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Cannonballs coming: Max Moroff homers in third straight game

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MLB: Spring Training-Pittsburgh Pirates at New York Yankees Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

I’ll start off with the Altoona (2-1) doubleheader at Harrisburg, because I was at the games, which the Curve split.

The bad guys took game one, 6-4. Brandon Waddell started and, for three innings, looked very different from the guy who couldn’t throw strikes in AA a year ago. He consistently got ahead of hitters and was able to mix up his pitches, which is a good thing when your fastball runs 88-90. The first hitter he faced reached on an error, then he retired nine straight. He got a surprising number of swings and misses on fastballs, which I’d attribute to him being ahead and getting hitters to worry about his curve and change.

In the fourth, though, two singles and a hit batsman loaded the bases with none out. Waddell got an easy grounder to short that should have been a double play ball, but Kevin Newman fumbled it and only got the batter. That made a big difference, because after a strikeout that should have ended the inning, Waddell allowed a three-run HR. He finished with four runs allowed in four innings on three hits and a walk. He fanned five.

Altoona got little going against Nats’ prospect Erick Fedde. He had four easy innings before an error and a walk put two on to Newman, who singled in a run. An out at the plate after a Pablo Reyes single took care of the rally. Nothing much else happened until the seventh, when Kevin Kramer hit a long, two-out, three-run HR to make the game look closer than it was.

Newman had a rough day in the field. The error on the first batter was his, when he threw flat footed on an easy grounder and air mailed the ball far over first. Newman had just two errors in 60 games at short for Altoona last year, so this is clearly not the norm for him. He did go 1-4 with one hard-hit out. Reyes played center for the second time, with Elvis Escobar playing left. I take it as an indication the Pirates want to keep Reyes in the lineup regularly, one way or another, which I think he merits.

Altoona won game two, 5-1. They started off a lot better, as Reyes, spelling Newman at short this time, lined a HR to left on the game’s second pitch. Doubles by Kramer and Wyatt Mathisen and a long triple by Connor Joe produced three runs, although a baserunning blunder by Kramer kept the Curve from getting more. Altoona didn’t do much on offense after that, until Tomas Morales hit a two-run double in the sixth. Ever Curve starter except the pitcher had one hit.

The starter was Austin Coley, who’s expected to pitch in relief but made a spot start due to the rainout. Watching him over his four innings was like watching two different pitchers. In his first two innings, he went mainly with his fastball, which ranges from 86-91 mph and sits at 88-89. He doesn’t keep it down well and he gave up a lot of hard-hit balls in those two innings. Fortunately, a poorly executed safety squeeze helped him out of a jam in the second with only one run allowed. In his last two innings, Coley pitched mainly off his curve and change, which are more effective pitches and made his fastball more effective. He finished with one run, five hits and a walk allowed, with six strikeouts in four innings.

Lefty Sean Keselica followed for two innings. He was making just his second appearance above low A. Keselica relied mainly on a fastball that ran from 87-91. Despite some control issues, he was effective, allowing just a walk and fanning three.

Buddy Borden finished. You may remember him as a decent-looking Pirate prospect from a couple years ago, before he got traded for Sean Rodriguez. For some reason, he fell apart last year for Tampa Bay, got released, and signed to return to the Pirates. He was terrible over the rest of the year at Bradenton, but the Pirates moved him up to Altoona to pitch in relief this year. After the first few pitches, Borden consistently hit 93 with his fastball and mostly kept the ball down. He had a quick inning to end the game.

— Max Moroff led off the game with his third HR in as many days, but it wasn’t enough as Indianapolis lost to Toledo, 2-1. The Indians fanned 13 times, ten in 5.2 IP by Chad Bell. Austin Meadows continued his struggles, going 0-4 with three strikeouts. On the season he’s 0-11 with seven Ks. Gift Ngoepe went 3-4, including a leadoff triple that went for naught. Tyler Eppler made his AAA debut with five shutout innings. He gave up three walks, walked none and fanned four. Angel Sanchez made his post-Tommy-John debut. In his first inning, he gave up a leadoff single and then fanned three straight hitters. His second inning didn’t go as well, and he was charged with two runs, one earned.

Jose Osuna: 0-3, BB
Chris Bostick: 1-3
Dan Runzler: 1.1 IP, 2 H, BB, 2 K.

— Mitch Keller had a rough 2017 debut, but Bradenton won anyway, 7-6. Keller got knocked out in the second inning, allowing five runs in two and one-third innings. He allowed five hits, walked out none and struck out three. Sam Street did yeoman work in relief, throwing four and two-thirds scoreless innings. Jacob Brentz, in his first action since being rescued from the Mariners, gave up a hit but struck out the side. Casey Hughston went 3-5 with a double and two srikeouts. So far he’s batted 13 times this year, with five hits and eight Ks. Logan Hill was 2-5 with his first HR of the spring. Christian Kelley was 2-3 with two doubles and a walk. Mitchell Tolman was 2-4 with a triple and a walk.

Cole Tucker: 1-5
Will Craig: 1-3, BB
Ke’Bryan Hayes: 1-4

— West Virginia (0-3) lost again, this time by an 8-3 score. Starter Oddy Nunez got roughed up for five runs in three innings. Hector Garcia gave up two more in three innings. Blake Cederlind came on after that and had a little trouble. He fanned three in two and two-thirds innings, but gave up a run on four hits and no walks. The Power had only five hits, two by Trae Arbet. Logan Ratledge had his first HR, a two-run shot.

Stephen Alemais: 0-4, 2 K
Sandy Santos: 0-2, BB