Curve players will always remember facing Andy Pettitte, and they'll also remember how they could have beaten the major league star but instead let him off the hook.
Altoona's hitters clearly weren't intimidated by the New York Yankee left-hander and tagged him for two runs on six hits in five innings. But it could have been more.
"We played a good game, but you just can't miss opportunities when you get them," Curve outfielder Miles Durham said.
Altoona loaded the bases with no outs off Pettitte in the fifth inning of a tie game.
And got nothing.
The Curve loaded the bases again with one out in the eighth against a reliever.
Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski
Chase d’Arnaud (6) led off with a home run off Andy Pettitte.
And got nothing.
Add up the two golden opportunities and two disappointing outcomes, and it led to one tough loss to Trenton on Tuesday at Blair County Ballpark. The Thunder took advantage of a leadoff walk in the 10th inning and pushed across a run for a 3-2 victory in Game 1 of the Eastern League Championship Series.
Austin Romine's single to right center off Bryan Morris scored Austin Krum with the decisive run. The Thunder, who captured EL titles in 2007 and '08, have won their last five postseason series when they've taken the first game.
"We had opportunities, they had opportunities, and they just took advantage of it more than we did," Curve second baseman Chase d'Arnaud said.
d'Arnaud led off the first inning with a homer to left off Pettitte. That immediately ended any speculation that the pitcher with more postseason wins (18) than any other in MLB history would dominate the Double-A hitters.
"Aside from the fact that it was off him, I was just glad that we got that first run of the game," d'Arnaud said.
"I wasn't trying to get too excited about [facing Pettitte]," added d'Arnaud, who went 2-for-2 with a walk off him. "Of course I knew who he was, and he's had a lot of success at the level that I'm trying to get at, but it was definitely an encouraging thing for me to have success tonight. But it was just one night, and we didn't come out on top."
Yung Chi Chen singled in the third off Pettitte and got to third on a wild pitch and passed ball. Josh Harrison gave Altoona a 2-1 lead with a single to left.
Trenton, which got a run off Curve starter Rudy Owens in the third, pulled even in the fifth on an RBI double by Krum. Durham prevented the Thunder from taking the lead as the right fielder threw out Krum at the plate on a single by Romine.
Chen reached on an error, d'Arnaud singled and Harrison had a bunt single off Pettitte to load the bases with no outs in the fifth. Altoona came up empty as Jordy Mercer grounded to the mound for a 1-2-3 double play, then Pettitte finished his night by striking out Matt Hague.
"The play that Pettitte made on the comebacker was great," Walbeck said. "Good reflexes."
Altoona loaded the bases again in the eighth against Thunder reliever Andrew Brackman, taking advantage of an error, a hit by pitch and intentional walk. That chance to take the lead ended with Durham grounding into a double play.
"It's obvious," Walbeck said of the missed opportunities. "If you look at the way the game went, whenever you have runners in scoring position and you don't get them in, then that's not getting the job done."
It's also part of facing a good pitching team, and Trenton certainly is that. Thunder hurlers have allowed only three runs in 40 innings this postseason (0.68 ERA).
Brackman earned the win with five shutout innings, allowing just one hit. He originally had been scheduled to start Game 2 tonight, but instead that nod will go to righty Dellin Betances.
Owens matched Pettitte, allowing two runs in five innings. He was better than his rough start in Game 1 of the first round against Harrisburg, but he still wasn't as sharp as he had been late in the regular season.
"Yeah, I knew it all day today," Owens said when asked about facing Pettitte. "But he's just another guy, and I just had to go out there and face the Trenton hitters."
Just like in the Western Division series, the Curve will have to come back from a game down if they want to win their first EL title.
"I'm speaking for everybody here," Owens said. "We have a great [pitching] staff and a great team, and we all can get it done."
SUBHD: Game recap
Key player: Trenton RHP Andrew Brackman worked five shutout innings in relief of LHP Andy Pettitte for the win.
Key play: The Curve couldn't score with the bases loaded and no outs in the fifth and again with just one out in the eighth.
Key stat: Trenton's pitchers have allowed only three runs in 40 innings this postseason.
SUBHD: How they scored
Bottom 1st: d'Arnaud solo homer (1-0).
Top 3rd: Cusick singled, scored on Brewer single (1-1).
Bottom 3rd: Chen singled, scored on Harrison single (2-1).
Top 5th: Nunez doubled, scored on Krum double (2-2).
Top 10th: Krum reached on fielder's choice, scored on Romine single (2-3).