Altoona got off to a nice start, taking a 3-0 lead in the first three innings, and riding a strong start by left hander Aaron Thompson. Thompson, who entered the night with a 0.75 ERA in his first two starts of the 2011 season, started the game with five shutout innings, extending his scoreless inning streak to 16. He ran in to trouble in the sixth inning.
Thompson allowed a leadoff single to Adam Lowenstein, and a sacrifice by Richmond’s pitcher Ronnie Ray put Lowenstein at second. A looping single to right field put runners at first and third, and brought a visit to the mound.
Following the visit, Thompson allowed his first run in 16.1 innings with a balk, bringing in the runner from third. Justin Christian stole third following the balk, and scored on a wild pitch in the next at-bat. Thompson loaded the bases, and was pulled for Anthony Claggett, with Altoona still leading 3-2.
“I think things sped up on him tonight,” Altoona manager P.J. Forbes said. “The balk, and then things just spiraled from there.”
Claggett got a ground ball to second baseman Brock Holt, but Altoona couldn’t turn two on the slow roller, allowing the tying run to score. After issuing a walk to load the bases again, Claggett got a slow grounder down the first base line. Miles Durham failed to get a handle on the ball, fumbling it on the ground, getting charged with an error, and allowing the go ahead run to score.
The score remained 4-3 until the eighth inning when Richmond broke things open. Mike Colla, who was pitching his second inning of the game, started things off with a walk and a single. A wild throw by Tony Sanchez on a stolen base attempt allowed the runner from third to score. Colla allowed two more runs in the inning, before striking out Nick Noonan to end the inning.
Altoona was unable to manage any runs after the first three innings. They started off strong, with two runs in the first frame. Brock Holt led off the game with a walk. Tony Sanchez and Miles Durham also walked with two outs, loading the bases. Quincy Latimore brought in the first runs with a hard grounder between the third baseman and shortstop. Richmond’s shortstop, Noonan, was able to dive for the ball, but threw wild on an ill-advised throw to second, allowing an extra runner to score.
Latimore came through again in the third. Tony Sanchez led off with a single, and moved to second on a ground out by Miles Durham. Sanchez scored when Latimore hit a single to left field. The ball was well hit, but Latimore tried to stretch it out to a double, and was easily gunned down at second.
Other highlights and notes:
-Starling Marte had a nice hard hit double to right field. The ball ended up going as a ground rule double, which robbed the speedy Marte of an RBI triple. Instead, the play left runners at second and third.
-Jordy Mercer also showed some power, hitting a double off the left field wall. Mercer barely missed the home run.
-Tony Sanchez had a busy game behind the plate. There were two wild pitches recorded, although there were three more that Sanchez blocked, preventing runners from advancing. He went 1-for-3 on stolen base attempts, although the caught stealing was strange. The runner was called safe by the second base umpire, but ruled out by the home plate umpire. He hit his knuckles on the batter’s helmet, hurting his knuckles, but he had no ill effects.
-Aaron Thompson was sitting in the 89-90 MPH range, and his off-speed stuff looked good. He was very efficient through the first five innings. Altoona pitching coach Wally Whitehurst on his success early this season, after struggling at the AA level last year: “He’s being more aggressive, especially inside. Throwing with conviction. Moving the ball in and out, using both sides of the plate. He’s been getting ahead. To me that’s the biggest thing, getting ahead and commanding both sides of the plate. He’s done a very good job of that. Even tonight, if you take away the sixth inning, he was doing the same thing he’s done the first two starts.”
-Bryan Morris is day to day, and is doubtful to make his next start. Morris felt something in his side, and the team is being cautious with him.
Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.