners on base but not push them across the plate tonight. Starter Bryan Morris worked around a double in the 1st and a pair of walks in the 3rd to keep the Senators scoreless in the first three innings. He got into trouble in the 4th, with a lead-off triple, followed by a walk and an RBI double. A single drove in 2 more runs for a 3-0 Harrisburg lead. The Curve had left CF Starling Marte stranded on third base in the 1st, after his single, stolen base, and a throwing error. 2B Brock Holt also singled in the 3rd and was left on base. SS Jordy Mercer answered the Senators’ 3-run inning with a solo homer to lead off the bottom of the 4th, but LF Quincy Latimore singled in that inning, and he was also left stranded.
Tim Alderson took over for Morris to begin the 5th inning, and he pitched 2 scoreless frames. He loaded the bases in the 6th with a single and two hit batters, but ended the inning with a ground out. Mike Colla allowed a triple in his scoreless 7th. Then Noah Krol came on for the 8th, and gave up 3 more runs on a single, an RBI double, an RBI triple, and a wild pitch.
The Curve put two runners on base in the 7th, when 1B Miles Durham singled and 3B Jeremy Farrell walked, but both were left on base. Marte singled again in the 8th, and again could not come around to score. The final Curve run scored in the 9th, when Durham tripled, then scored on Latimore’s sacrifice fly.
The Curve played an early game on Wednesday…
Akron Aeros 3, Altoona Curve 2
Down 3-1 going into the top of the 9th, the Curve rallied, beginning with 3B Jeremy Farrell reaching base on a fielding error by the Akron shortstop. A passed ball put Farrell on second base. Strikeouts by LF Shelby Ford and RF Brad Chalk made the Curve’s situation even more desperate. 2B Brock Holt hit his third single of the day, and CF Starling Marte also singled, loading the bases with two outs. But the Curve’s hopes ended when SS Jordy Mercer also struck out.
Jeff Locke made the start for the Curve, and he was charged with the loss. Locke worked his way out of a jam with runners on the corners in the 1st inning, and worked around a lead-off single in the 2nd. Another single led off the 3rd inning, and back-to-back doubles, one zipping just out of reach of Farrell’s backhand dive, drove in 2 runs. After a single, a walk, and two strikeouts in the 5th, Locke was relieved by Anthony Claggett. Claggett finished up the 5th with a ground out, leaving two runners on base. He also pitched the 6th and 7th innings, and surrendered a solo home run to lead off the 6th. Tom Boleska pitched the 8th inning, and kept the Aeros from scoring again, despite a single and a walk.
The Curve scored their first run in the 4th. 1B Miles Durham and C Kris Watts worked back-to-back walks, and when Farrell lifted a soft single into right field, Durham scored from second base. Farrell and Holt each walked once, and Farrell also singled in the 6th inning. Holt singled to open the game, then again in the 5th.
The Curve will have their home opener tomorrow.
A win, a loss, and a rainout in the rest of the Pirates’ minor league organization on Friday evening. The rainout was in West Virginia, where the Power were getting soggy. They will play a double header on Saturday.
Bradenton Marauders 13, Charlotte Stone Crabs 0
And a shutout win, at that. The Marauders blasted 13 runs on 13 hits, while the pitching staff held Charlotte scoreless on 6 hits. The scoring began in the bottom of the 1st, when CF Evan Chambers walked and rehabbing major league catcher Chris Snyder homered over the left field wall. LF David Rubinstein got the fun started in the 2nd inning with a line drive single into right field. A single by 1B Cole White and a walk to SS Benji Gonzalez loaded the bases, then another walk to RF Robbie Grossman forced in Rubinstein. 2B Jarek Cunningham drove in White and Gonzalez with a double, and Grossman scored on Chambers’ sacrifice fly. Snyder added a single, to drive in Cunningham with the 5th run of the inning. Walks to DH Calvin Anderson and Rubinstein loaded the bases again, but a ground out ended the rally.
Rubinstein also began the Marauders’ rally in the 5th. Three consecutive singles, by Rubinstein, White, and 3B Elevys Gonzalez, loaded the bases without an out. Benji Gonzalez’s ground out brought in Rubinstein, and a single by Grossman plated both White and Elevys Gonzalez. A walk to Cunningham and a single by Chambers loaded the bases again. That set up Snyder, who cleared the bases with a double into deep center field, and gave the Marauders 6 runs in that inning, for a 13-run lead. Rubinstein’s third single plus walks to both Gonzalez-es loaded the bases again in the 8th, but a strikeout ended that inning with all three still on base.
The Marauders’ pitching staff was having as much fun as the hitters. Joe Beimel, also on a rehab assignment, pitched the first inning, and retired the side in order on three ground outs. After Beimel’s inning, Matt McSwain came on to pitch. He allowed only one single in his first 3 innings, and retired that runner with a double play. He allowed two singles to lead off the 5th inning, but another double play got him out of that small jam. McSwain finished his outing with 5 scoreless innings, three hits, no walks, and no strikeouts, earning the win. Jeff Inman pitched 2 scoreless innings, allowing just 2 hits, and Gabriel Alvarado also allowed a hit and a walk in the final inning.
