Bowie avoided a sweep in the final game of a four-game series, beating Altoona 3-1. The Curve’s starter, Mike Colla, pitched well but had to battle through a series of defensive misplays by his teammates. Starling Marte had three hits in five at-bats, including a double, but the Curve went 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position and stranded ten overall.
Colla went five innings and allowed five hits and no walks, while striking out four. He was charged with all three runs, two earned. He had to deal with defensive lapses in every inning. The first batter he faced reached second when shortstop Brock Holt threw a routine grounder into the dugout. That accounted for the first run. In the second, firstbaseman Matt Curry tried to swipe at a grounder from the side instead of getting in front of it, resulting in another error that turned out to be harmless. In the third, right fielder Andrew Lambo lost a high fly, allowing it to drop unmolested for a gift double, but Colla got the side out again. In the fourth, the leadoff hitter reached second when Lambo muffed a flyball, but Colla pitched around it again. Finally, with two outs in the fifth, Curry failed to scoop a low throw by Holt. It was ruled a hit and the next batter homered.
Colla threw 88-90, with a low-80s slider and a slower curve. He kept the ball down, resulting in a lot of grounders, and worked inside effectively. He seems to have recovered from a July slump and has pitched well since the beginning of August. He’s thrown over 133 innings this year after throwing just 82 last year, but didn’t seem tired today.
Mike Loree and Duke Welker followed Colla. Loree threw two scoreless innings, fanning three. He allowed a couple hard-hit balls in his first inning but got out of trouble. As on Monday, he threw 89-91. He also threw a low-80s slider and a 12-6 slow curve that seemed a little loopy at times. Welker pitched the 8th and had to survive two more errors, these by secondbaseman Greg Picart and thirdbaseman Jeremy Farrell, leaving each Altoona infielder with an error and the team with five total. Welker also threw the same as on Monday, with a fastball at 94-96 that he drives down effectively and a mid-80s slider. His control was a little shaky but not seriously so.
Some brief impressions of the more prominent Curve position players from the four-game series:
Starling Marte: I’ve seen Marte described at times, although not so much since his average got above .330, as a hitter with no approach at the plate. I didn’t see anything like that during this series. He had maybe a couple bad at-bats where he chased pitches outside the zone, but generally he worked the count and went after pitches he had a chance to hit. He did not seem to be the wild swinger with no concept of the strike zone that some people have painted him to be. Defensively, he didn’t have any challenging opportunities, but he got good jumps and, heaven knows, he can run.
Brock Holt: Holt hits almost everything on the ground. What power the left-handed hitter has seems to be to left-center. He doesn’t swing at many pitches outside the zone, but I don’t think pitchers are going to hesitate to throw him strikes, so he may not walk much at higher levels. I can’t see him staying at shortstop. He’s a small guy and not a burner. There were only a couple plays on which I could get any impression of his range, but it didn’t seem that great. I don’t think he has the arm for short.
Jeremy Farrell: Farrell doesn’t have a lot of bat speed, which seems to leave him with limited ability to adjust to pitchers changing speeds. He sometimes couldn’t catch up with high fastballs and also got out ahead of offspeed stuff.
Andrew Lambo: After a disastrous first half of the season in which he got demoted and then struggled initially in AA, Lambo seems to be putting his swing back together. He generally had good at-bats and worked the count, and wasn’t trying to pull everything, which I think may have been a problem earlier. He hit several balls hard to the opposite field, including his HR yesterday, which easily cleared the fence a little to the left of straightaway center. He did have a difficult time in the outfield tonight.
Tony Sanchez: Except for tonight’s game, Sanchez swung the bat well in the series. He probably hit more balls hard than any Altoona player except maybe Marte. He seems to do best hitting the ball to center and right-center. He served as DH tonight, but as I said after the Wednesday game, I’ve been impressed with his receiving skills.
Matt Curry: Curry has been having a difficult time making contact. He has a good eye and doesn’t chase bad pitches, but in this series he swung through a lot of pitches in the strike zone. He seems to try to pull everything, which could be part of the problem. He struggled with offspeed stuff tonight, repeatedly taking breaking balls for strikes. Altoona’s best chance to get some offense going came when Curry batted in the 4th with one out and runners on second and third. He struck out, with all three strikes called on breaking balls over the plate. He got rung up on another breaking ball later. Defensively . . . well, based on this series, I think he’s really a DH. He doesn’t seem to have good hands or scoop throws well, and he doesn’t move around the bag well.
Quincy Latimore: Latimore swung at a lot of pitches out of the strike zone and especially seemed over-anxious with runners on base. As a result, he didn’t see many pitches in the strike zone. He didn’t hit anything hard until he doubled in his last at-bat of the series. He seems to get good jumps in the outfield.
Having followed the Pirates fanatically since 1965, Wilbur Miller is one of the fast-dwindling number of fans who’ve actually seen good Pirate teams. He’s even seen Hall-of-Fame Pirates who didn’t get traded mid-career, if you can imagine such a thing. His first in-person game was a 5-4, 11-inning win at Forbes Field over Milwaukee (no, not that one). He’s been writing about the Pirates at various locations online for over 20 years. It has its frustrations, but it’s certainly more cathartic than writing legal stuff. Wilbur is retired and now lives in Bradenton with his wife and three temperamental cats.