Things were ugly early for the Curve. The first three batters Reading sent to the plate all scored, and an error by second baseman Jarek Cunningham allowed another run to come home in the second as the Curve dug themselves a four-run deficit.
However, the tables turned in the third inning when Altoona put a five-spot on the scoreboard and then proceeded to run away with the rubber game of a three-game series, 11-5, over the R-Phils Friday night before 4,408 fans at Peoples Natural Gas Field.
All five runs in the second inning were due to some small ball on the part of the Curve and manager P.J. Forbes. The Curve manufactured the five runs thanks to five singles, a walk, a sacrifice bunt and an RBI groundout.
Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec
Reading’s Brandon Tripp doubles ahead of the throw to Altoona’s Brock Holt during Friday’s game.
Situational baseball is something that is emphasized at every level in the Pirates organization and Forbes was pleased with the way his team executed. He added the second inning in which the Curve worked R-Phils starter Mario Hollands and got an RBI double from Jeremy Farrell was vital.
"I thought the second inning set up the third inning," Forbes said. "We keep our situational stuff and [in the third inning] we were outstanding. We got guys over, got guys in, sacrifice bunted, did all the little things, and ran the bases."
Matt Curry and Jarek Cunningham each had great nights at the plate, and both were just a triple away from hitting for the cycle.
Tonight: Binghamton at Altoona, 7 p.m.
Pitching matchup: Curve RHP Kyle McPherson (1-2, 4.76) vs. B-Mets RHP Cory Mazzoni (1-2, 6.35)
Covering the bases
LEADING OFF: For the second time this week, the Curve are within a game of .500. The Curve - who have not had an even amount of wins and losses since April 16 when they were 5-5 - had a chance to get to the .500 mark Tuesday in Binghamton, but fell 3-2.
SAFE AT FIRST: The first few pitches RHP Matt McSwain threw Friday were all right around 67 mph, and the right hander ending up hitting Reading's leadoff batter with one of them. Pitching coach Jeff Johnson called the pitches "big, slow curveballs" and they were something he wanted McSwain to throw. "Today, we were trying to teach our guys different things about getting out of their comfort zone, not being married to their routine," Johnson said.
STEALING SECOND: INF Kelson Brown made his first appearance since taking a pitch off his head on June 28 in Harrisburg. Though he wasn't in the starting lineup, Brown was used as a pinch hitter and struck out in the seventh inning.
ROUNDING THIRD: Altoona made two transactions Friday. RHP Gerrit Cole was placed on the temporary inactive list due to his scheduled participation in the MLB Futures Game on Sunday. Meanwhile, RHP Kris Harvey was activated off the disabled list and threw two scoreless innings to end the game.
HEADING HOME: The Curve begin a three-game series with Binghamton tonight. It will be their final series before next Wednesday's All-Star Game in Reading. The Curve took three in a four-game set with the B-Mets from June 30-July 3, and have a 5-2 record against them this season.
- Stephen Pianovich
Cunningham had three hits in four at-bats to go along with two RBIs, while Curry had even a better night.
Curry went 4-for-5, scored three times and drove in four runs, two of which came on a homer he hit down the right-field line in the fourth inning. The first baseman now has five home runs and 14 RBIs in 16 games since being activated from the disabled list June 20. Curry had two homers and 16 RBIs in 47 games this season prior to his a hamstring injury sidelined him.
"I'm just making adjustments. That's the biggest thing in this game, making adjustments and it's starting to work," Curry said.
The final two runs of the night for the Curve came in the form of back-to-back homers from Cunningham and Quincy Latimore. Both were towering shots to left field and it was the second time the Curve hit back-to-back homers this season, as Jeremy Farrell and Evan Chambers did it on June 16 in Binghamton.
McSwain (4-2) ended up getting into a groove after the rocky start and pitched through the fifth inning to pick up a win. In the five-inning effort, the righty allowed four runs - three earned - on six hits, and though he had to throw 92 pitches to get through the five frames, he struck out eight batters.
The Curve ended up chasing Hollands (2-2) after just three innings, and he gave up six runs on eight hits and threw 77 pitches.
With the victory, the Curve move to within a game of .500, and now also have won four of six contests this season against a Reading squad that is eight games above .500.
"That's a great team over there, Curry said. For us to come back on a team like that who usually doesn't let that happen, that shows a lot of resiliency. This team has a lot of resilience. We've had a lot of comeback wins. We've gotten down early sometimes, but we've been able to come back, we're never out of it."
Key player: 1B Matt Curry was 4-for-5, scored three times, and had a two-run home run as a part of a four-RBI night.
Key play: 2B Jarek Cunningham had an RBI single with two outs to cap a five-run third inning.
Key stat: Curry has five homers and 14 RBIs in 16 games since being activated off the disabled list on June 20.
How they scored
Top 1st: James hit by pitch, scored on Hernandez triple (0-1); Tripp double scored Hernandez (0-2); Asche single scored Tripp (0-3).
Top 2nd: James tripled, scored on Cunningham error (0-4).
Bottom 2nd: Curry doubled, scored on Farrell double (1-4).
Bottom 3rd: McSwain singled, scored on Tejeda single (2-4); Grossman singled, Holt walked, both scored on Curry single (4-4); Farrell groundout scored Tejeda (5-4); Cunningham singled scored Curry (6-4).
Bottom 4th: Grossman walked, scored on Curry two-run homer (8-4).
Bottom 6th: Grossman walked, scored on Tejeda triple (9-4).
Bottom 7th: Cunningham solo homer (10-4); Latimore solo homer (11-4).
Top 9th: Myers reached on Ferrell error, scored on Castro single (11-5).