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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Rubinstein And Cunningham Homer In Bradenton Win

One win on Monday night in the Pirates’ lower minor leagues:

Akron Aeros  6,  Altoona Curve  5
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CF Starling Marte had 3 hits for the Curve in their loss in Akron.  Starter Aaron Pribanic gave up only a double over the first 3 innings, then surrendered a solo homer in the 4th.  Akron scored 2 runs in the 5th, when rehabbing Cleveland Indians’ star Grady Sizemore doubled after two singles.  

The Curve had only one hit, a single by LF Quincy Latimore, in their first 5 innings, though they also had two batters reach on errors — 2B Brock Holt in the 3rd and C Tony Sanchez in the 4th.  Down 3-0 going into the top of the 6th, the Curve got going.  With one out, Marte beat out a bunt single, and SS Jordy Mercer walked.  Sanchez also beat out an infield single to third to load the bases, and 1B Miles Durham’s line drive into left field brought in Marte, leaving the bases loaded again.  Latimore plated Mercer with a sacrifice fly.  Then 3B Jeremy Farrell drove in Sanchez and Durham when he tripled into center field, giving the Curve a 4-3 lead.  

Tim Alderson relieved Pribanic to begin the 6th inning.  He gave up two singles in that inning, but kept the Aeros from scoring.  Akron also singled twice in the bottom of the 7th, including one by Sizemore, but this time, a throwing error by Holt on the force attempt let in one unearned run.  After a ground out, a double drove in two more runs, also unearned, and Akron had the lead back, 6-4.

The Curve added one more run in the 8th, when Latimore walked, then came around to score on Farrell’s double into right field.  Walks to DH Eric Fryer and RF Brad Chalk loaded the bases again, but the Curve could not capitalize, and all three were left stranded.  Tom Boleska finished the game for the Curve with a 1-2-3 inning in the 8th.  Alderson was charged with the loss, as well as a Blown Save.  

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Two Hits Each For Latimore, Snyder, Rubinstein, And Power

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.  

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2011 Prospect Watching: Latimore, Durham, Norman

More outfielders in the Pirates’ minor league organization, as we get closer to the start of spring training games:

Quincy Latimore  —  R/R,  5′ 10″,  175 lb
Latimore, who just turned 22 years old a few weeks ago, was the Pirates’ 4th round pick in the 2007 draft.  He’s progressed up one level each of the past four seasons, reaching A+ Bradenton for the 2010 season.  He had an up-and-down-and-up-again year, but that means that he worked around a mid-season slump and finished up stronger.  He started with a .298 average in April, dropped down to .245 in May, and worked his way back up, so that he ended up with .266 overall for the season.  That included 31 doubles, 19 homers (highest he’s had in a season), and 100 RBI.  On the downside, Latimore has continued to have a high strikeout rate in his three full seasons in the organization, with 136 strikeouts in 134 games for the Marauders in 2010.  He walked only 30 times all season, which means he’s not taking many pitches.  He has some speed, which gave him 11 stolen bases (caught only once), but is not enough to make him great in center field.  He played most of his games in left field in Bradenton, and just a few in right and center.  Latimore spent the winter in Australia playing for the Adelaide Bite in the latest iteration of Australian Baseball League.  A big fan favorite in Adelaide, Latimore’s time there mirrored his Bradenton season — started off hot, slumped, then had some big hits for the Bite in the playoffs.  He finished the regular season with a .313 average over 31 games, with 8 doubles, 2 triples, 5 homers, and 25 RBI.  The strikeout problem continued in Australia, where he struck out 32 times in those 31 games.    Latimore’s power numbers are propelling him along, and he should begin the season in AA Altoona, but his upward momentum is going to come to a halt if he can’t get the strikeout numbers down and the patience at the plate up.

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Perth Wins Australian Championship

Perth Heat  7,  Adelaide Bite  1
The Perth Heat dominated the Adelaide Bite in the tie-breaker winner-takes-all third game of the Australian Baseball League championship series.  Pitchers ruled during the first four innings of the game, though the Adelaide bats had no bite for the rest of the game either.  The Bite went down in order in the first two innings, then DH Scott Gladstone singled to lead off the 3rd.  But Gladstone was immediately thrown out trying to steal second base, and the next 9 Bite batters were retired in order.  Perth starter Benjamin Moore hit a batter in the 6th and had a Bite runner reach base on an error in the 7th, but he worked around those runners with ease.  He gave up a single in the 8th, but erased that minor threat with a double play.  Moore allowed two more hits in the 9th, and even though one of those was a solo homer by 3B Stefan Welch, he held on to finish the inning for the complete game.  LF Quincy Latimore went 0-for-4 for the Bite.
Former Altoona Curve hurler Paul Mildren made the start for the Bite, and like Saturday’s starter, he was able to keep the Heat scoreless for 4 innings.  The first inning was a bit tricky.  Mildren gave up a lead-off single, though that runner was caught stealing.  Then a walk and another single put two runners on base.  A timely double play got Mildren and the Bite out of the jam.  Mildren went on to retire the next 10 batters in order, taking him into the 5th inning.  As on Saturday, that’s when things fell apart.  A single, a walk, and a ground out put two runners into scoring position, and a double drove both runners in.  Another single plated the runner from second base, and the Heat had a 3-0 lead.  That was all for Mildren, who was charged with the loss.  He was replaced by the Bite’s top reliever, Dushan Ruzic, who finished the 5th, then retired the Heat in order in the 6th and 7th.  The Heat rallied again in the 8th inning.  A single and a double drove in one run, then a 2-run homer made the score 6-0.  The Heat added one more run on a hit batter, a wild pitch, a passed ball, and a sacrifice fly.  The Bite’s lone run in the top of the 9th was too little, too late, and the Heat had the championship and the Claxton Shield, the traditional trophy of Australian Baseball.

So, that’s the end of the 2010-2011 winter ball…. just in time for Spring Training, as the Pirates’ pitchers and catchers report to Bradenton today! 

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