HARRISBURG - If indeed he is finished in Double-A, and if he goes on to become a major league superstar, there's one thing Stephen Strasburg will never be able to say he accomplished.
He never figured out the Curve's offense.
Altoona tagged the phenom pitcher for four runs - all in the second inning - and handed him his first career loss Sunday afternoon. The Curve posted their fifth straight win, 6-1 over Harrisburg, before a sold-out crowd of 7,619 at Metro Bank Park.
"There's always going to be days where things just aren't going your way," Strasburg said, "and unfortunately it appeared that every single thing was going in Altoona's favor."
The Curve didn't exactly pound Strasburg - several of their six hits were of the seeing-eye grounder variety - but they found a way to do damage nonetheless.
"We're confident," said Alex Presley, who had a two-run single in the second to extend his hitting streak to 16 games. "It doesn't matter who's on the mound, we think we're going to do well. I think that's all it is. He's got good stuff, but we come out and executed our game plan."
Tonight: Altoona at Richmond, 7:05 p.m.
Pitching matchups: Curve RHP?Tim Alderson (2-0, 5.49) vs. Flying Squirrels RHP?David Mixon?(2-1, 2.66)
Covering the bases: Page B2
There was no word Sunday when Strasburg will be promoted to Triple-A Syracuse, but that could come any day now. He has pitched five games for the Senators and is 3-1 with a 1.64 ERA.
He dominated New Britain once and Reading twice, but it's been a much different story against the Curve, who also faced the pitcher in his minor league debut April 11.
Strasburg has given up nine runs in his five outings, and Altoona scored eight of them. He has allowed 13 hits in 22 innings, with the Curve recording 10 hits in 9 2/3 innings. All four earned runs he has allowed were scored by, you guessed it, Altoona.
Strasburg didn't seem to want to give the Curve much credit for their success Sunday.
"It's just one of those days where you make a good pitch and you get weak contact, and it just finds a hole," he said.
The 21-year-old labored through most of his 4 2/3 innings, constantly facing the pressure of Curve baserunners. He struggled at times with his command, throwing 49 of 79 pitches for strikes. Also, his fastball that sat consistently at 98-99 in his debut at Blair County Ballpark was in the 95-96 range this time around.
Strasburg, who breezed through the first inning on seven pitches, walked Matt Hague to start the second. Jim Negrych fought off an inside pitch for an infield single to shortstop, then Miles Durham blooped a hit to shallow center to load the bases with no outs.
Presley followed with a single past second baseman Michael Martinez that scored Hague and Negrych for a 2-1 lead.
Kris Watts walked to load the bases again, then Strasburg struck out pitcher Justin Wilson. Chase d'Arnaud's grounder to shortstop scored Durham, and Presley came home with the fourth run when Martinez threw wide of first trying for a double play.
Just like that, the phenom pitcher was trailing, 4-1. Altoona led 4-0 in the first game against him, but the bullpen faltered in a 6-4 loss, with Strasburg getting the victory.
"The first outing against Altoona, I had a lot of adrenaline going in that game," he said. "I was leaving the ball up a little bit more. Today, I was keeping the ball down, I was throwing inside a little bit more. They definitely didn't square as many balls up off me as they did in the first game."
The Curve hitters did, however, take advantage of his wildness.
"I went away from just consistently throwing the same quality pitches in the strike zone because they did put it in play and they got on base," Strasburg said. "Instead, I tried to make an even better pitch, and that's when I kind of went out of the strike zone."
The Curve put two runners on in the fourth but couldn't score against Strasburg. They loaded the bases with no outs in the fifth and failed again.
Hague grounded into a third-to-home-to-first double play. Reliever Hassan Pena then came on for Strasburg and retired Negrych.
Wilson gave up one run on four hits in four innings, not enough to earn the victory for the Curve. The bullpen tandem of Mike Dubee (1-0) and Ronald Uviedo followed with five perfect innings to finish off the win.
"Dubee and Uviedo came in and did a great job to slam it," Curve manager Matt Walbeck said.
The focus on Strasburg now will be if he remains with the Senators or goes up to Syracuse for his next start.
"Not a clue," the pitcher said of the organization's plans for him.
SUBHD: Game recap
Key player: Curve OF Alex Presley was 1-for-4 with two RBIs.
Key play: Presley's two-run single in the second gave Altoona the lead for good.
Key stat: Strasburg allowed eight runs -- only four earned -- on 10 hits in 9 2/3 innings over two starts against the Curve.
SUBHD: How they scored
Bottom 1st: Castro singled, scored on Valdez single (0-1).
Top 2nd: Hague walked, Negrych singled, both scored on Presley single (2-1); Durham singled, scored on d'Arnaud groundout (3-1); Presley scored on d'Arnaud groundout and Martinez error (4-1).
Top 7th: Harrison walked, scored on Pena wild pitch (5-1); d'Arnaud walked, scored on Mercer sacrifice fly (6-1).