Tag: Benji Gonzalez
It's like they said in the movie "Bull Durham": some days you win, some days you lose, some days it rains. Again on Saturday, the Pirates' lower minor league affiliates experienced all three.
It rained again in West Virginia. The Power and the Savannah Sand Gnats will try for a double header again on Sunday. As best as I can tell, Friday's game has been "cancelled" and won't be made up.
Altoona Curve 6, Erie SeaWolves 2
The Curve finally put one in the win column, as they out-hit the SeaWolves 14 - 3 on Saturday afternoon. All but one member of the starting line-up had at least one hit, and while C Eric Fryer didn't smack a hit, he contributed two walks and scored a run. CF Starling Marte, who had been hitless in the Curve's first two games, led the onslaught with 4 hits -- 3 singles and a double. 2B Brock Holt, DH Kris Watts, and 3B Jeremy Farrell all had two hits, and Holt and Farrell each drove in two runs.
Erie scored the first run of the game in the bottom of the 1st, on an infield single by the first batter of the game, followed by a bunt and a balk by starter Aaron Thompson, and an RBI ground out. Thompson settled in after that, and did not allow another run nor another hit. He walked one and struck out two in his 6 innings of work.
The Curve tied the game in the 3rd inning. Fryer walked, then came around to score on a wild pitch. They took the lead in the 6th, when Marte doubled. SS Jordy Mercer singled, driving in Marte. Watts also singled, and he scored moments later when Farrell singled. RF Brad Chalk added another run in the 7th -- he tripled, then came across the plate on Holt's RBI single. The Curve rallied again in the 8th, for two more insurance runs. Watts started with his second single. Farrell brought him home with a double, and Holt followed up with an RBI single to plate Farrell.
Reliever Brian Leach pitched a scoreless 7th inning and began the 8th, allowing a single. Michael Dubee took over for Leach, but the runner scored on an RBI single. Dubee also pitched a perfect 9th, earning his first save. Thompson earned the win.
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.
Pirates 3, Astros 1
Starter Charlie Morton continued to show the Pirates' management that he belongs in the starting rotation with a 6-inning shutout performance today in Kissimmee, Florida. Morton scattered 4 hits over his 6 innings and did not walk a batter. He struck out 5 Astros. C Humberto Quintero had two of those hits -- a single in the 3rd, when he reached as far as third base before being stranded, and a two-out single in the 5th. Astros' starter Jordan Lyles followed that second single with a line drive into left field, and Quintero raced around the bases. Pirates' LF Josh Fields got the ball back into the infield quickly, and Quintero was caught in a run-down and tagged out by C Ryan Doumit. Evan Meek and Chris Leroux each pitched a scoreless inning of relief. Neither gave up a hit, but both worked around base runners who got on due to fielding errors. SS Benji Gonzalez had a tough afternoon, with a fielding error in the 7th, back-to-back fielding errors in the 8th, then another fielding error in the 9th that lead to an unearned run. With Mike Crotta on the mound in the 9th, the error, a single, and a walk loaded the bases, and a sacrifice fly drove in the Astros' only run. Crotta has not allowed an earned run in his previous 6 appearances (8.1 innings).
SS Ronny Cedeno provided the Pirates with their first 2 runs, on a 2nd-inning home run that followed Josh Fields' double. Ryan Doumit picked up the RBI in the 3rd inning with a triple into left field, driving in 1B Andy Marte, who had singled. Steve Pearce, who started at third base today, singled twice in the game. CF Pedro Ciriaco, 2B Corey Wimberly, RF Cole White, 1B Garrett Atkins, and pinch-hitter Josh Rodriguez also got into the game.
More roster moves are expected on Monday, as the Pirates head into the final full week of spring training.
