The West Virginia Power took the four series in Lakewood today, with a comeback win, giving them three wins against the BlueClaws in this set and they have now beat them in 13 of 16 meetings this year. Down 4-2 going into the ninth inning, the Power drew three straight walks to start the frame. After a sacrifice fly made it 4-3, Ashley Ponce hit what looked to be a game-ending double play, but the second baseman threw it away, allowing the Power to tie the game.
Barrett Barnes then got a gift double that put West Virginia up 5-4, where the game ended. Clay Holmes pitched well in his five innings, allowing two third inning runs, but keeping the Power in the game. West Virginia had eight hits, drew five walks and got help from three BlueClaws errors. Raul Fortunato homered, had two singles, a walk, stolen base and two RBI’s in the win.
I’ll have the series recap Tuesday, with my thoughts on all the players. Today’s recap of the batters to watch, along with a review of Clay Holmes start and the game notes are below.
The Power Hitters
Barrett Barnes led off for the fourth straight game this series, as part of a Sunday lineup that was missing Dilson Herrera and Josh Bell. Barnes flew out to medium center field on the third pitch of the day. He came up in the third with a man on first and one out. The runner got to second base on a wild pitch before Barnes struck out swinging. He struck out looking in his third AB, this time facing a sidearm pitcher out of the pen. In his fourth at-bat, this time facing a hard-throwing reliever, he blooped out to right field. Barnes came up in the ninth, with a chance to put the Power ahead. With two outs and a man on second, he battled hard and got a gift double when the left fielder fell on what should have been as easy out. That put the Power up 5-4.
Walker Gourley moved up to the second spot in the lineup for today. He fouled out to first base after fouling a couple of pitches straight back. He saw only strikes in his second AB, ending up with a swinging strikeout. Gourley got jammed in his third AB, popping out weakly to second base. He walked with one out in the eighth and the Power down 3-2, then he stole second base. It was his 23rd stolen base of the season. He flew on to right field to end the ninth inning. Gourley is now hitting .331 on the season.
Eric Wood led off the second inning with strikeout on a questionable check swing call, barely offering at an inside fastball. Wood fouled out to the catcher in his second AB. His rough day continued in the seventh when he was caught looking on a slider. He walked on five pitches in his fourth and final plate appearance. Wood was the DH today, while DJ Crumlich played third base.
Max Moroff flew out to deep left field in his first AB, going the other way on a 3-1 pitch. He went the other way again in his second AB, a grounder that got by a diving third baseman and shortstop. He was then thrown out stealing on a very close play at second. Moroff went the other way for a third time, lining a single into left field for his second hit. He got all the way to third base on an errant pickoff throw. Moroff followed Wood’s ninth inning walk, with a walk of his own, putting two runners on with no outs.
In his first AB, Raul Fortunato got fooled on an off-speed pitch, then fouled one straight back. With an 0-2 count, he then lined a home run to left field, much like the one he hit the first time I saw him here. Fortunato got an infield hit, though it was hard hit up the middle and the shortstop made an impressive diving stop. He then stole second base, as the next batter, Kawika Emsley-Pai struck out. Fortunato got his third hit in the seventh, bringing home Moroff with the tying run. He lined a hard hit grounder passed a drawn in infield. Fortunato was stealing on the next play, which turned into a hit and run when Emsley-Pai blooped a ball into left field. Fortunato made it to third on the play. In the ninth, with two runners on, no outs and the Power down 4-2, Fortunato worked a full count walk to load the bases.
Clay Holmes Has A Decent Outing
In his last start at Lakewood on June 1st, Clay Holmes threw five shutout innings, giving up just one hit. He then faced them last week and made it through 3.1 innings before being removed. He allowed four runs on five hits and three walks.
He retired the first batter on one pitch, a comebacker that Holmes snared. The first pitch came in at 91 MPH. He hit 93 MPH to the second batter, who fouled off a few pitches before getting an infield pop up for the out. The third batter was also retired on one pitch, a 93 MPH fastball that was lined to shortstop. Lakewood hit the ball hard twice, but had nothing to show for it.
