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Morning Report: Altoona is Making Things Interesting This Weekend

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The Altoona Curve are really making things interesting for the Eastern League playoffs. Montana DuRapau lost a 3-2 lead last night in the ninth, then gave up a walk-off grand slam to end the game. If Altoona won, they guaranteed themselves a playoff spot. With the loss, they are down to two days left in the season and nothing is guaranteed.

I planned on doing a playoff preview tonight, talking about the key players who would see action in the playoffs, getting some extra playing time after the minor league season ended. I could still do that for Bradenton if I wanted to, but I’ll hold off on it until we see if Altoona joins them. A week ago, it seemed like the weekend wouldn’t matter. Now, the Curve could miss the playoffs if everything went wrong.

The first wrong part would have to be two losses by the Curve between today and tomorrow. Nick Kingham is on the mound tonight and he’s been one of the best pitchers in the system the last few weeks, so that’s a good sign for Altoona. Just in general, Nick Kingham pitching well is a great sign for the Pirates, especially the command he is displaying with three walks in 41 innings. Heck, even the 41 innings already, with more tonight and the potential for a playoff start is  great news, because it gives him more to build off of next season. As far as Altoona making the playoffs though, his stats don’t mean much if his success doesn’t continue.

The next wrong if Altoona loses two games, would be Akron wins at least one of their two games. That would give them the division title. Altoona has been in the top spot for most of the season and they had a “comfortable” lead not that long ago.

The final thing to go wrong would be Harrisburg winning both of their games. That would put them in a tie for second place with Altoona and the league decides ties with head-to-head records. Harrisburg took the season series, which would give them the second seed in the Eastern League Western division. On a slightly different note, the league couldn’t think of better names for the divisions than Eastern Eastern and Eastern Western divisions?

So the basic summary is that if Altoona wins either game they are in. Akron loses two games and Altoona is in. Harrisburg loses once and Altoona is in. Then we can talk about the players who will see extra playing time next week, the possible extra innings for Nick Kingham, and the extra work for Sean McCool covering games live.

Regardless of what happens with Altoona, playoffs start Tuesday for Bradenton on the road in St Lucie for one game, then home on Wednesday/Thursday for two games (if necessary) in the best-of-three series.

PLAYOFF PUSH

The Pirates trail the second wild card spot by a 2.5 games.

Indianapolis has been eliminated from the playoffs. Their season ends September 5th.

Altoona leads their division by a 1/2 game. The top two teams in the division go to the playoffs, with the first place team getting the home field advantage in the first round.

Bradenton won the first half title. They have home field advantage in the playoffs.

West Virginia has been eliminated from the playoffs. Their season ends September 5th.

Morgantown has been eliminated from the playoffs. Their season ends September 5th.

Bristol’s season has ended.

The GCL season has ended.

The DSL season has ended.

PIRATES GAME GRAPH


Source: FanGraphs

TODAY’S SCHEDULE

Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pirates lost 7-4 to the Brewers on Saturday night. Steven Brault makes his fourth start for the Pirates and his first start in Pittsburgh. It’s his fourth consecutive start against an NL Central opponent and second versus the Brewers. Brault gave up three runs on seven hits and three walks in six innings against Milwaukee back on July 29th. The Brewers will counter with Chase Anderson, who has a 4.92 ERA in 124.1 innings, with 103 strikeouts and a 1.41 WHIP. His last start was against the Pirates and he allowed two earned runs on five hits and one walk in 5.1 innings. Anderson also faced the Pirates twice in July and gave up a total of three earned runs over nine innings.

In the minors, it’s not a big day for letting us know who is going to pitch. Teams are getting lazy at the end of the season with announcing their pitchers. Nick Kingham will go for Altoona, his second start since being promoted from Bradenton. He gave up one run over six innings in his first game with the Curve. The only other starter announced for today is Stephan Meyer for Morgantown.

Bradenton ends their regular season today with an early morning game. The DSL season ended last Saturday, while Bristol and the GCL Pirates had their season end Thursday.

MLB: Pittsburgh (67-66) vs Brewers (59-76) 1:35 PM
Probable starter: Steven Brault (3.86 ERA, 7:12 BB/SO, 14.0 IP)

AAA: Indianapolis (70-72) @ Louisville (69-73) 6:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: TBD

AA: Altoona (75-63) @ Richmond (61-78) 6:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Nick Kingham (1.50 ERA, 1:4 BB/SO, 6.0 IP)

High-A: Bradenton (70-65) @ Ft Myers (69-68) 10:35 AM (season preview)
Probable starter:  TBD

Low-A: West Virginia (69-68) vs Greenville (70-67) 2:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: TBD

Short-Season A: Morgantown (37-37) vs Mahoning Valley (36-37) 4:05 PM (season preview)
Probable Starter: Stephan Meyer (4.56 ERA, 22:46 BB/SO, 75.0 IP)

Rookie: Bristol (25-43) (season preview)

GCL: Pirates (22-34) (season preview)

DSL: Pirates (27-42) (season preview)

HIGHLIGHTS

Here is the home run mentioned in yesterday’s Morning Report from Danny Ortiz. He maintained his one home run lead over Eric Wood with two games left.

