READING - The Curve's early lead was short-lived Saturday night in Reading, as were all of their comeback attempts.
Despite jumping out in front by three in the early innings, the R-Phils used a three-run fifth-inning home run off the bat of Kevin Mahar to grab a lead of their own - one the Curve would never really threaten.
In the end, it was Reading who used the late innings to pad its lead, and the Curve ended a three-game winning streak with a 7-4 loss to the R-Phils at FirstEnergy Stadium.
For four innings the Curve appeared headed to another victory to add onto their professional baseball-leading 52 wins.
But Bryan Morris's 1-2 pitch that Mahar hit out to center field, not only gave Reading its first lead, but it swung the momentum of the game.
Morris, the Curve's righty starter who fell to 4-3 with the loss, gave up five runs (four earned) in his six innings of work, and he struck out eight. But the bloated stat line is deceiving as he was solid for most of the evening, aside from the Mahar at-bat.
With the Curve trailing by one heading into the seventh, manager Matt Walbeck brought in Jeff Sues after he had used a pinch hitter for Morris in the top of the inning.
Sues appeared to be cruising, easily retiring the first two batters he faced, but he hit Mahar to put a man on base with two outs. Four pitches later Cody Overbeck gave the R-Phils all the insurance they would need, crushing a two-run homer to right field.
Despite giving up four early runs, Reading starter Drew Naylor worked 5 2/3 innings to improve to 7-6. Naylor gave up 11 hits, but was constantly able to work out of trouble as the Curve stranded 12 baserunners on the night, and nine during the first five frames.
Michael Schwimer was one of three Reading relievers who shut the Curve down, and he worked the final two innings for his 10th save.
The R-Phils played most of the game under protest, after manager Steve Roadcap was ejected in the second inning for arguing a catcher interference call. It was unclear what Roadcap protested, because teams are not allowed to protest a call, only an interpretation of a rule.
But Mahar and Overbeck made sure the protest wouldn't be a factor as Reading thwarted Altoona's attempt to get to 25 games over .500 for the first time since 2004.
Key player: R-Phils 2B Kevin Mahar scored three times, going 2-for-2 with 3 RBIs.
Key play: Mahar's three-run homer in the fifth inning gave Reading its first lead, erasing a two-run Curve advantage.
Key stat: The Curve left 12 runners on base, including nine in the first five innings.
How they scored
Top 1st: d'Arnaud singled, Hernandez singled, both scored on Hague single (2-0).
Bottom 2nd: Rizzotti reached on Hague error, scored on Galvis sac bunt (2-1).
Top 3rd: Hague doubled, scored on Mercer double (3-1); Mercer scored on Naylor wild pitch (4-1).
Bottom 4th: Mahar singled, scored on Hague error (4-2).
Bottom 5th: Spidale reached on ground ball force out, Rizzotti walked, both scored on Mahar home run (4-5).
Bottom 7th: Mahar hit by pitch, scored on Overbeck home run (4-7).