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Kickham tough on Curve

August 25, 2012
By Nate Foreman ( , The Altoona Mirror

The Altoona Curve lineup couldn't hit Richmond hurler Mike Kickham on Friday night.

But it didn't take long to put the ball in play when he wasn't pitching.

It was just too little, too late.

Kickham tossed a no-hitter through six innings and the Flying Squirrels' bullpen held on to give Richmond a 2-1 victory in front of 4,823 fans at Peoples Natural Gas Field.

The lefty, who improved to 11-10, struck out seven and walked five before he was pulled. He threw 103 pitches - only 58 for strikes - in six innings.

"He was effectively wild is how I look at him," Altoona manager P.J. Forbes said of Kickham. "He put men on base for us and we never had a quality at-bat with men on base. That was unfortunate because we could never capitalize.

Fact Box

Next stop

Tonight: Richmond at Altoona, 7 p.m.

Pitching matchups: Flying Squirrels RHP Justin Fitzgerald (7-7, 3.26) vs. Curve LHP Kris Johnson (1-2, 2.66)

Record: 63-68

"I'm disappointed because we pitched so well."

Altoona starter Brandon Cumpton had another productive outing, but again had no run support from the offense.

He scattered five hits, two walks and three strikeouts in six innings.

"We've done that a lot when Brandon has pitched," Forbes said of the lack of offense. "I feel bad for him."

Richmond was able to string a couple of hits together in the top half of the fourth inning and it paid off.

Johnny Monell drilled a leadoff double that one-hopped the wall in right. Then with one out and the infield in, Ehire Adrianza ripped a double down the first base line past a diving Jeremy Farrell to bring home Monell from third.

Cumpton was able to settle in and retire the next two batters to limit the damage.

The Flying Squirrels added an insurance run in the sixth when Mark Minicozzi drilled a slider over the left-centerfield wall.

"[Cumpton] really only missed with a couple of pitches, and those are the pitches that hurt," Forbes said. "But overall, I'm pleased with the outing. He threw a lot more strikes tonight."

Relievers Nathan Baker and Jeff Inman each were solid from the mound as well.

Baker struck out the side in the seventh, and Inman recorded four strikeouts and yielded one hit over the final two innings.

"Nate and Jeff were outstanding," Forbes said. "Their last two outings, especially Inman's, have been phenomenal. Hopefully those guys can continue and finish strong."

Once Kickham left the game, it didn't take long for Altoona to get its first hit or its first run.

Jeremy Farrell hit his 13th double of the season on the third pitch he saw to leadoff the bottom of the seventh inning.

Jarek Cunningham followed with a bunt single to the left side.

Farrell scored when Kelson Brown grounded into a double play, but that's when the Curve ran out of steam.

"That's the quality at-bats in the big situations," Forbes said of the lost momentum. "You've got to have those. It took the wind out of our sails.

"We had three bad at-bats in the eighth and battled in the ninth. We just didn't get the big one to fall."

Cumpton had some defensive help in the second inning to prevent the Squirrels from getting on the board early.

Shortstop Gustavo Nunez - a Rule 5 acquisition by the Pirates organization playing in his second game of a rehab assignment - covered a lot of ground to seal off Mike Kickham's two-out grounder up the middle in the second inning with runners on second and third.

Nunez struggled from the plate again, though, and has yet to get his first hit in a Curve uniform. He is now 0-for-8 after going 0-for-4 Friday night.

"I'm excited to play, and I feel pretty good," Nunez said, who is recovering from ankle surgery. "I'm working [on the offense]. It will come, but I'm still working."

Game notes: Altoona leads the season series over Richmond, 10-9. The loss snapped the Curve's four-game winning streak, while the Squirrels snapped a two-game losing streak. The quest for the franchise's 1,000th win will have to wait at least one more night. Altoona's all-time record is 999-967.

Game recap

Key player: Richmond's Mike Kickham tossed six no-hit innings before being pulled because of a high pitch count. He walked five and struck out seven.

Key play: Mark Minicozzi's solo home run in the sixth inning proved to be the game-winning tally.

Key stat: Altoona's Ramon Cabrera had his nine-game hitting streak snapped after going 0-for-3 with a walk.

How they scored

Top 4th: Monell doubled to right, scored from third on Adrianza double (0-1).

Top 6th: Minicozzi solo home run (0-2).

Bottom 7th: Farrell doubled, scored on Brown double play groundout (1-2).

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