RECENT TRANSACTIONS

9/3: Jacob Taylor assigned to Morgantown.

9/2: Pirates recall Jameson Taillon, Steven Brault, Jason Rogers and Adam Frazier. Chris Stewart activated from disabled list.

9/1: Jung Ho Kang sent to Indianapolis on rehab.

9/1: Pirates receive Jake Brentz and Pedro Vasquez from Mariners to complete earlier trade for Arquimedes Caminero.

8/31: Pirates trade Kyle Lobstein to Baltimore Orioles for Zach Phillips.

8/31: Logan Ratledge promoted to Bradenton. Alfredo Reyes activated from West Virginia disabled list.

8/31: Pirates release Raymond Rodriguez, Ramy Perez and Ramon Garcia.

8/31: David Whitehead assigned to Morgantown.

8/30: Tito Polo and Stephen Tarpley sent to New York Yankees as part of Ivan Nova trade from August 1st.

8/30: Jason Creasy and Jhondaniel Medina promoted to Indianapolis.

8/30: Justin Maffei and Trace Tam Sing assigned to Indianapolis.

8/30: Henry Hirsch and Junior Lopez promoted to Altoona

8/30: Nick Neumann activated from Bradenton disabled list.

8/30: Alen Hanson promoted to Pirates. Jameson Taillon and Steven Brault assigned to Bristol.

8/30: Pirates purchased contract of Kelvin Marte. Kyle Lobstein designated for assignment.

8/30: Mitch Keller and Sean Keselica promoted to Bradenton. Scooter Hightower and Matt Frawley promoted to West Virginia

8/30: Mike Wallace promoted to Morgantown.

8/29: Pirates recall Steven Brault. Gerrit Cole placed on disabled list.

8/28: A.J. Schugel recalled from Indianapolis. Adam Frazier optioned to Bristol.

8/28: Pirates activate Tyler Glasnow from disabled list. Optioned to Indianapolis.

8/28: Justin Topa placed on disabled list. Henry Hirsch activated from temporary inactive list.

8/27: John Kuchno promoted to Indianapolis.

8/25: Nick Kingham assigned to Altoona. Chase Simpson activated from disabled list.

THIS DATE IN PIRATES HISTORY

Two former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, plus a couple games of note. Starting with the players, we have 1904 left fielder Jack Gilbert. He played pro ball for 17 seasons, but he only got into 28 big league games. The Pirates gave him a 25-game trial at the end of the 1904 season, starting him in place of HOF left fielder/manager Fred Clarke, who was sick at the time. Gilbert hit .241 with 13 runs and 12 walks.

Also born on this date, 1896 pitcher Elmer Horton. He pitched two games at the end of the 1896 season for the Pirates, then went on a post-season barnstorming tour, serving as one of three pitchers the team had at the time. In November, he was part of a big trade with Baltimore, in which the Pirates got back star center fielder Steve Brodie in exchange for Jake Stenzel, who is the Pirates’ all-time batting leader.

On this date in 1890, the Alleghenys came home for the first time since August 12th and they broke a 23-game losing streak with a 6-2 win over the Cleveland Spiders. The Alleghenys would go on the road again after that win and post a 1-11 record. They were scheduled to play two more home games against Cleveland, but rain postponed those contests.

From the worst team in franchise history to the best, and the results were definitely flipped for both teams on September 4th. The 1902 Pirates had an 87-29 record, with a 26-game lead in the NL. The had basically clinched at that point, as they ended up playing 24 more games that year. On September 4th however, they did not look like the best club in franchise history. The Pirates lost 1-0 and tied 0-0 against Boston, a team with a 57-55 record going into the day. The tie was called after nine innings due to darkness at 5:25 by Hall of Fame umpire Hank O’Day, who took a lot of verbal abuse from the crowd for his decision. The local newspaper declared that they could have played another two hours before it was too dark to play.

The big headline from the day before was that the Pirates were too good and fans weren’t showing up because they figured they were going to win. Seems odd to say, but the games weren’t important in the standings, so it turned off fans from going to games at the end of the year.

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John Dreker
John Dreker
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.

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