Harrisburg stole seven bases Tuesday night. The Curve have six steals all season.
Altoona manager P.J. Forbes pointed out the obvious after his team's 5-1 loss at Peoples Natural Gas Field, saying about the Senators, "Well, they're fast" and adding, "you can't teach speed."
The manager did acknowledge, however, that his pitchers and catchers need to learn to control the running game better than they have so far.
Opposing teams have now swiped 34 bases against the Curve, while the catchers have thrown out only five. That's 14.7 percent, which is not an acceptable number at any level of pro baseball.
"We've just got to do a better job of holding the ball, varying our looks, throwing over," Forbes said.
The crowd for Tuesday's cold night game was listed at 2,025 - actual attendance was more like 200 - which is close to the smallest ever for a Curve home game. That record was set on April 13, 2010, when a game against Richmond drew only 2,004 fans.
Altoona isn't the only team Harrisburg has picked on in the running game. The Senators lead the Eastern League with 34 steals, and Jeff Kobernus, who had four Tuesday, tops the leaderboard with 15.
"We want to put the pressure on the defense," said Harrisburg manager Matt LeCroy, whose team scored twice in the first and third innings to take control early. "The way our offense is built, we have to play that way. A lot of times it puts a different perspective for the pitcher when he always has to worry about runners."
All seven steals were charged to Tony Sanchez, who has thrown out only four of 25 base stealers (16 percent) this season. Backup catcher Ramon Cabrera has thrown out just one of nine (11.1 percent).
"We've got to mix up our holds and our slide steps and our times to the plate, just to keep them off balance," Sanchez said. "Obviously we didn't do a good job of that tonight. Me, individually, I've got to put better throws on the bag."
Minor league pitchers often have trouble holding advanced baserunners close, so in many cases, the catcher has little or no shot at throwing guys out. It's easy to be critical of Sanchez's low percentage, in particular, since he's the Pirates' top catching prospect, but he doesn't deserve all the blame.
Of the seven steals Tuesday, one was home plate on the back end of a double steal, and Forbes said Sanchez really only had a shot one two of the other six attempts.
"The ball's coming out good, his times are good," Forbes said of Sanchez. "He had a chance on it if they're on the bag."
The Pirates have made a move to bring in some teaching help for Sanchez. Veteran catcher Miguel Perez, who spent parts of 2008 and '09 with the Curve, has joined the team as a non-roster member and will be working with Sanchez and Cabrera for the foreseeable future.
Perez, 28, is a highly respected defensive catcher who has played extensively at the higher levels of the minor leagues the past eight years and also got a brief two-game stint with the Cincinnati Reds in 2005.
"He's got a lot of knowledge and a lot of experience, and that's something I'm going to pick his brain about in the next few weeks or however long he's here for," Sanchez said. "I played with him a lot in spring training and talked to him a lot. He's a great dude, and he's welcome to questions about anything I ask, and he's always back there just looking and critiquing anything we're doing."
The Curve and Senators could not be more different when it comes to stealing bases. Altoona entered play Tuesday ranked last in the EL with only four steals in the first 15 games, although it did bump that number up to six as Adalberto Santos swiped two bags.
Forbes said his baserunners have the green light pretty much at all times. Still, there are good times to run and bad times, and it's not usually a good idea when a team falls behind early, which the Curve have done consistently all season.
"We've got to do a better job of staying in the games early so we can utilize the guys that can run," Forbes said.
Key player: Senators 2B Jeff Kobernus had four steals and went 2-for-4 with two runs.
Key play: The Curve's hopes of coming back ended with three double plays to end scoring threats in the third, fourth and fifth.
Key stat: Harrisburg stole seven bases in the game, while the Curve have just six all season.
How they scored
Top 1st: Kobernus reached on Brown error, scored on Hood single (0-1); Rahl single scored Hood (0-2).
Top 3rd: Perez singled, scored on Hood sacrifice fly (0-3); Kobernus bunt single, scored on double steal (0-4).
Top 4th: Ivany solo homer (0-5).
Bottom 6th: Santos singled, scored on Curry double (1-5).