In the second inning, Holmes started off with a two pitch groundout to second base to retire the clean-up hitter. He got the next batter to line out to third base, throwing three of five pitches for strikes, including an 86 MPH change-up. Holmes walked the third batter on a full count pitch, hitting 93 again. He started off the next batter with two balls, including a wild pitch that got the runner to second base. Holmes settled down and got an easy groundout to second base to end the inning.
The third inning started off with a pitch high and inside to the batter, followed by a bloop to right field for a double. The next batter grounded out to first base on the first pitch, moving the runner to third base. The runner then scored on another bloop down to right field. Two balls that were not hit hard scored a run, after Holmes got outs on three hard hit balls in the first two innings. Holmes got a force out at second base on a slow grounder for the second out. He gave up a hard hit liner to right field that put runners on the corner with two out. The same batter hit a hard grounder down the first base line that was just foul, so he hit two balls hard off Holmes that at-bat.
With two on and two out, Holmes faced the clean-up hitter, who grounded hard up the middle to bring home the second run. He then battled the next hitter, who finally went down swinging on a 94 MPH high fastball, the first and only time Holmes reached that velocity.
In the fourth, Holmes walked the lead-off batter on a full count fastball that missed high. He battled again with the next batter, getting him swinging on a 92 MPH pitch up and out of the zone. The next batter hit a 79 MPH curve on the first pitch, flying out to Barnes in center field. Holmes finished off the inning with a swinging strikeout on an 80 MPH curve.
The fifth started with a one pitch fly ball to center field. The second batter went down swinging on a curve down and in. The inning ended quickly on a soft groundout to second base. That ended his day with two runs on two hits, two walks and three strikeouts. His velocity was down a tick from last time I saw him, but the control was much better. When he did miss, he mostly missed down, but when he was up, he usually got batters chasing. Holmes threw more breaking pitches later in the game, typical of most Pirates pitchers at the lower level. Overall it was a nice start for Holmes, who has been off and on all year.
* Ryan Hafner followed Holmes in the sixth and got a fly out, followed by a four pitch walk. That batter was erased on a caught stealing the next pitch. Hafner then struck out the third batter. In his second inning, he gave up a couple walks and a hit that score the third run for the BlueClaws. Hafner was sitting 91-93 MPH, slightly lower than last year, but with better control. Last year each time I saw him, when he missed, he would miss bad. Despite the two walks and a run, he does look better now at the lower velocity.
* Walker Gourley showed impressive range on the first out by Hafner. He ranged from right field into almost straight away center field to make a diving catch. However, earlier in the game, going to his left twice, his range looked below average.
* Kyle Haynes finished the game and was hitting 93-94 MPH consistently. He gave up the BlueClaws fourth run, but remained in the game after the Power scored three in the ninth to take the lead. Haynes picked up the win, his first of the season.
* The third Power run scored on a ninth inning, bases loaded sac fly from Kawika Emsley-Pai. The fourth run scored on an Ashley Ponce ball that looked like a game ending double play, but the second baseman threw it away, allowing the runner that was on second base, to score the tying run.
* With the win, the Power remain atop the Northern Division of the SAL with an 8-3 record. They now travel to Hagerstown for three games, before returning home to play Lexington on July 4th.
John started working at Pirates Prospects in 2009, but his connection to the Pittsburgh Pirates started exactly 100 years earlier when Dots Miller debuted for the 1909 World Series champions. John was born in Kearny, NJ, two blocks from the house where Dots Miller grew up. From that hometown hero connection came a love of Pirates history, as well as the sport of baseball.
When he didn't make it as a lefty pitcher with an 80+ MPH fastball and a slider that needed work, John turned to covering the game, eventually focusing in on the prospects side, where his interest was pushed by the big league team being below .500 for so long. John has covered the minors in some form since the 2002 season, and leads the draft and international coverage on Pirates Prospects. He writes daily on Pittsburgh Baseball History, when he's not covering the entire system daily throughout the entire year on Pirates Prospects.