Irwin, Curve Continue Dominance Over Bowie Bats

Altoona’s pitching continued to shut down Bowie’s offense, giving the Curve their third straight road win over the Baysox, 2-0.  Phil Irwin threw seven shutout innings, allowing only four hits, walking none and fanning four.  The Curve got all their offense in the first when Andrew Lambo lined a 2-run HR far over the centerfield fence.

Irwin doesn’t get a lot of swings and misses, but he showed good command throughout his seven innings and seldom fell behind in the count.  He reportedly saw his fastball velocity increase last year to around 94, but today he was throwing 89-91.  In the early going he mixed in a hard curve that came in around 83.  Later on he started throwing an upper-70s curve with a little more break.  Both pitches were generally effective as he was usually able to throw them for strikes.  He threw just a few changeups, at least as far as I noticed.

Tim Alderson pitched the eighth.  He’s had a rough second half, but tonight he struck out the side.  He threw a more or less equal number of fastballs and curves.  His fastball velocity was 85-87 initially, but partway through the inning it increased to 88-90.  The curve was a slow, mid-70s pitch with a great deal of horizontal movement, which was surprising since Alderson doesn’t throw sidearm or three-quarters.  The Bowie hitters struggled with it, but Alderson was facing the #8-9-1 hitters, the first of the trio being former Pirate farmhand Aaron Baker.  Altoona closer Noah Krol got through the ninth despite a couple of long drives.

The Curve hitters had a rough night, some of it due to a truly awful plate umpire.  The strike zone appeared to extend to the grassroots, which gave a nice advantage to the Bowie starter, a veteran sinkerball pitcher.  Among the lowlights, Josh Rodriguez was called out his first two at-bats on pitches nearly in the dirt.  The next batter after the second at-bat, Starling Marte, got nicked on the arm with a two-strike pitch, but even though the pitch passed well below the bat, the umpire called Marte out on a foul tip.  Both Rodriguez and Marte argued vociferously without getting ejected, which is usually an indication that the ump knows he’s blown a call.  The Curve also didn’t help themselves by failing twice to get runners in from third with one out, with Yunesky Sanchez and Jeremy Farrell both fanning.

Two Altoona hitters who haven’t impressed me much in the series are Farrell and Quincy Latimore.  Farrell may still be feeling some effects from being out since late June, but he’s been back for two weeks now.  He doesn’t seem to have good bat speed and struggles to get around on high heat.  Latimore gets few good pitches to hit, no doubt because word has gotten around that he seldom takes pitches.  The result is that, if he makes contact, he generally ends up hitting the pitcher’s pitch.

One final note:  If you still think W/L records are a useful indicator of the quality of a farm system, this series might be instructive.  Bowie is currently clinging to a playoff spot, while Altoona will probably finish last in the same division.  Bowie’s strength is the Eastern League’s fourth-best pitching staff, but it’s also the league’s oldest staff.  The ages of the Bowie pitchers who’ve appeared in these three games are:

25 (2)
26 (3)
28 (2)

The ages of the Altoona pitchers:

24 (3)
25 (2)
26 (2)

All AA teams have some veteran pitchers on them, but one of these staffs looks like it was built to win at the AA level and one looks like it was built to produce major league players.