Cunningham Homers Twice; Power Hold On For The Win

Monday evening’s games in the Pirates’ lower minor leagues

Harrisburg Senators  6,  Altoona Curve  2
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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.  

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Curve Win Home Opener; Four RBI For Baker

Altoona Curve 2,  Richmond Flying Squirrels  0
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The Altoona Curve put on a pitching demonstration in their home opener, as four pitchers combined for a shut-out and held the Squirrels to just 3 hits.  Aaron Thompson made the start, and he dominated Richmond.  Thompson retired the first 10 batters he faced.  He gave up a walk in the 4th inning, but left that runner on base.  He gave up a triple to lead off the 5th, but a grounder to third let 3B Jeremy Farrell fire the ball back to C Tony Sanchez, who tagged out the runner at the plate.  Thompson had to work around a single and a fielding error in the 6th, but after a sacrifice bunt, two timely strikeouts got him out of that jam.   Thompson also struck out 5 batters in his second win of the season.  

The Curve posted 8 hits, and 3 of those were singles by RF Brad Chalk, who had been off to a slow start for the season (1-for-16).  He singled in the 3rd, the 6th, and the 8th, though he didn’t score.  Altoona scored their first run in the 4th, when Sanchez led off with a walk, then scored all the way from first base on 1B Miles Durham’s double into center field.  SS Jordy Mercer belted a home run over the left field wall in the 5th inning for the Curve’s second run.  That was all the offense that was needed.  The Curve put two runners on base in the 6th, when Chalk singled and pinch-hitter Kris Watts was hit by a pitch, but both were left on base.  They threatened in the 7th, when CF Starling Marte led off with a single into right field and stole second base.  He moved to third on a ground out, and tried for home when Sanchez grounded to third, but was thrown out at the plate on a play similar to what the Curve did to the Squirrels in the 5th.  Sanchez and LF Quincy Latimore also had singles in the game.  

Mike Colla, Michael Dubee, and Noah Krol each pitched a scoreless inning of relief for the Curve.  Krol allowed one hit in the 9th, but left that base runner on, and earned his 3rd Save.

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Wins In The Lower Minors

Wins all around for the rest of the Pirates’ minor leaguers: 

Altoona Curve  10,  Erie Seawolves  7

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Three home runs and a 4-run 2nd inning sparked the Curve to their second win of the season on Sunday afternoon.  The scoring got started in the top of the 1st, when 2B opened the game with a single, moved to third on CF Starling Marte’s double, and scored on SS Jordy Mercer’s RBI ground out.  The Curve made it 5-1 with 4 more runs in the 2nd.  DH Eric Fryer led off with a walk, but was forced out at second on RF Jose Hernandez’s grounder, though they avoided the double play.  Holt singled, then stole second base, giving the Curve two runners in scoring position.  Hernandez scored on Marte’s RBI ground out, Mercer drove in Holt with a double, and C Tony Sanchez followed with his first homer of the season, driving in Mercer as well.  

The Curve tacked on another run in each of the next two innings.  3B Jeremy Farrell reached base on a throwing error in the 3rd, and scored on Hernandez’s double.  Marte led off the 4th with a solo home run.  They took a break for two innings, then Farrell added his 2-run homer in the 7th, bringing in Sanchez, who had singled.  Altoona’s final run came in the top of the 9th, with a two-out double by LF Quincy Latimore, an intentional walk by Farrell, and an RBI single by Fryer.
Holt had 3 hits in the game, raising his average to .400.  Marte (.375), Sanchez (.300), and Farrell (.313) each had 2 hits.

Jared Hughes made the start for the Curve.  He pitched 4 innings, and allowed 3 runs.  A double and a single gave Erie one run in the 2nd inning, then a walk, a double, and two ground outs scored two runs in the 3rd.  Mike Colla relieved Hughes to begin the 5th.  A hit batter and a triple gave the Sea Wolves one run in the 6th, but Colla kept Erie from scoring in his other two innings.  Anthony Claggett pitched the 8th inning and gave up two home runs — a solo homer to open the inning, then a 2-run homer after a single.  Noah Krol took the 9th, and loaded the bases with a walk and two singles, but got out of the jam with a strikeout and a game-ending double play.  Colla earned the win, and Krol earned the Save.  

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2011 Prospect Watching: Alderson, Thompson, Dubee, And More

More pitchers in the Pirates’ minor league organization:

Tim Alderson —  R/R,  6′ 6″,  217 lb
Alderson joined the Pirates as part of the trade that sent Freddy Sanchez to the Giants in 2009.  There was some concern at the time that Alderson’s velocity had dropped.  He struggled a bit when joining the Curve after the trade.  He made 7 starts, for 38.2 innings, with a 3-1 record and a 4.66 ERA.  He allowed 20 runs on 39 hits, with 13 walks and 18 strikeouts, though 7 of those hits and 11 of those runs came in his last start.  Alderson returned to Altoona to begin 2010, and his velocity improved through the season, though it didn’t keep him from getting bombarded.  He’d had an odd delivery when he began his pro career, and the Giants had made some changes, thinking that the oddness would make him prone to injury.  Alderson wanted to go back to his original delivery, and the Pirates were ok with that, but it didn’t work out as well as he’d hoped.  In his first start, Alderson pitched 5 shutout innings and allowed 4 hits.  After that, things went downhill.  He gave up 12 earned runs over his next 3 starts, giving him a 5.49 ERA in April.  He made 6 starts in May — one was very good, going 7 scoreless innings with 4 hits, and one where he allowed one run in 6 innings, but the rest were problematic.  He finished May with a 4.32 ERA, allowing 16 runs on 37 hits in 33.1 innings.  June was no better, with a 5.11 ERA, and 14 runs in 24.2 innings, including one outing in which he did not get out of the 2nd inning.  Alderson gave up 15 runs in 12 innings over 3 starts in early July, and at that point, the Pirates decided to send him down to Bradenton, to be able to work on his mechanics more.  The move did not help tremendously.  He gave up 7 runs in 1.2 innings in his first start for the Marauders, then 7 more in 4 innings in the second.  Over the rest of the season, Alderson pitched 33 innings in 6 games (2 in relief), and allowed 18 runs, for a 4.91 ERA.  That added up to a 6.98 ERA for his time in Bradenton, and a 4-3 record.  In 38.2 innings, he allowed 30 earned runs on 47 hits.  Alderson struck out a total of 84 batters (5.8 K/ 9 innings in Altoona, and 5.9 K/ 9 innings in Bradenton).  He walked 40 (3.0 walks/ 9 innings and 2.7 walks/ 9 innings).  Alderson has said that he was surprised that he was traded from the Giants, and then was surprised and horrified to struggle so much in 2010.  He did feel that he was able to make some mental adjustments in Bradenton, even though his results were not much better.  He continued to work on his mechanics in the fall instructional league, and again in winter mini-camp.  The 22-year-old should be back in Bradenton’s starting rotation to begin 2011, hopefully with mechanics that are working.  

