The Curve offense didn't do much against a Double-A newcomer Wednesday night, but the club still moved one game closer to locking up its first playoff berth in four years.
In his Double-A debut, Erie lefty Adam Wilk allowed only one hit while tossing eight shutout innings in a 3-1 win over Altoona before 5,023 fans at Blair County Ballpark.
Bowie also lost Wednesday, so the Curve's magic number to eliminate the Baysox and clinch at least a wild-card berth is down to five.
Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski
Curve catcher Kris Watts and starting pitcher Justin Wilson get a visit from pitching coach Tom Filer.
Harrisburg won its game, so the magic number for Altoona to win the division remains at seven.
The Curve could lock up the playoff berth as early as tomorrow if they beat Richmond three times - there's a doubleheader tonight - and Bowie loses twice at New Britain. The latter seems unlikely given that the Rock Cats have the worst record in all of professional baseball at 39-91.
Manager Matt Walbeck said there will be no postgame champagne celebration simply for reaching the playoffs. The club will save that for if and when it wraps up the division, which could come at home this weekend or early next week on the road at Bowie.
Tonight: Richmond at Altoona, doubleheader at 5:30 p.m.
Pitching matchups: Curve RHP Derek Hankins (5-5, 2.78) and LHP Rudy Owens (10-6, 2.67) vs. Flying Squirrels TBA and RHP Craig Westcott (3-1, 5.03)
Covering the bases
LEADING OFF: Pittsburgh Penguins winger Pascal Dupuis will make an appearance tonight at Blair County Ballpark. He will throw out a ceremonial first pitch prior to the second game of the doubleheader, then sign autographs for 90 minutes beginning early in the game.
SAFE AT FIRST: Play will begin tonight at 5:30 with the completion of a suspended game against Richmond from July 12. Game two will last seven innings, and for those planning to see Dupuis, the contest should start around 7:45.
STEALING SECOND: Wednesday's turnout of 5,023 included the largest walk-up crowd ever at BCB - 2,575. It was UPMC Health Plan member night, and members received a postcard that they could redeem for two free tickets.
ROUNDING THIRD: Pirates GM Neal Huntington attended Wednesday's game and is expected to be in town for a few more days evaluating Curve players.
HEADING HOME: The Curve missed a chance to reach a season-high 25 games over .500 by losing Wednesday.
- Cory Giger
The Curve had been red hot of late, winning five in a row, but Wilk shut them down Wednesday.
"It was pretty cool to be able to do that," he said of his success against a quality team. "It was pretty fun."
Wilk was 9-5 with a 3.01 ERA at high-A Lakeland before getting the call to Double-A.
"He just kept us off balance, he mixed his pitches, he got ahead of the hitters, pitched inside," Walbeck said.
Erie scored a run in the second and two in the third off Curve starter Justin Wilson (10-7). The lefty took the loss but, with six strikeouts, he moved past Tom Gorzelanny into second place in Curve history with 125 on the season. Ian Snell holds the team record of 142, set in 2004.
Chase d'Arnaud also moved up in the record books with his 32nd stolen base. He's tied with Chris Duffy for fourth, 13 behind the totals of Rajai Davis and Rich Thompson in 2005.
d'Arnaud will be in an interesting position right off the bat tonight when the Curve resume a game that was suspended against Richmond on July 12.
The game will be picked up in the bottom of the fourth inning and Altoona trailing, 6-3. d'Arnaud will be at the plate with a chance to bring his team closer as Miles Durham will be at third base and Anthony Norman at second with one out.
"Usually when I start off a game I'm going to be very selective and most likely make the pitcher throw some pitches," d'Arnaud said. "But I've got to be ready to hit from pitch one, and I'm just going to go up there and try to see the ball big."
He does not plan to change his preparation for the game given the unusual circumstances.
"I will be mentally ready for that at-bat when it comes," he said.
The suspended game will be intriguing because, when it began a month and a half ago, the Curve had two players in the starting lineup who are no longer with the team. Shelby Ford started at third base, while Brandon Jones was in left field. Ford is now in Single-A, and Jones is with Erie.
Walbeck plans to have Josh Harrison, who was on the bench originally, play third base. Jim Negrych, who wasn't with the Curve when the game started as he had been promoted to Triple-A, will be in left field.
"It should be interesting," Walbeck said of resuming the suspended game after a long break. "I've never done it."
He corresponded with EL president Joe McEacharn about the protocol and will have a meeting with Richmond manager Andy Skeels before the game to go over the particulars.
SUBHD: Game recap
Key player: Erie LHP Adam Wilk gave up only one hit in eight shutout innings to win his Double-A debut.
Key play: Andy Bouchie doubled home a run and later scored to give the SeaWolves a 3-0 lead in the fourth.
Key stat: The Curve's magic number to clinch a playoff spot is five, and it's seven to clinch a division title.
SUBHD: How they scored
Top 2nd: Nowlin singled, scored on Carrithers single (0-1).
Top 4th: Nowlin singled, scored on Bouchie double (0-2); Carrithers groundout scored Bouchie (0-3).
Bottom 9th: d'Arnaud walked, scored on Lambo double (1-3).