With the first pitch in the bottom of the ninth, Stefan Welch was drilled in the back, and fans at Peoples Natural Gas Field almost got to witness another kind of fireworks before the regularly scheduled ones went off after the game on Sunday evening.
The plunking of Welch - which came after Akron's Ryan Rohlinger was hit by two pitches earlier in the game - led to the benches clearing between the Curve and Akron. No punches were thrown in the scuffle, but many heated words were exchanged.
Akron was up by 13 at the time of the incident, and the team ended up throttling the Curve, 15-4. After the game, Curve manager P.J. Forbes said the commotion in the ninth inning was just "part of the game."
Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec
Curve catcher Ramon Cabrera talks with starting pitcher Phil Irwin in the fourth inning on Sunday.
"I think they took offense to two guys getting drilled, and they retaliated," Forbes said. "On nights like this when a team puts up 15 on you, you're not very happy to begin with. Things got heated."
In total, there were four occurrences of a player getting hit by a pitch, and Rohlinger was hit for the second time in the top of the ninth. The ninth-inning plunking of Rohlinger hit him in the leg, which Forbes said made him think it was unintentional, and both times the Aeros third baseman was hit came on a pitch by Matt McSwain.
"It was a fastball down and in, it wasn't like it was at his neck or anything," Forbes said. "It was down and in, so I don't see the intent there, but I don't know, I can't speak for [McSwain]."
Tonight: Akron at Altoona, 7 p.m.
Pitchers: Curve RHP Tim Alderson (3-3, 3.08) vs. LHP T.J. House (5-2, 3.12)
Covering the bases
LEADING OFF: RHP Bryan Morris became the 94th former Curve player to reach the major leagues when he was called up Sunday by the Pirates. Morris was 1-2 with a 2.28 ERA and five saves in 23 relief appearances at Triple-A Indianapolis. He's also the 12th member of the 2010 EL championship team who has already reached the majors.
SAFE AT FIRST: Aside from Morris, these are the other 11 members of the 2010 Curve team to reach the big leagues: OF Alex Presley, RHP Mike Crotta, LHP Daniel Moskos, INF Josh Harrison, LHP Tony Watson, INF Chase d'Arnaud, RHP Jared Hughes, LHP Jeff Locke, 1B Matt Hague, OF Gorkys Hernandez and INF Jordy Mercer (who was optioned back to Triple-A on Sunday).
STEALING SECOND: Akron's 7-foot-1 RHP Loek van Mil pitched in relief Sunday night and was impressive, topping out at 95 mph while throwing 1 2/3 scoreless innings of relief and striking out three. If the 27-year-old reaches the big leagues, van Mil would be the tallest player in MLB history. He's been superb for the Aeros this season, posting a 1.08 ERA in 14 appearances. He also pitched in Altoona for New Britain in June of 2010.
ROUNDING THIRD: Quincy Latimore had an impressive 13-pitch at-bat for the Curve in the seventh inning. The lengthy AB ended with him taking a called third strike.
HEADING HOME: The Curve enjoyed a big weekend in attendance, drawing 6,152 fans Saturday night and 5,551 Sunday. That brings the season average to 3,799 after 35 home dates, up from 3,736 in 35 dates last year.
- Cory Giger
When Rohlinger was hit for the second time, Akron manager Chris Tremie was not happy. And though he wouldn't disclose what was said or who he was addressing, Tremie, who was coaching third base at the time, had some words for somebody as he approached home plate after the play.
The first pitch from Akron in the bottom half of the inning hit Welch on the back.
"Situations of the game, and the way the game is played out, you know everybody knows the game is in the game," Tremie said when asked if Welch's plunking was intentional. "And we'll come out and play tomorrow."
Two ejections were made as a result of the benches emptying, as the Aeros' Kyle Landis - who hit Welch with the pitch - and their hitting coach, Rouglas Odor, were both tossed. Many other players and coaches looked very irritated during the scuffle, including Curve hitting coach Ryan Long.
"A couple things were said that I didn't agree with, that's it," Long said. "Heat of the moment, trying to break things up, people chirp and say things that they probably don't really mean, or maybe they do, I thought it was unnecessary."
For the game itself, Akron scored early and often. The Aeros ended the game with 19 hits in addition to their 15 runs and Chun Chen, Adam Abraham and Roberto Perez combined for 10 RBIs.
Curve starter Phil Irwin (0-5) allowed seven runs - six earned - on nine hits in five innings, and though he did record eight strikeouts, his ERA ballooned to 5.05 on the year.
The Curve did manage 10 hits of their own in a marathon game that lasted three hours and 35 minutes before 5,551 fans at PNG Field. Paolo Espino (2-2) struck out eight while surrendering two runs on seven hits in 6 1/3 innings for Akron.
Altoona and Akron wrap up their four-game set with a 7 p.m. contest tonight. Even with the benches clearing Sunday, Forbes said he is "wiping the slate clean" and added he's expects the incident to be addressed heavily in tonight's pregame meeting with the umpires.
Sunday's events don't qualify as a bench-clearing brawl, so there's still been only one of those between the Curve and a visiting team in Altoona. That occurred on Aug. 11, 2001 when Bowie's Steve Goodell charged the mound and drop-kicked Justin Reid after the pitcher had thrown two pitches behind him.
Forbes said he was happy the events Sunday didn't escalate into anything further.
"The main thing is no one gets hurt," Forbes said. "We got some bruises. I'm sure Welch has a bruise, I'm sure their guy has a bruise and there are probably some pitchers on our side that have hurt feelings. Like I said, it's baseball, if there isn't any emotion in it, then you're not going about it the right way. I just want us to bounce back tomorrow and play a better ballgame."
SUBHD: Game recap
Key player: Akron 1B Adam Abraham was 3-for-4 with four RBIs.
Key play: Akron RHP Kyle Landis hit Curve 3B Stefan Welch with a pitch to lead off the bottom of the ninth inning which caused both benches to clear.
Key stat: A day after the Curve scored 13 runs on 13 hits, Akron returned the favor with 15 runs on 19 hits.
SUBHD: How they scored
Top 2nd: Neal singled, scored on Chen single (0-1); Diaz singled, scored on Abraham sacrifice fly (0-2).
Top 3rd: Chen doubled, scored on Abraham single (0-3); Rohlinger singled scored Abraham (0-4).
Top 5th: Weglarz singled, Tice hit by pitch, Rohlinger walked, all scored on Perez double (0-7).
Bottom 5th: Maggi singled, scored on Grossman double (1-7); Holt single scored Grossman (2-7).
Top 6th: Neal singled, scored on Chen double (2-8); Diaz singled, scored along with Chen on Abraham single (2-10); Weglarz walked, scored on Tice single (2-11); Rohlinger sacrifice fly scored Abraham (2-12).
Top 7th: Stoneburner walked, scored on Chen double (2-13); Neal walked, scored on Weglarz sacrifice fly (2-14); Abraham single scored Chen (2-15).