Aaron Thompson —   L/L,  6′ 2″, 190 lb
The Pirates picked up Thompson from the Nationals on waivers in December.  He had been the Marlins’ first round pick in 2005, and was traded to the Nationals in July 2009.  The Nationals had him at AA Harrisburg for all but one game in 2010 (one game at AAA Syracuse, with one run in 5 innings), and that was his third season at the AA level.  It was an up-and-down season for Thompson.  He allowed 8 runs on 24 hits in 27.1 innings for a 2.63 ERA in April.  That ballooned to an 8.31 ERA in May, when he allowed 28 runs on 54 hits in 30.1 innings — a 10-hit game, an 11-hit game, and a 13-hit game included.  June and July were kind of medium, when he earned a 4.17 ERA, and won 2 games.  The season ended on a shaky note, as Thompson allowed 28 earned runs on 43 hits in 33.2 innings, for a 7.49 ERA.  Neither his walk rate nor his strikeout rate were really good or really bad —  53 walks (3.5 walks/ 9 innings) and 95 strikeouts (6.3 K/ 9 innings) while at Harrisburg.  Thompson just turned 24 years old.  He could be assigned to AA again, or possibly give AAA a try, but both levels are going to be crowded in both the starting rotation and in the bullpen.  Because he was picked up on waivers, he’s on the 40-man roster.  

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Busy Day For Pirates; Indians Win 8-3

The Pirates had a busy Spring Training day today:
LHP (starter) Garrett Olson was claimed off waivers from Seattle.  Olson is a 27-year-old California native who was the Orioles’ 1st round pick in the 2005 draft.  He made his major league debut in July 2007, and split both the 2007 and 2008 season between Balitmore and AAA Norfolk.  His combined stats for Baltimore:  10-13 record in 31 starts, 165 innings, 6.87 ERA, 111 K, 90 BB.  And combined stats for Norfolk: 10-9 record in 29 starts, 164.1 innings, 3.12 ERA, 159 K, 55 BB.  One big problem, though, is that he surrendered 35 homer runs over those two years.  At the beginning of 2009, Olson was traded to the Cubs, and 10 days later was traded to the Mariners (with Ronny Cedeno) to the Mariners.  He split both the 2009 and 2010 seasons between Seattle and AAA Tacoma.  In 2009, he started 9 games for Tacoma, earning a 2-3 record and a 4.94 ERA, but in Seattle, he was also used in relief.  He made 11 starts and 20 relief appearances for a total of 80.1 innings  — and gave up 19 home runs.  Olson made 6 starts and 6 relief appearances for Tacoma in 2010, then made 35 relief appearances in Seattle.  His record in Seattle was 0-3 with 1 save, and a 4.54 ERA.  In 37.2 innings, he allowed 6 homers, 15 BB, with 21 K.  Throughout all these seasons, Olson allowed about as many or more hits as innings pitched:  79 hits in 80.1 innings in Seattle in 2009, and 42 hits in 37.2 innings in 2010.  His overall major league total is 10.53 hits/9 innings.  The Pirates plan to have Olson compete for a spot as a lefty out of the bullpen.  Scott Olsen (oh, we’re going to have fun confusing those two) and Joe Beimel are also in consideration but have lost time time this spring due to injury.  Brian Burres and Justin Thomas are also in the mix.  In order to make a spot for Olson on the 40-man roster, the Pirates placed Kevin Hart on the 60-day DL.  Olson is out of options, which is why the Mariners had to put him on waivers.  If he does not make the Pirates’ active roster out of camp, then he will have to go on waivers again.  The hits and the homers are concerning, and the Pirates will have to see how Olson does in some spring appearances in the next two weeks.

Phillies  3,  Pirates 2
The Phillies rallied in the bottom of the 9th for a come-from-behind win over the Pirates in Clearwater, FL this afternoon.  With Chris Leroux on the mound, the first two batters of the frame both singles.  Former Pirate/Indian Erik Kratz bounced a pinch-hit grounder to third, but instead of going for the double play, 3B Jeremy Farrell went for the tag of the runner going from second to third.  The runner avoided the tag but was called out anyway because he went out of the basepath.  That left runners on first and second with one out.  The next batter slapped a grounder to second, and though 2B Josh Harrison made a great stab to keep the ball from going into right field, he was only able to make the out at first.  With two runners in scoring position, Leroux gave up a single up the middle, and both runners (including Kratz) scored, for the walk-off win.  

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