Continuing to look at the middle infielders in the Pirates' minor league organization:
Jarek Cunningham -- R/R, 6' 1", 185 lb
Cunningham was the Pirates' 18th round pick in the 2008 draft. After a solid debut with the GCL Pirates (.318 average with 5 homers and 22 RBI), he missed the entire 2009 season due to knee surgery. He returned with a healthy knee in 2010, assigned to West Virginia. Cunningham jumped right out to a good start, hitting .304 in April, with a homer and 5 RBI. He slumped in May to just .194, with 2 more homers and 5 RBI. Then he popped up again in June, with a .317 average, 3 homers, and a big 17 RBI. The average slipped a little in July, to .279, though the power production continued, with 4 homers and 14 RBI. The slip continued into August, as he dropped to .214 with 2 homers and 6 RBI. He finished the season with a .258 average, and not much left-right difference (.265 against lefties and .256 against righties). He had 37 doubles, 7 triples, 12 homers, and 49 RBI. He struck out a lot -- 132 times in 121 games (27%), and that rate was highest in July and August. He walked just 30 times (5.6%), and that was best in June and July. Cunningham played entirely at second base during the 2010 season (2008 was split between shortstop and third). Now that there is less concern about his knee, and with his good range and arm, he could spend time at shortstop too. The 21-year-old should be ready for A+ Bradenton for 2011. He'll need to work on plate discipline and cutting back on the strikeouts.
Benji Gonzalez -- R/R, 5' 11", 160 lb
Gonzalez was picked in the 7th round of the 2008 draft, coming out of the Puerto Rican Baseball Academy. After two seasons in the GCL, Gonzalez was promoted to West Virginia for the 2010 season. He had hit a solid .286 in the GCL in 2009, but that did not carry over to 2010 with the Power. He hit .196 in the first half of the season, then he improved to .279 for the second half, for a .236 average overall. Gonzalez has limited power, with just 12 doubles, one triple, one homer, and 35 RBI in 2010. He stole 18 bases, but was also thrown out 14 times, so that needs some improvement. Gonzalez was the main shortstop for West Virginia in 2010, and showed strong defensive play with good range and a strong arm. He'll need to work on cutting back on the errors (32) of course. After the regular season, Gonzalez went back to Puerto Rico and played in 19 games for the Puerto Rican Winter League's Gigantes de Carolina. He did not hit well there either, just .184 with 2 doubles. Despite the low hitting, Gonzalez will likely be assigned to A+ Bradenton for 2011, where his hitting will need to improve.
Cheering for Pirates' players and friends in the few winter league playoff games on Sunday....
Gigantes del Cibao 8, Toros del Este 2 -- A 7-run 7th inning by Los Gigantes included a 2-run homer and a 3-run homer, and it gave them all the firepower they would need. Former Indy Indian Tim Harikkala finished the 5th inning after Los Toros scored their runs, then loaded the bases with a double and two walks in the 6th, though another reliever was able to end the inning without a run scoring. Juan Perez pitched the 8th inning for Los Gigantes and struck out the side.
PUERTO RICAN LEAGUE
Leones de Ponce 7, Gigantes de Carolina 6 -- 2B Benji Gonzalez singled and tripled for Los Gigantes, but Ponce pulled it out with 2 runs in the bottom of the 10th. Los Gigantes began the game with 3 runs in the top of the 1st. They added a run in the 6th on a single and Gonzalez's RBI triple. A double and a single gave them another run in the 7th. Los Leones scored one run in the 5th, then tied the score with 3 walks and a grand slam in the 7th. The game went into extra innings, but Carolina quickly scored a run in the top of the 10th with a single and a double. But in the bottom of the frame, Ponce had a runner reach base on an error, and a 2-run homer gave them the walk-off win. Gonzalez also singled in the 4th but was caught stealing.
Senadores de San Juan 8, Criollos de Caguas 2 -- Another game with 3 runs scored in the top of the 1st, and Los Criollos were chasing Los Senadores for the rest of the game. Los Criollos scored their runs in the 7th, on a pair of doubles and an RBI single by 3B Ramon Vazquez. SS Luis Figueroa singled in the 4th, but was left on base.
A few signing notes for former Pirates, all minor league contracts:
1B Brad Eldred signed with the Giants, P Ian Snell and INF Ramon Vazquez signed with the Cardinals, and OF Matt Kata signed with the Rangers.
Cheering for a few Pirates' players and friends in the winter league playoffs....
PUERTO RICAN LEAGUE
Leones de Ponce 2, Criollos de Caguas 1 -- RJ Rodriguez earned his 3rd save of the playoffs with a perfect 9th inning of work. Los Leones scored their runs in the 4th, on three straight hits -- a single and two doubles. Los Criollos' only run came in the top of the 6th, on a double, a ground out by SS Luis Figueroa which moved the runner to third, and a RBI single. 3B Ramon Vazquez singled to lead off the 5th for Los Criollos, but he was caught stealing second base.
