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Aeros owning Curve

June 23, 2012
By Stephen Pianovich ( , The Altoona Mirror

At 46-27, Akron has been the Eastern League's best team this season.

The Aeros also have been the Curve's toughest test, going 8-1 against Altoona.

Akron held on against the Curve, 4-3, Friday night before 5,210 fans at Peoples Natural Gas Field. It was the Curve's seventh straight loss to the Aeros.

"They're just solid all-around," Curve second baseman Jarek Cunningham said. "Everybody hit on the ground, they picked it up, and they always get the clutch hit. And that's one thing we need to do, make every play and get hits when we get the opportunity to."

Steven Wright got the start for the Aeros and stymied the Curve offense for much of the game. Wright's knuckleball appeared to be working well, as even his own catcher, Roberto Perez, had problems handling the pitch.

Wright (6-4), who entered the game with the second-best ERA in the Eastern League at 1.79, did allow a solo homer to Quincy Latimore in the third, and the Curve scored two more runs in the seventh to chase the right-hander. But Wright's final line was still solid as he struck out seven, walked three and gave up three runs on four hits in 6 2/3 innings.

Fact Box

Next stop

Tonight: Akron at Altoona, 6 p.m.

Pitchers: Curve RHP Tim Alderson (3-3, 3.08) vs. Aeros RHP Brett Brach (2-2, 3.29)

Record: 33-38

Covering the bases

LEADING OFF: The Curve's series opener with Akron was the first Friday home game they've played since May 18. The Curve were on the road three of the previous four Fridays, and their June 1 contest with Portland was rained out.

STEALING SECOND: RHP Brandon Cumpton struck out four of the first five batters he faced Friday and ended with eight punchouts. Cumpton leads all Curve pitchers with 55 strikeouts.

SAFE AT FIRST: The Curve did commit two errors Friday, but it brings their total in the month of June to just eight. They combined to make 61 errors in April and May.

ROUNDING THIRD: RHP Matt McSwain walked the first two batters he faced on eight pitches, and 18 of the 29 pitches he threw were balls. He ended up issuing three walks in 1 1/3 innings of relief, but no damage was done as he didn't allow a run or a hit.

HEADING HOME: There had been a doubleheader scheduled for today between the Curve and Aeros after they had a game postponed on April 11. But due to Akron's schedule, the Eastern League decided to have the teams just play once tonight, and a nine-inning game will begin at 6 p.m. with the Zooperstars in attendance.

- Stephen Pianovich

"It was different," Cunningham said of facing the knuckleballer. "It's always a challenge to face something new like that, and obviously he had a successful time against us."

Latimore's homer was his team-leading eighth, and he, along with Stefan Welch, had multi-hit games. The home run from Latimore was the Curve's first hit of the game, and it's the second time in three contests a Latimore homer was the team's first hit.

Curve starter Brandon Cumpton was also making hitters swing and miss - he ended with eight strikeouts - but he ran into some problems in the third inning.

Cumpton (7-6) actually retired the first two batters of the third inning, but the trouble started when he hit Thomas Neal. After Neal took his base, the Aeros rattled off three straight hits, including an RBI single from Chun Chen and a two-run double from Nick Weglarz.

"He's just got to stay away from that one inning," manager P.J. Forbes said. "Two outs, nobody on, turns into three runs, [you have to] finish innings. If you don't do that, it's a real Achilles heel, giving up a three-spot with two outs and nobody on."

Cumpton went 5 2/3 innings and allowed four runs on six hits. The final run he allowed came in the sixth inning on a sacrifice fly from Jeremie Tice and proved to be the difference.

Tyler Sturdevant and Preston Guilmet combined for 2 1/3 innings of scoreless relief for the Aeros, with Guilmet collecting his ninth save.

Game Recap

Key player: Akron LF Nick Weglarz was 1-for-2 with two RBIs and two walks.

Key play: Welgarz hit a two-run double to left-center field in the third inning to give the Aeros a 3-0 lead.

Key stat: The Curve are 1-8 against Akron this season.

How they scored

Top 3rd: Neal hit by pitch, scored on Chen single (0-1); Diaz singled, scored with Chen on Weglarz double (0-3).

Bottom 3rd: Latimore solo homer (1-3).

Top 6th: Weglarz walked, scored on Tice sacrifice fly (1-4).

Bottom 7th: Welch singled, scored on Chambers single (2-4); Cutler walked, scored on Sturdevant wild pitch (3-4).

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