On Wednesday night in the Arizona Fall League, the Scottsdale Scorpions picked up their third straight win. The 7-4 victory over Surprise came on a night that Phil Irwin started for Scottsdale and two Pittsburgh Pirates players were in the starting lineup. Prior to this current mini winning streak, the Scorpions lost eight in a row.  arizona_fall_league_logo

Alen Hanson led off for Scottsdale in the bottom of the first and lined a single into right field. He stole second base with two outs, then scored the first run of the game on a single up the middle. Hanson got up in the second inning with two men on and one out. He hit a soft grounder to shortstop which resulted in an out at second base. Hanson then stole second base, his second steal of the game and sixth of the season. He scored his second run of the game one batter later on a triple.

In the third inning, Hanson batted for a third time and drove in Scottsdale’s seventh run on a line drive single up the middle. In the fifth inning, Hanson was robbed of a likely triple by a great running catch in the left-center gap. It came with one out and two men on base and ended up as a double play when the runner on second was called out. In the eighth inning, Hanson picked up his third hit with a liner into right field.

Alex Dickerson hit a soft liner to center field in his first AB after returning from injury. He had missed a week of action with back soreness. In his second at bat, Dickerson went down swinging to end the second inning. He grounded out softly to first base his third time up. In the sixth inning, he flew out to right field on the first pitch.

Phil Irwin was the starting pitcher for Scottsdale on Wednesday night. He came into the game 0-2, 8.68 in three starts. He walked the lead-off hitter on five pitches. The batter stole second, then moved to third on a hard single up the middle. What happened next was a first in AFL and MLB history. The runner from first, stole second base, but he was initially called out. They went to instant replay, which is being used as an experiment in the AFL to see how it works. The call was overturned and the runner was safe, putting two runners in scoring position with no outs. Irwin picked up the first out on a strikeout, then picked up his second strikeout against the next hitter on a 3-2 pitch that hit the outside corner.

With two outs, Irwin got a grounder to third base that was bobbled at first, resulting in a close play at first base. The runner was called safe, but instant replay was used again and the play was overturned. So Irwin was hurt by the new replay system at first, but then got help from it two batters later. He threw a total of 28 pitches, 15 went for strikes.

In the second inning, Irwin got a ground ball to second base for the first out. The next batter hit a long double to the left-center gap. Irwin walked the third hitter, putting two men on with one out. After a stolen base made it first and third, Irwin got a double play on a grounder to Alen Hanson to get out of the inning. He threw 19 pitches, ten for strikes.

Irwin came back out for the third inning with a 6-0 lead. He got a long fly out to center field from the first batter on a 3-2 count.  The second hitter lined a single into right field. That was the end of the night for Irwin, who reached his pitch count limit. In 2.1 innings, he allowed one run on three hits and two walks, striking out two batters.

Matt Benedict came in to relieve Irwin, inheriting a runner on first with one out. On the third pitch Benedict threw, he gave up a long home run to right field. The next hitter grounded out to second base on the first pitch, then Benedict struck out the third hitter to end the inning.

Benedict came out for the fourth and got a quick ground out to first base for the first out. The next batter hit a hard one-hopper to Alen Hanson, who made a nice play on it for the second out. The third hitter grounded out softly to Hanson, who bounced the easy throw to first base for the final out. Benedict needed just five pitches to get through the inning. Facing six batters, he threw 13 pitches, nine for strikes.

Zack Thornton came on to finish the game, entering with a three run lead. The first batter grounded slowly to Alen Hanson for the first out. The next batter hit a lazy fly ball to center field for the second out. Thornton finished off the game with a grounder up the middle that Hanson made a nice play on.

** Thursday’s Scottsdale game will also be shown on the MLB Network at 9 PM EST.

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  1. Easy answer- sliding headfirst gives you a better chance at being safe. What can you control more to evade a tag or hit a very specific part of the base…..a hand? or a foot? Also, sliding feet first you LOOK out more often than not due to the typical “pop” up slide.

    Because of what a pop up slide is- it requires you to basically come to a stop as you reach the base than than moving through it, because you are coming up as you are going in. You have to do that because otherwise you are likely to slide through the base and body control while being on your keister is way less than on your stomach.

