HARRISBURG - Before the Curve's game on Thursday, it was announced that pitcher Brandon Cumpton was an Eastern League All-Star.
Though he didn't find out about it until after the contest, Cumpton proved why he deserved to be selected.
Cumpton threw six scoreless innings, and the Curve used five hits effectively as they held off Harrisburg, 4-2, at Metro Bank Park.
During a stretch that lasted from May 30 to June 9, Cumpton allowed just two earned runs in three starts. It was a span of 21 innings, making his ERA 0.84 in those three starts.
Cumpton (8-6) wasn't nearly as good in his last two starts, giving up eight earned runs in a combined 11 innings (6.55 ERA), but he regained his dominant form against Harrisburg.
The right-hander didn't surrender a run and gave up just three hits while he struck out three with no walks in six innings.
Tonight: Altoona at Harrisburg, 7 p.m.
Pitchers: Curve RHP Phil Irwin (0-5, 5.05) vs. Senators LHP Danny Rosenbaum (7-4, 2.76)
"I feel like I had been struggling a little lately, just trying to get in the groove," Cumpton said. "Kind of going through the lineup a few times, guys are making adjustments on me and getting me. And I'm not stepping back and looking, trying to make adjustments when they make adjustments. So that's been big for me."
The only time Cumpton got into a jam Thursday was in the fifth inning. He hit Destin Hood, the first batter of the inning, then Justin Bloxom singled to right field, and Hood made it to third base to put runners on the corners with nobody out.
Kris Watts stepped to the plate next, and Cumpton got him to hit a grounder to first baseman Matt Curry, who threw home to cut down Hood at the plate. Cumpton eventually escaped the inning unscathed.
"I got the groundball to Curry, and he threw the guy out at home," Cumpton said. "After that, I stepped back and said 'All right, I got a shot here.'"
The mound was not the only place Cumpton aided Altoona. The pitcher also dropped down two sacrifice bunts, which led to runs for the Curve.
Cumpton's first sacrifice led to led to an RBI single by Drew Maggi in the third inning, and his second allowed a runner to be in scoring position for the next batter, Robbie Grossman, who had an RBI single in the fifth.
Making the most of having runners on base was something the Curve did very well. They were 3-for-6 with runners in scoring position, and four of their five hits drove a run home. Maggi, Grossman, Curry and Brock Holt each had one hit and one RBI.
A day after giving up five two-out runs to Harrisburg, the Curve scored two runs with two down themselves, which proved to be the difference.
"You can just see how demoralizing they are to the other team; those are the biggest runs in the game" manager P.J. Forbes said of two-out runs. "The next inning for the pitcher is the shutdown inning, and it's the biggest inning he's going to throw. Both of those are important, and we needed them and got them tonight."
Harrisburg starter Ryan Perry wasn't having a bad night, but he was pulled after just 3 2/3 innings and took the loss. Perry (0-1) allowed two runs on two hits while issuing three walks and striking out five.
The Curve's bullpen was initially shaky, as Kyle Cofield gave up two runs - one earned - in two-thirds of an inning. But Jeff Inman and Vic Black then combined for 2 innings of scoreless relief, and Black earned his fourth save with a perfect ninth to preserve the win for Cumpton.
With eight wins, Cumpton is now tied for the lead in the Eastern League. And Holt, a shortstop, as well as catcher Ramon Cabrera will be joining him for the All-Star Game in Reading next month.
"It's great. It's good news, obviously," Cumpton said of being an All-Star. "But I couldn't have done it without my teammates, getting groundballs and having guys make plays, and have my lineup hitting for me, putting runs up there."
Just two days after a line drive hit top pitching prospect Gerrit Cole below his left ear, the Curve had another scary moment Thursday.
In his second plate appearance of the game, Kelson Brown took a pitch off his batting helmet and was on the ground for a brief period of time. Brown stayed in the game and even came around to score after reaching base, but Holt was inserted into the lineup the next inning.
After the game, Forbes said Brown was taken to the hospital for some tests but had not heard any updates.
Key player: RHP Brandon Cumpton threw six scoreless innings for his eighth win.
Key play: With the bases loaded and the Curve leading by one, Jeff Inman got Jesus Valdez to line out to left to end the threat.
Key stat: The Curve had an RBI on four of their five hits.
How they scored
Top 3rd: Brown walked, scored on Maggi single (1-0).
Top 4th: Curry solo homer (2-0).
Top 5th: Brown hit by pitch, scored on Grossman double (3-0).
Bottom 7th: Walters tripled, scored on Holt error (3-1); Hood reached on error, scored on Perez single (3-2).
Top 9th: Farrell doubled, scored on Holt triple (4-2).