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 look at Pirates’ minor league outfielders:
Rogelios Noris — R/R, 6′ 2″, 192 lbs
Noris is a 21-year-old Mexican native, who made his US debut with the GCL Pirates in 2009. He was promoted to A level West Virginia for 2010, where he hit .236, a little lower than the .250 he’d achieved in the GCL. Noris blasted 15 homers and had 57 RBI for West Virginia, and he has the potential to be a power hitter. His big drawback, though, is his high strikeout rate — he struck out 144 times in 111 games (35%). Combined with very few walks (15), Noris needs to work on his approach at the plate this season. He did show some improvement in that regard in his second winter season with his hometown Venados de Mazatlan. Noris appeared in 49 games in the winter league, hitting .246 with 2 homers and 10 RBI. He walked 12 times, and struck out 34 times, which was a drop to 27%. He could go back to West Virginia for 2011, but there are going to be a lot of outfielders at that level, so Noris could be pushed on up to A+ Bradenton.
Pat Irvine — Bats L / Throws R, 6′ 0″, 197 lbs
Though Irvine is listed as an outfielder, he has also played some third base and has also done some catching. Irvine was the Pirates’ 33rd round pick in the 2009 draft. He played third base and left field at State College in 2009, then began the 2010 season in West Virginia as a catcher. Unfortunately, the opponents’ base runners took Irvine’s presence behind the plate as their free ticket to the next base. In 10 games, 19 batters stole on him (he threw out one), and he had 3 passed balls. He also struggled at the plate, hitting .212. Irvine was sent back to State College, where he proved again that catching was not his future. He returned to the outfield, where he was ok but not spectacular. Irvine hit .271 in July, with 7 RBI, but sagged to .227 in August, with 6 more RBI. He did draw 25 walks in 39 games, but that alone is not going to be enough to get the 25-year-old back to West Virginia for 2011, and he is getting “old” for those lower levels.
Remember infielder Tony Mansolino? He was the Pirates’ 26th round pick in the 2005 draft, but was released in June 2008. He played in the Northern League in 2009 and in the American Association in both 2009 and 2010. Last week he was signed to a minor league contract by the Cleveland Indians.
C Miguel Perez, who played for the Curve and the Indy Indians in 2008 -09, signed a minor league deal with the Nationals.
A few Pirates’ players and friends appeared in Wednesday’s winter league playoff games:
Leones del Caracas 2, Aguilas de Zulia 0 (Game 1)– Another pitching duel tonight, with each team posting just 5 hits each. Los Leones scored a run in the 6th on a single, a bunt, a ground out, and an RBI single. They added another run in the 7th, on a ground-rule double, a sacrifice bunt by LF Mike Ryan (who was shifted over from Los Navegantes del Magallanes) and an RBI ground out. Jose Ascanio pitched the top of the 8th for Caracas. He gave up a lead-off single, but got the next batter to line into a double play at first base, and another line out ended the inning.
Leones 14, Aguilas 5 (Game 2) — Oh, that’s where all the hits went — to the second game, with 13 hits for each team. Three Leones’ batters collected 3 hits each. C Carlos Maldonado singled twice and walked, scoring twice for Los Leones. LF Mike Ryan also scored twice, with a single and a walk. The 6-run 6th inning pushed Los Leones over the top, and it included 3 walks, a triple, a double, and Maldonado’s RBI single.
Tigres de Aragua 4, Bravos de Margarita 1 — Los Tigres’ pitchers held Los Bravos to just 3 hits, and the only Margarita run came on two errors and an RBI single in the 5th. Aragua scored their first run in the 3rd inning on a single and a double. Four singles, including one by 1B Hector Gimenez, brought in 2 runs in the 5th. A single, a stolen base, and an error gave Los Tigres their last run in the 8th inning. LF Lastings Milledge and CF Jorge Cortes also had a single each in the game.
Estrellas de Oriente 2, Toros del Este 1 — A double, a bunt, and an RBI single in the top of the 10th broke a 1-1 tie to give Los Estrellas the win. A double, a bunt, and an RBI ground out brought in Los Estrellas’ first run in the 6th. A pair of singles around a ground out pushed in a run for Los Toros in the 8th. DH Ronny Paulino singled twice and walked for Los Estrellas, but was out at second base twice and left on base once.
Gigantes del Cibao 9, Leones del Escogido 6 — CF Rich Thompson is looking like a strong addition to Los Gigantes for their playoff drive. He contributed a single, a double, 2 RBI, and a run in tonight’s win. The game began with Thompson’s double, and a bunt and a throwing error allowed the speedy Thompson come around to score. A ground out and a wild pitch gave Los Gigantes a second run in the top of the 1st. Los Leones tied the score in the bottom of the inning. Thompson gave Los Gigantes the lead again in the top of the 2nd, with an RBI ground out that followed 3 singles. Escogido took the lead back in the bottom of the frame with 3 runs, for a 5-3 score. Los Gigantes tied the score at 5-5 with two singles and two doubles in the 4th. Then they recaptured the lead in the 5th, scoring 3 runs on a pair of two-out singles and a pair of fielding errors. Thompson drove in Los Gigantes’ final run in the top of the 7th, with an RBI single following a double.
