I watched Altoona (2-2) finish its opening series at Harrisburg with a 6-2 loss. J.T. Brubaker, the Pirates’ sixth round draft pick in 2015, made his first AA start. Brubaker doesn’t have quite the size of some of the Pirates’ early round picks, like Clay Holmes and Tyler Eppler; he’s 6’4” but more slightly built. He throws hard enough, with his fastball mostly 90-94 today, sitting at 92-93 and touching 96. He didn’t command the pitch well or keep it down, though, leading to some walks and unfavorable counts. He relied heavily on his change, which sometimes had very good fade and created problems for left-handed hitters. It was inconsistent, though, and got hammered when it didn’t work. It may also have been a factor that the hitters got to see the change a lot. His other pitches, a slider and curve, didn’t seem very effective. He had trouble last year with extra base hits, which I expect is what results when he leaves pitches up.
Brubaker got out of trouble a couple times thanks to key double play grounders, with just one run allowed through five innings. In the sixth, the first two batters reached and a fastball to the third ended up over the middle of the plate. That went for a three-run HR. Brubaker finished with four runs, eight hits and four walks allowed in five and a third innings. He fanned three.
Jared Lakind and John Kuchno came after Brubaker. Lakind’s stuff isn’t what it was. His fastball, which used to sit in the low-90s, was mostly 85-88 mph and he had trouble throwing it for strikes. He got through an inning and two-thirds because some hard-hit balls were caught. Kuchno spent a lot of time bouncing his 88-90 mph fastball in front of the plate. When it was up over the plate, it got hit hard. He allowed two runs in his one inning.
The offense did nothing beyond swing and miss a bunch for five innings against a right-handed junkballer. Except Jordan Luplow, who hit three rockets off the guy, although one was caught. Altoona finally loaded the bases with one out in the sixth and Luplow doubled to deep left center to drive in two. But Chase Simpson fanned for the third time and Michael Suchy flied out, leaving runners at second and third. That was all the offense.
Kevin Newman went 1-4 and flied out to deep right with two on in the seventh. Kevin Kramer was 1-3 with a hit batsman. Connor Joe lined a pinch hit double into the right field corner. Joe has started only one of the Curve’s first four games, but had good at-bats the few times I saw him hit. Why Simpson, Elvis Escobar and Edwin Espinal have all started more games than Joe, I can’t imagine.
— Indianapolis (2-2) got no HRs today from Max Moroff and took a 9-5 loss to Toledo. Clay Holmes’ first AAA start didn’t go as well as Tyler Eppler’s. Holmes allowed just one run through the first four innings, helped by Elias Diaz throwing Alex Presley out twice. In the fifth, though, Holmes allowed a groundball single and a bunt single, and then walked two hitters. He departed at that point and two more runs scored after he left. He finished with four runs allowed in four-plus innings, on seven hits and three walks. Holmes fanned four. The game was tied 5-5 going into the eighth, but A.J. Schugel gave up two groundball singles and a walk, and Edgar Santana gave up a bases-clearing triple and a sacrifice fly. Gift Ngoepe had two doubles in four at-bats and Austin Meadows finally got a hit, going 1-3 with a double, a walk and one strikeout.
Jose Osuna: 1-4
Diaz: 1-4, 2B
Eric Wood: 0-2, 2 SF
— Bradenton (4-0) remained undefeated, shutting out Charlotte, 5-0. Kevin Krause, who hadn’t appeared yet this season for some reason, homered in his first two at-bats in full-season ball. He finished 2-3. Taylor Hearn threw five and two-thirds scoreless innings, allowing four hits and three walks, and striking out five. The three walks weren’t great, but Hearn threw 55 of 88 pitches for strikes, which is better than he was doing in spring training. Logan Hill was 2-4 with a triple and his second HR. Hill had a rough first half last year and got demoted from Bradenton to West Virginia, but he’s started off this year 7-for-16 with five extra base hits.
Cole Tucker: 2-4
Will Craig: 0-4
Casey Hughston: 1-4, just one K
— West Virginia (0-4) remained winless and punchless, losing to Rome, 2-1, in eleven innings. The loss negated a great performance by Luis Escobar (pictured), who fanned a dozen hitters in just five innings. Escobar allowed just one hit and one walk. He did have four wild pitches, which combined with the strikeouts may say a lot about his stuff. Oddly, the wild pitches were all in the same inning. Escobar allowed a run when a hitter struck out on a wild pitch, then came around on a passed ball and two more wild pitches. Matt Frawley followed with three scoreless innings, giving up two hits, walking none and striking out another five. Dylan Prohoroff threw three innings, giving up the losing run and fanning another three, leaving the Power with 20 strikeouts in eleven innings. Their hitters, though, whiffed 17 times themselves and managed just seven singles. Through four games, the Power have a slash line of 182/250/248. This is going to be a very discouraging team to write about all year.
Victor Fernandez: 1-3, 2 SB
Hunter Owen: 0-5