Continuing to look at the Pirates’ minor league pitchers, moving upward in the organization:
Hunter Strickland — R/R, 6′ 5″, 200 lb
Strickland was the Red Sox’ 18th round pick in the 2007 draft, and he was traded to the Pirates in July 2009 in the deal involving Andy LaRoche. He joined the West Virginia team, and made 8 starts over the rest of the season (43 innings), going 4-2 with a 3.77 ERA for the Power. Strickland returned to West Virginia to begin the 2010 season, where he made another 8 starts for another 43 innings. His results were not as good — an 0-4 record and a 5.86 ERA, with 58 hits and 28 earned runs. Both his walk rate (8, 1.7 walks/ 9 innings) and his strikeout rate (15, 3.1 K/ 9 innings) were low. In mid-May, Bradenton needed a pitcher, and Strickland was promoted. He made two strong relief appearances, combining for 7.2 scoreless innings, allowing 4 hits and one walk, with 5 strikeouts. Then he made two starts, and got blasted — 8 runs (4 earned) on 8 hits and 2 walks in 2.1 innings, and 3 runs on 4 hits and 3 walks in 4 innings. At that point, Strickland was having tightness in his right forearm (or maybe it had been there already, and that was why he had been struggling), and he went on the DL, missing the remainder of the season. Strickland should be ready to go for 2011, and at age 22, he should be back in Bradenton, where he will need to get back on track.
Phillip Irwin – R/R, 6′ 3″, 220 lb
Irwin was the Pirates’ 21st round pick in the 2009 draft. He pitched well for State College in his pro debut in 2009, with a 2.12 ERA despite a 1-2 record in 29.2 innings for the Spikes. Irwin was assigned to West Virginia to begin the 2010 season. He had a solid month of April, making one relief appearance and 3 starts. In 15 innings, he allowed 3 earned runs (1.80 ERA) on 11 hits and struck out 13 batters for the month. Then Irwin went onto the DL for a month (injury not specified). When he returned, he made two relief pitches, for 3 combined scoreless innings), then got back into the starting rotation. He had an up-and-down rest of the season, finishing with a 6-3 record and a 3.35 ERA. In a total of 113 innings, he allowed 99 hits and 42 earned runs with just 20 walks and 111 strikeouts. Irwin said that his tougher starts allowed him to remain focused and kept him motivated during the season. He was rewarded with a promotion to Bradenton for their brief playoff run, and got into one game. He threw 1.2 innings and allowed 3 runs on 3 hits, with 2 strikeouts. Irwin enjoyed his time in Bradenton, and said that he had fun and learned from some of the more experienced players. The 24-year-old should get a return to Bradenton for the 2011 season, where he says his goal is to “stay healthy and focused”.
Two of the Pirates’ affiliates in playoff action:
Altoona Curve� 6,� Harrisburg Senators� 4 ….������ (box)
The Senators and the Curve battled back and forth, with errors and poor base running on both sides, but it was the Curve who came out on top to even the best-of-5 series at 1 game each.� The Curve scored their runs on 7 hits, 5 of which were doubles.� LF Andrew Lambo and 2B Chase d’Arnaud let the way with two hits each, and Lambo contributed 3 RBI.
Harrisburg scored first, with an unearned run in the top of the first.� With one out, Curve starter Jeff Locke walked two batters, then got the next batter to ground to short, for what should have been a double play.� SS Jordy Mercer made the throw to 2B Chase d’Arnaud for the force out at second, but d’Arnaud’s relay to first base was off-target.� The batter was safe, and the runner who had been on second base came around to score.
The Curve got the run back again in the bottom of the 2nd.� 1B Matt Hague led off with a double, moved to third base by tagging up on C Hector Gimenez’s fly out, and scored on Andrew Lambo’s RBI ground out.� The Curve managed only a double by 3B Josh Harrison in the 3rd, then scored again in the 4th.� Hague and Gimenez opened the 4th with back-to-back walks.� Lambo rocketed a line drive down to the right field corner, bringing in Hague to take the lead.� RF Miles Durham grounded to short, but a quick play by the Senators going to the plate, had Gimenez out at home.� Lambo moved up to third base on the play, and he scored on CF Anthony Norman’s sacrifice fly.� Curve up, 3-1.
The Senators came right back in the top of the 5th to tie the score again.� Jeff Locke had kept the Senators from scoring over three innings, despite having runners on base in both the 2nd (walk and single) and 3rd (double and walk).� Another double led off the 5th, then Locke got the next two batters out.� The next batter lifted a fly deep into the left-center field alley, which sailed beyond Norman’s leap and to the wall.� Lambo couldn’t get to it either, and the runner scored.� The Senators made it runners on the corners when a short fly ball skipped off d’Arnaud’s glove and bounced away.� That was all for Jeff Locke, who had pitched 4.2 innings and allowed 2 runs so far, one earned and one not, on 4 hits and 4 walks, with 5 innings.� Derek Hankins relieved Locke, but he threw a wild pitch, which allowed the runner from third to score, also charged to Locke.� Hankins ended the inning with a strikeout, but the score was tied again, 3-3.