Gigantes de Carolina 5, Senadores de San Juan 4 -- Benji Gonzalez made the start at second base for Los Gigantes, and he scored their first run. In the bottom of the 1st, Gonzalez singled, advanced to third on a throwing error, and scored on a sacrifice fly. San Juan scored 3 runs in the top of the 2nd, and Los Gigantes countered with a run in the bottom of the 3rd, on 3 singles. They tied the score in the 7th with a double, a hit batter, and an RBI single. The tie continued into the top of the 10th, when Los Senadores took the lead with a single and a double. But four singles in the bottom of the inning drove in 2 runs to give Los Gigantes the win.
A few winter league games with Pirates' players and friends...
PUERTO RICAN LEAGUE
Criollos de Caguas 4, Leones de Ponce 3 -- Two runs in the 3rd and another 2 runs in the 6th gave Los Criollos the edge. SS Luis Figueroa singled and scored a run. 3B Ramon Vazquez drove in a run with a ground out.
Senadores de San Juan 5, Gigantes de Carolina 4 -- A 5-run 6th inning pushed Los Senadores past Los Gigantes. That inning included a walk, a fielding error, two singles, and back-to-back triples. Los Gigantes scored a run in the 4th on an error and a single, then scored 3 more runs in the 5th on two doubles and a triple. Benji Gonzalez entered the game as a pinch-runner for Los Gigantes in the top of the 8th, but was doubled off second base. He remained in the game at second base for the bottom of the inning.
Leones del Caracas 5, Tigres de Aragua 2 -- Ronald Uviedo earned the win with 5 innings of work, allowing 2 runs on 5 hits and a walk. Los Tigres' first run came in the 4th inning on a single, a double by 1B Hector Gimenez, and a sacrifice fly by LF Lastings Milledge. In the 5th, a pair of singles, including one by C Raul Chavez, plus another sacrifice fly, gave Aragua their second run. Los Leones scored 2 runs on three singles in the bottom of the 1st. In the 2nd, a single, a double, and a sacrifice fly brought in a third Caracas run. Two walks, two singles, a double, and a sacrifice fly gave Los Leones two more runs in the 4th. LF Mike Ryan singled, but the runner from second base was out at the plate, on the throw in from Milledge to Chavez.
MEXICAN PACIFIC LEAGUE
Tomateros de Culiacan 6, Algodoneros de Guasave 3 -- Los Tomateros scored a pair of runs in three different innings, beating Guasave, who scored single runs in three different innings. SS/LF Luis Cruz led off the bottom of the 8th with a single for Los Tomateros, and he scored on a 2-run homer. DH Yurendell de Caster walked to lead off the 7th for Guasave, and he came around to score that inning's run on a single, a sacrifice bunt, and a sacrifice fly. Los Tomateros are leading the 7-game series 2-0. In the other Mexican League series, Los Caneros de Los Mochis are leading Los Yaquis de Obregon 2 games to none.
Sydney Blue Sox 4, Adelaide Bite 3 -- Bite starter Paul Mildren had some tough innings against the Blue Sox, and he suffered his 6th loss of the season. A throwing error, and an RBI single gave the Blue Sox their first run in the bottom of the 1st. Mildren gave up a walk and a pair of doubles, accounting for 2 runs, in the 2nd inning. He worked around runners on base in the next three innings, including leaving two runners in scoring position after a walk and a double in the 5th. He got into more trouble in the 6th, opening the inning with a single, a double, and a sacrifice fly, before being relieved. Overall, Mildren gave up 4 runs (3 earned) on 8 hits and 2 walks, with 5 strikeouts. Meanwhile, the Bite were scoring a little, but not keeping up. They picked up one run on an exciting play in the 4th. 1B Todd Gossage drove a liner into right field, and scrambled around for a triple, and when the Blue Sox' shortstop missed the catch on the throw in from right, Gossage was able to keep running, scoring on the error. Gossage doubled and came around to score in the 7th inning. Two singles and a fielding error gave the Bite one more run in the top of the 9th.
