A tiny sliver of space under the right field wall, just barely big enough for a baseball to squirt through, gave the Curve a big break Saturday night.
A two-out double by Trenton in the eighth inning would have tied the game, but when the ball rolled under the wall, it resulted in a ground-rule double. The Thunder runner at first base, who likely would have scored on the hit to even things up, had to return to third base.
The Curve took advantage of the break as reliever Mike Colla retired the next hitter on a groundout to third to preserve a one-run lead that held up for a 5-4 victory before 7,106 fans at Peoples Natural Gas Field.
"It's better to be lucky than good sometimes," manager P.J. Forbes said after Altoona's fourth straight win.
Forbes earlier had thought his team was out of the eighth inning on a double play groundout, but Trenton's Rob Segedin was called safe on a bang-bang play at first. Forbes sprinted out of the dugout to argue.
The Curve didn't get the break they needed there, but did on the very next batter as the Thunder's Abraham Almonte hit the double that rolled under the wall. There's a gate there that opens so the grounds crew can bring equipment onto the field.
Tonight: Trenton at Altoona, 6 p.m.
Pitching matchups: Curve RHP Brandon Cumpton (10-9, 3.82) vs. Thunder RHP Dellin Betances (3-1, 4.23)
"I believe in the baseball gods," Forbes said. "Hell, maybe we were due for a break. We've had a lot of [stuff] go against us."
Colla shook off the double, which scored Adonis Garcia to make it 5-4, and stranded two runners in scoring position as Jose Pirela bounced out to third.
"It went our way on the next guy fortunately because, yeah, the other guy probably would have scored," Colla said.
At that point, Colla said he was only thinking about, "Shutting it down, that's what was going through my mind."
Forbes offered a funny description about the ground-rule double when he said, "You make your own breaks. Mikey threw it hard enough for him to hit it under the fence, and that's what happened."
The Curve grabbed an early 4-0 lead with two runs in the first two innings off Trenton starter Brett Marshall (12-5), who leads the Eastern League in wins. The Thunder rallied, though, with three runs - two earned - off Altoona starter Phil Irwin, getting one run when center fielder Quincy Latimore dropped a routine fly ball that would have ended the sixth inning.
Vic Black came on to pitch a filthy ninth inning, striking out all three batters on only 10 pitches (nine strikes) to earn his eighth save.
Curve pitching coach Jeff Johnson returned to the team Saturday after missing more than a week to be with his wife, Deirdre, while she underwent a stem cell transplant to combat cancer in her chest. Johnson said his wife is doing well and the diagnosis is good.
Key player: LF Oscar Tejeda went 2-for-4 with two RBIs and was part of a relay effort that cut down a Trenton runner at the plate in the second inning.
Key play: A ball that would have scored the tying run for Trenton in the eighth rolled under the fence for a ground-rule double, sending the runner back to third base.
Key stat: The Curve have won four in a row after losing eight straight.
How they scored
Bottom 1st: Santos hit by pitch, Curry singled, both scored on Tejeda double (2-0).
Bottom 2nd: Cunningham singled, scored on Latimore single (3-0); Welch doubled, scored on Maggi double play groundout (4-0).
Top 4th: Almonte singled, scored on Garcia single (4-1).
Top 6th: Murton hit by pitch, scored on Murphy sacrifice fly (4-2); Garcia hit by pitch, scored on Latimore error (4-3).
Bottom 7th: Cabrera doubled, scored on Curry sacrifice fly (5-3).
Top 8th: Garcia singled, scored on Almonte double (5-4).