The Venezuelan, Mexican Pacific, and Puerto Rican Leagues wrap up their regular season play today. Everyone is off for New Year’s Eve, and playoff games begin soon after. A few of the Pirates’ players and friends in tonight’s action:
Caribes de Anzoategui 2, Navegantes del Magallanes 1 — C JR House had the second of three consecutive singles to lead off the top of the 7th for Los Navegantes, when they scored their only run of the game. That run tied the game at 1-1, after Los Caribes had scored one run in the 5th on a fielding error and a double. But Los Caribes broke the tie in the bottom of the 7th with a pair of doubles, and took the win.
Aguilas de Zulia 8, Cardenales de Lara 7 — Los Aguilas posted 16 hits and piled up their runs in the middle innings, and were leading 8-1 going into the top of the 9th. Romulo Sanchez pitched the top of the 9th for Lara, and retired the side in order. Then in the bottom of the inning. Los Cardenales rallied with three singles, two doubles, and a 2-run homer, scoring 6 runs. But with two runners still on base, a fly out ended the game, and Los Cardenales fell one run short of catching up.
DOMINICAN LEAGUE (Round Robin Playoff Series)
Toros del Este 2, Leones del Escogido 1 — A pitching duel, with each team posting only 5 hits. Los Toros scored 2 runs in the 4th on two consecutive fielding errors, a single, a walk to force in one run, and an RBI ground out. Two singles and a ground out gave Los Leones their only run in the top of the 9th. SS Pedro Ciriaco went 0-for-3, plus he reached on a fielding error in the 3rd and stole second base.
Estrellas de Oriente 9, Gigantes del Cibao 0 — DH Ronny Paulino was Los Estrellas’ heavy hitter for the second night in a row. He went 3-for-3, walked, scored twice, and drove in a run. He singled to lead off the 2nd inning, though did not score. He singled again to lead off the 4th, moved to third on a double, and scored on a sacrifice fly. Another run came in on two more singles and a walk. Paulino singled for the third time in the 5th inning, but was left on base. Los Estrellas rallied for 6 runs in the 6th inning. A walk, a single, and a hit batter loaded the bases, then Paulino picked up his RBI when he walked to force in a run. A single and a wild pitch each brought in a run. A ground out scored Paulino, and one more single drove in 2 runs. A solo homer gave Los Estrellas their final run in the 7th. Los Gigantes were held to just 6 hits, and two of those were by RF Rich Thompson. He singled to open the 5th, but was out at second on a force play. Thompson doubled in the 7th inning, and was left on base.
Just a few more days in the winter leagues’ regular seasons…
DOMINICAN LEAGUE (round robin playoff series)
Leones del Escogido 6, Gigantes del Cibao 4 — Three runs in the bottom of the 6th gave Los Leones the win, despite being out-hit 13 – 12. Former Pirate Rich Thompson made his first Dominican League appearance, playing right and center field for Los Gigantes. He singled twice and walked, and drove in Los Gigantes’ first run in the top of the 2nd inning.
Toros del Este 4, Estrellas de Oriente 0 — Los Estrellas also had the better hit totals (8-6) but still lost when they couldn’t push any runners across the plate. DH Ronny Paulino, taken from Los Tigres del Licey in the pre-playoff draft, doubled for Los Estrellas.
PUERTO RICAN LEAGUE
Leones de Ponce 7, Gigantes de Carolina 1 (Game 1) — Los Leones scored in each of the last four innings of the 7-inning game, posting 12 hits. Los Gigantes managed only 4 hits, and scored their only run on a solo homer in the bottom of the 7th. Eric Krebs came in from the bullpen for Los Gigantes when another reliever was ejected (after hitting a batter). Krebs threw a wild pitch, moving runners to second and third bases. A ground out brought in the runner from third base (charged to the previous pitcher), then Krebs ended the inning with a strikeout.
Leones 7, Gigantes 6 (Game 2) — Benji Gonzalez got the start at second base for Los Gigantes. He doubled to lead off the bottom of the 1st, and scored on a ground out and a fielding error. Gonzalez walked to load the bases in the 5th, and a sacrifice fly gave Los Gigantes a second run. Ponce scored 3 runs in the 3rd on two singles and two doubles, then 2 runs in the 5th on a single, a walk, and a 2-RBI triple. A single and a pair of doubles gave them two more in the top of the 7th, and Los Gigantes were behind 7-2 going into the bottom of the 7th (a 7-inning game). With RJ Rodriguez on the mound for Los Leones, Los Gigantes rallied in the bottom of 7th. Gonzalez opened the frame with a walk, then went to second base on a passed ball. With two outs (both strikeouts), A double plated Gonzalez, then a walk, a wild pitch, and a triple gave Los Gigantes two more runs. The second wild pitch of the inning brought in the 4th run. CF Luis Matos was hit by a pitch, but Rodriguez finally got a third strikeout to end the inning and the game.