P.J. Forbes got to watch the Curve enjoy the kind of "good win" Thursday that he hopes will springboard the club on its upcoming road trip, which the manager will not be making.
Forbes had his injured back checked out by a doctor Thursday and noted, "Physically I'm not sure a four-hour bus ride [to Akron] will be that beneficial."
Hitting coach Ryan Long will manage the club on an interim basis this weekend against the Aeros. Tom Prince, manager of the short-season GCL Pirates, also will be with the club in Akron to help out, and Michael Ryan will continue to coach third base, as he has the past two nights.
Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski
Altoona starter Brandon Cumpton pitches Thursday.
Forbes, who injured himself when he slipped while hitting fungoes, hopes to rejoin the Curve on Monday in Erie. It's a muscular injury, he added, rather than a bad disk, so he plans to rest and take medicine for the pain.
The Curve did two things Thursday that they've struggled to do so far this season - scoring runs early while also having a pitcher get off to a strong start. Combining those things carried the team to a 6-4 win over Harrisburg before 2,268 fans at Peoples Natural Gas Field.
Brandon Cumpton turned in 7 2/3 solid innings and didn't allow a run until the fifth, when his offense had already given him a 4-0 lead. Cumpton even helped get the offense going as he smacked a leadoff double in the third and scored the game's first run on a single by Brock Holt.
Tonight: Altoona at Akron, 7:05 p.m.
Pitching matchups: Curve RHP Matt McSwain (1-0, 7.00) vs. Aeros LHP Giovanni Soto (2-0, 5.02)
Anthony Norman delivered the key hit early for Altoona as he drilled a two-out, two-run single to right that scored Holt and Robbie Grossman for a 3-0 lead.
The Curve have fallen behind consistently all season because either their starting pitcher struggled or the offense failed to cash in. Thursday was the opposite on both accounts.
"I think it helped us take a breath," Norman said of the 3-0 lead. "[Cumpton] was doing well, and just getting ahead helped the guys take the pressure off."
When the team struggles early offensively, Norman noted, "A lot of guys are younger guys, and we're kind of getting down on ourselves. So we get some runs, I think it's going to help everyone."
Cumpton (2-2) did his part to help on the mound, giving up two runs on five hits with three strikeouts and two walks. He carried a 6-1 lead into the eighth - the first time a Curve starter has gone that long this year - then gave up another run, in part because of a defensive indifference that allowed a runner to go from first to second.
"In the bullpen I was struggling a little bit with location, I was up in the zone," Cumpton said. "So going out in that first inning I just tried to work on fastball down arm side, and it really just kind of took off."
"His fastball was explosive with life," Forbes said of the pitcher. "You could tell by the number of bats that were blowing up out there."
Grossman, Holt and Norman had two hits apiece for the Curve, who salvaged the finale of the three-game series after Harrisburg easily won the first two.
Senators starter Rob Gilliam (1-3) gave up four runs in six innings for the loss.
The Curve scored what turned out to be two big insurance runs in the seventh on an RBI triple by Holt and run-scoring single by Matt Curry.
"Those are huge runs, especially against that team," Forbes said.
Those runs turned out to be the difference as Harrisburg battled back with two runs in the ninth off Duke Welker. The reliever was able to strand the tying runs on base to finish it off.
OF Andrew Lambo (on DL with right wrist injury) is leaving the club to head to the Pirates' complex in Bradenton, Fla., for rehab. ... RHP Shairon Martis was activated off the DL at Triple-A Indianapolis and assigned to the Curve. Martis, who was 8-6 with a 3.05 ERA for Harrisburg last year, pitched for the Washington Nationals in 2008 and '09. He went 6-6 with a 5.53 ERA in 20 games (19 starts) for the Nationals and joins LHP Aaron Poreda as the only players on the club who have appeared in the majors. ... LHP Kris Johnson also was added back to the Curve roster, coming down from Indianapolis.
SUBHD: News and notes
Former Curve IF Jim Negrych started at 3B for Harrisburg and went 1-for-2 with a double and two walks. ... Welker threw a pitch 98.6 mph in the ninth inning. Matt Capps touched 99 mph when he pitched for Altoona in 2005, and the pitch by Welker might be the second-hardest one ever thrown by a Curve pitcher. Welker said he has been clocked at 101 mph before. ... Harrisburg manager Matt LeCroy was ejected in the fourth inning for griping at the plate umpire. ... The game started 76 minutes late because of rain.
SUBHD: Game recap
Key player: RHP Brandon Cumpton tossed 7 2/3 solid innings for the win.
Key play: LF Anthony Norman's two-run single in the third gave the Curve a 3-0 lead.
Key stat: After struggling with runners in scoring position for much of the year, Altoona went 6-for-17 in that department.
SUBHD: How they scored
Bottom 3rd: Cumpton doubled, scored on Holt single (1-0); Grossman singled, scored along with Grossman on Norman single (3-0).
Bottom 4th: Gonzalez hit by pitch, scored on Grossman double (4-0).
Top 5th: Rahl singled, scored on Leon groundout (4-1).
Bottom 7th: Grossman walked, scored on Holt triple (5-1); Curry single scored Holt (6-1).
Top 8th: Skelton walked, scored on Kobernus single (6-2).
Top 9th: Pahuta doubled, scored on Rahl single (6-3); McConnell single scored Rahl (6-4).