Cheering for Pirates' players and friends in winter league playoff games...
Estrellas de Oriente 9, Gigantes del Cibao 4 -- A pair of 2-run homers in the first two innings got Los Estrellas off to a good start. Three singles added two more runs in the 6th for Los Estrellas. Five singles, including one by Ronny Paulino, and a fielding error by RF Rich Thompson (the second in 2 days) added another 3 runs in the 7th. By then, Los Gigantes were out of it. They scored one run in the 1st on a passed ball, a single, and a sacrifice fly. Los Gigantes rallied for 3 runs in the 8th. A single and a grounder force out left Thompson on first base. He advanced to second base on a fielding error, then scored on an RBI double. Another ground out and a single brought in two more runs.
PUERTO RICAN LEAGUE
Senadores de San Juan 2, Gigantes de Carolina 0 -- A pitching duel, with each team held to just 4 hits. 2B Benji Gonzalez and CF Luis Matos hit back-to-back singles in the 5th, and that was the closest Los Gigantes came to scoring. Three of Los Senadores' hits were singles in the 3rd inning, and combined with a sacrifice bunt and a throwing error, that brought in their two runs.
Caribes de Anzoategui 7, Bravos de Margarita 1 -- More team-jumping here, this time with reliever Jean Machi and catcher JR House jumping from Los Navegantes del Magallanes to Los Bravos de Margarita (and House had been with Los Gigantes del Cibao in the Dominican League before that). House went 0-for-3 with a walk for Los Bravos. The walk led off the top of the 3rd, but he was left on base. Los Bravos scored their only run in the 5th, on a hit batter, a double, and an RBI ground out. Los Caribes scored all their runs in the first 4 innings -- 2 in the 1st, a 3-run homer in the 2nd, and 2 more in the 4th. Machi came on to pitch for Los Bravos in the 7th, and he worked around a lead-off single, keeping any more runs from scoring.
The Pirates got the new year started by signing Brian Burres to a minor league contract. He will be at the major league spring training camp, competing for a position on the big league club.
The Caribbean winter leagues continue their playoffs, and we continue to cheer for the Pirates' players and friends who are involved...
Toros del Este 8, Gigantes del Cibao 1 -- Los Gigantes scored a run on two singles and a throwing error in the 1st inning. After that, it was all Los Toros. Los Toros scored 2 in the 4th, 4 in the 7th, and 2 in the 8th, as they posted a total of 14 hits. RF Rich Thompson singled for Los Gigantes in the 2nd inning, and he made a fielding error in the 4th.
Leones del Escogido 3, Estrellas de Oriente 0 -- Los Estrellas recorded 5 hits, including a pair of singles by DH Ronny Paulino, but could not push any of their runners across the plate. Los Leones had just 4 hits. They used one, plus a hit batter and a fielding error, to score one run in the 5th. Two more runs came in in the 6th inning, on a pair of walks, a sacrifice bunt, a balk, and a fielder's choice.
PUERTO RICAN LEAGUE
Senadores de San Juan 4, Criollos de Caguas 1 -- Los Senadores' 3-run 7th inning broke a 1-1 tie and earned them the win. A single, two doubles, and three walks were responsible for the 3 runs. Neither SS Luis Figueroa nor 3B Ramon Vazquez had a hit for Los Criollos.
Gigantes de Carolina 9, Leones de Ponce 8 -- Finally, in the bottom of the 15th, a walk and two singles gave Los Gigantes the winning run. Los Leones were leading 8-5 going into the bottom of the 9th. Ponce reliever RJ Rodriguez had gotten out of a bases-loaded jam in the 8th with two pop outs. He started the 9th with two ground outs, then gave up a single and a wild pitch, putting a runner on third base. A double drove in that runner, then a walk and two singles tied the score, sending the game into extras, and putting Rodriguez on the hook for a Blown Save. Each team had at least one runner on base in each of the next three innings, and Los Gigantes collected 3 walks to load the bases in the 11th, but no one scored. Both teams went down in order in the 13th, then both teams continued to put runners on base, until Los Gigantes finished it off in the 15th. Benji Gonzalez pinch-ran for Los Gigantes in the 8th, but was left on base. He played second base for an inning, then was lifted for a pinch-hitter.
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.