BOWIE, Md. - The Curve's wait to clinch a division title continues after a dramatic, yet ultimately unfulfilling finish Monday night.
Altoona's offense didn't do much until the late innings, then it produced two golden scoring opportunities by loading the bases in the seventh and eighth innings. Bowie's bullpen, however, prevailed in those tough situations, and the Baysox held on for a 2-0 win at Prince George's Stadium.
"We lost today, but we'll get 'em tomorrow," second baseman Chase d'Arnaud said.
If they do indeed get 'em today, the Curve will clinch the Western Division title. Only a win will do so, because even if Harrisburg loses at New Hampshire tonight, it still won't guarantee first place for Altoona.
More on the complexities of the tiebreaker scenarios in a bit.
At this point, the Curve are concerned about only one thing.
Tonight: Altoona at Bowie, 7:05 p.m.
Pitching matchups: Curve LHP Rudy Owens (11-6, 2.56) vs. Baysox RHP Steve Johnson (7-7, 5.28)
Magic number: 1 to win division and clinch playoff berth
"All we've got to do is win one more game and we're in, so that's what we're looking forward to," manager Matt Walbeck said.
Bowie took an early 2-0 lead against Altoona starter Justin Wilson, scoring single runs in the first and third innings with the help of walks.
Altoona challenged in the seventh, loading the bases with one out as Miles Durham and Jim Negrych singled and Kris Watts was hit by a pitch. Reliever Chad Thall struck out Anthony Norman, then gave way to Wynn Pelzer.
d'Arnaud put together a quality at-bat against the Baysox reliever and clearly was locked in on several pitches, fouling them off. He worked the count full, then just missed on a breaking ball and flew out to left.
"I felt like I was on it," d'Arnaud said of his at-bat. "I was very focused, but just didn't square it up. You're not going to get it every time."
Andrew Lambo appeared to get all of a ball the following inning, but with a runner on, he just missed tying the game as his deep fly ball was caught at the wall in dead center.
"I put a good swing on it," Lambo said. "I thought it was going to go a little further than it did, but it didn't go out."
Josh Harrison had led off the eighth with a single, and Matt Hague followed Lambo's flyout with an infield hit. The Curve caught a break when Bowie shortstop Greg Miclat botched a tailor-made double play as he stepped on second base but threw high to first.
Negrych walked to load the bases with two outs and bring up Durham, the Curve's best clutch hitter of late. Durham, who has delivered the game-wining hit in extra innings three times the past three weeks, couldn't come through this time as he struck out swinging against Pelzer.
"We never give up," Lambo said of the Curve's ability to fight back, even in defeat. "That's just part of the game. When you've got a good team, we always know that we're going to give it our best no matter what for nine innings. Today it didn't work out for us, but we're fine."
Bowie starter Eddie Gamboa (7-5) picked up the win with 6 1/3 shutout innings. Wilson (10-8) took the loss, and Jose Diaz worked the ninth for the Baysox to earn his third save.
Harrisburg lost at New Hampshire, 8-7, so a Curve win would have clinched the division title. As it stands, things are now more complicated since Bowie is still in the mix.
Even if Harrisburg loses tonight, the Senators could conceivably win out and finish 79-63. If the Baysox go undefeated the rest of the way, they could finish 79-63. And if the Curve lose their final seven games, they could finish 79-63.
If all that happened, Bowie would win the division, based on having the best record head-to-head against the other two teams that are tied. The Curve, in that scenario, would finish second and claim the wild-card berth.
The odds of all that happening are astronomical. But the long and short of it is that, because the potential of a three-way tie is still mathematically possible, the Curve cannot clinch the division just by Harrisburg losing tonight.
Got all that?
From Altoona's standpoint, all it needs to do is win one more game to eliminate all the mathematical anomalies.
Key player: Bowie reliever Wynn Pelzer worked out of two bases-loaded jams to protect a 2-0 lead.
Key play: The Curve came up empty in bases-loaded situations in the seventh and eighth innings.
Key stat: The Curve need one more win to clinch the division title.
How they scored
Bottom 1st: Avery walked, scored on Adams sacrifice fly (0-1).
Bottom 3rd: Rojas walked, scored on Guzman single (0-2).