TRENTON, N.J. -- One more win, and the best team in Curve history will claim its first Eastern League championship.
Emphasis on the word team.
This year's club has about 10 players who will find their names on various top 30 prospects lists for the Pirates next year, and those guys have carried the Curve all season. But they've also had a ton of help from numerous role players who have delivered in the clutch time and again.
Mirror photo by Cory Giger
A large contingent of Curve fans made the trip to Trenton for the Eastern League Championship Series, and they made their voices heard with loud cheers throughout Friday night's game.
That's what makes for a special team.
"There's a lot of things go unnoticed about this team, but we excel as a group," outfielder Anthony Norman said.
Lefty Justin Wilson enhanced his strong reputation as a big-game pitcher with seven masterful innings, and the Curve used key contributions from role players like Norman and Jose De Los Santos in Friday's 5-0 win over Trenton at Waterfront Park.
TRENTON, N.J. -- Curve right fielder Miles Durham crashed into the wall after catching a fly ball in the second inning Friday night, was lifted from the game and is questionable for tonight's contest.
"I just hit the wall, and my feet came out from under me and the side of my head went up against the wall," Durham said in the clubhouse after the game.
Durham underwent a series of tests to see if he had suffered a concussion.
"Today I've got to take another one, and if I'm good and I feel better and no headaches, I'll be good to go," he said.
Durham's catch was the third out of the second inning, and he was set to lead off in the third. He made a long, slow walk in from right field and to the dugout and, after getting checked over by trainer Bryan Housand, was replaced by Jose De Los Santos.
"He hit his head on the bar out there in right field when he caught the ball," manager Matt Walbeck said. "He was definitely a little dizzy, so we took precautionary measures to get him out of there.
"We're not sure how he is as far as concussion is concerned. We're going to wait and see how he feels [today]."
Durham must pass the concussion tests to be allowed to play.
"It's some impact tests that we take every spring training, and we've got to take it when we get a concussion," he said.
Asked what kind of questions are on the test, he said, "Honestly, I don't remember what it is. It's like patterns and stuff."
-- Cory Giger
Tonight: Altoona at Trenton, Game 4 of Eastern League Championship Series, 7:05 p.m.
Pitching matchups: Curve LHP Tony Watson (6-4, 2.67) vs. Thunder LHP Manny Banuelos (0-1, 3.52)
Series: Curve lead, 2-1
Altoona now leads the best-of-five Eastern League Championship Series two games to one and can earn a title by winning Game 4 this evening.
"Everyone was just outstanding tonight," Wilson said.
No one more so than him, as the lefty blanked the Thunder on five hits with three strikeouts and one walk. Wilson finished fourth in the EL in ERA (3.09) during the regular season and has been even better in the playoffs with 13 scoreless innings in two starts.
"He's come up big for us in these playoffs, and he's pitched his heart out," Curve pitching coach Tom Filer said.
"He's a big-game pitcher, there's no doubt about it," manager Matt Walbeck said. "You know when the game or season is on the line, he's the kind of guy you want to have the ball. He just finds a way to get it done. He's got that extra gear."
He's always had it, too, when it matters most. Wilson started the final game of the 2008 College World Series and helped Fresno State win the championship, and he won Game 1 of last year's Carolina League title series.
"I just try to treat it like it's another game and always go out there with the same attitude," Wilson said of playoff performances.
Wilson doesn't get the same kind of recognition that teammates Rudy Owens, Jeff Locke and Bryan Morris get, but Filer said, "I think in time he will."
"He has some quality pitches, and he has some deception when he throws," Filer added. "There's something about him. You can't put a finger on it, but there's something about him that everybody likes."
Andrew Lambo gave the Curve a 1-0 lead with a homer in the second off Trenton starter Adam Warren. Altoona then broke the game open with three runs in the fifth, getting everything going after there were two outs.
Jim Negrych worked a walk against Warren and took second on a passed ball. De Los Santos then put together a big at-bat as he fouled off several tough pitches before hitting a slow roller to second that just got by the mound.
"I know when I get the ball past the pitcher, that's a base hit for me," said De Los Santos, the team's fastest runner.
De Los Santos was only in the game because right fielder Miles Durham had suffered a head injury in the second inning, but he found a way to give his team a spark with the infield hit.
"That was a really quality at-bat because, being on second, I could see that those pitches were on the corner," Negrych said. "They weren't good pitches to hit, and he battled them off."
Norman followed and bounced a seeing-eye single to right to score Negrych for a 2-0 lead.
Norman, who moved from center to right when Durham came out of the game, had dropped a fly ball for a three-base error in the bottom of the fourth. Wilson escaped that jam with a couple of groundouts to third.
Norman was able to put the miscue behind him in a hurry and deliver the big RBI single in the fifth.
"It's over with, there's nothing you can do about it," Norman said of the error. "You kind of laugh it off. ... If you carry that bad vibe with you, it's just going to go downhill, so you've just got to keep going."
Josh Harrison delivered the game's biggest hit, a two-run single to right that scored De Los Santos and Norman for a 4-0 lead. Norman finished his big night by cracking a solo homer in the seventh.
"I'm really happy for [Norman]," Walbeck said. "He hasn't had too much playing time, or at least consistent playing time."
Trenton threatened in the ninth against Michael Dubee, loading the bases with one out on two singles and a walk. Walbeck had closer Daniel Moskos warming up in the bullpen just in case and had to turn to the lefty, who struck out a pair to end the game.
"Wally talks about all the time, 'We have a good team,'" Norman said. "And we're like, 'Yeah, we're pretty good.' And we're always trying to back it up."
One more win, and there will be no doubt how good this Curve team is.
SUBHD: Game recap
Key player: LHP Justin Wilson pitched seven shutout innings, allowing five hits with three strikeouts and one walk.
Key play: CF Jose De Los Santos beat out an infield roller with two outs in the fifth, keeping the inning alive for RF Anthony Norman and 3B Josh Harrison to deliver RBI hits for a 4-0 lead.
Key stat: One. For the first championship in Curve history.
SUBHD: How they scored
Top 2nd: Lambo solo homer (1-0).
Top 5th: Negrych walked, scored on Norman single (2-0); De Los Santos infield single, scored along with Norman on Harrison single (4-0).
Top 7th: Norman solo homer (5-0).