    Bonds was the only succesful base stealer i can remember going feet first, and no premier base stealer has ever slid feet first i’m aware of, you just won’t be as succesful

    • There are times that the head first slide is necessary and works better but some guys overdo it and as was pointed out above, the players are taught the slide feet first, so it was a legit question to wonder how some guys go from always going feet first to always going head first. I think it is smart to teach the players to slide feet first just for injury concerns, but I wouldn’t keep them from ever sliding head first. If you’re a good enough base runner by the time you get to the majors, you should be able to pick the right slide in the right situation. I never like seeing guys go in head first when there obviously isn’t a throw coming, but you see it a lot.

  2. John, thanks for cluing us in on these games.
    As for the umpires, they have about 10 or 15 of them that are horrible. IMO, they could have less replay if they hired competent umpires, but the umpires union, like the players union is very strong. I think they grade them out on the curve.
    Was interesting that the announcers of this game agreed that Hansen was the best prospect in that game.

  3. I watched the game and the interview with Joe Torre. I’m not big on this instant replay but the die has been cast just like the DH many years ago. But if you saw the game they have a lot of wrinkles to work out. That ordeal when the Giants prospect hit a triple was ridiculous. The opposing manager ask for a replay on the tag at third and when he was overruled he came back out and asked for a replay on whether the kid touched second base on his way to third. I hope Torre notice that having more than one objection on the same play is ludicrous. The present rule is the replay umpire is allowed only 3 minutes. I can tell you already 2 minutes is plenty. I can’t wait to hear your thoughts on the instant replay.

    • I don’t think that double challenge would happen during the season and there was some confusion from the umps/manager as to whether he could challenge the call at third and still check the play at second base. I believe that they will have a limit to how many challenges they have, while last night, the managers were encouraged to ask and had an unlimited amount of challenges. I like the idea as long as there is a limit so no one can abuse it. I think there are some umps that are just bad, Angel Hernandez being the worst and these challenges will help prove how bad he is and maybe the league will make a change

  4. Irwin looks different to me than when he came up to pitch for the Pirates, velocity seemed down, mechanics looked to me like he was protecting his arm, more than just cutting it loose. I agree with the announcer that Irwin needs to lengthen his stride, I wonder if Benedict has worked with him at all?

    • That was one of the annoying things about the game last night. One pitch registered on the speed gun from Irwin, a high fastball that was only 87 MPH, nothing else. Benedict comes in and no pitch speeds at all. Then the guy from the Yankees comes in and every pitch was showing up on the gun. At least Thornton was showing up, but I had a good idea on his speeds already because he has pitched at a stadium with Pitch F/X already three times. I did notice Manuel said he was 92-93 MPH in his scouting report and that is a tick high for Thornton, who is 90-91, touching 93 MPH

  5. Hanson looks like the prototype leadoff hitter. I can see why he needs more minor league time, he was making some very good plays and that shows that he can play SS, but on an easy grounder he throws a 4 hopper to first base in a very nonchalant way, this is something they have to coach out of him, I can see a play like that driving Hurdle crazy.

  6. Kind of an off the wall comment here, but last night when Hanson stole those bases I noticed right away that he slid in feet first. If memory serves, it seems like the Pirates minor leaguers are instructed to slide that way. Why, then, once they get to the majors, is everyone sliding hands first. I would much rather see the feet first slide as I would think the risk of injury is far less. Any explanation from anyone as to why the change happens from minors to majors would be appreciated.

    • That I don’t know, but I have noticed that too. I’m not a big fan of the headfirst slide in most instances. I think some players use it to avoid the tag and just get caught in a bad habit. I’ve never understood how a major leaguer could slide headfirst into first base, but you still see it way too often and I know that has never been taught anywhere

  7. A brilliant game for Hansen. John Manuel kept saying, accurately, that Hansen was the best prospect on the field.

    • Agree 100%, he saved his best game for the TV audience. A switchhitter batting .292 and up among the leaders with 9 RBI’s and 6 SB’s – kind of an unusual combination for a middle infielder. Glad to see he has been playing without making an inordinate amount of errors – still very young, and it can only get better. Watch for a rise in his status among the Top 100 Prospects.

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