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Curve win final six games of season

September 4, 2012
The Altoona Mirror

From Mirror reports

ERIE - The 2012 Curve players and coaches can call themselves winners, finishing with a 72-70 record.

That's quite an accomplishment given that the team went through several long losing streaks and struggled mightily on the road. But the Curve showed resiliency bouncing back from tough stretches time and again, and they accomplished the Pirates' primary goal for the entire organization as they did indeed "finish" the season.

Altoona won its final six games of the year and 13 of its last 16, with Monday afternoon's 2-1 victory over Erie at Jerry Uht Park clinching a winning record.

"It means a lot to those guys," manager P.J. Forbes said of his club finishing above .500.

"I'm excited for them because I knew that was one of the goals down the stretch to find a way to get that accomplished, and they did."

The Curve finished third in the Western Division behind Akron and Bowie and didn't make the Eastern League playoffs. Still, after starting the season 13-22, they went 59-48 the rest of the way to top the .500 mark.

The team showed its resiliency early when, after dropping six in a row to fall to 13-22, it rebounded by winning seven straight.

The wild up-and-down streaks continued. The Curve suffered a season-long eight-game losing streak from July 31 to Aug. 7 and had a crushing 13-game road losing streak spanning from July 25 to Aug. 19. Those two streaks ultimately kept the team out of the playoffs, but the team didn't let the skids prevent it from having a winning season.

"It says a lot about the players," Forbes said. "They went though some stretches that very easily could have made them fold their tent and not finish. And they never did that - they never did that the whole season, they never did it during games. They kept fighting and finding a way."

Altoona went 44-27 at home and 28-43 on the road. The club looked lost on the road in losing 13 in a row, but it figured out that problem by winning its final seven games away from home.

The Curve scored two runs in the second inning Monday and made it hold up behind strong pitching.

Starter Brandon Cumpton (12-11) allowed one run on only two hits in six innings for the win, while Erie starter Jared Wesson (7-11) took the loss despite giving up just two runs in seven innings and striking out 10.

Hunter Strickland worked two shutout innings of relief for Altoona, then Vic Black finished off the game and one of the best seasons ever by a Curve reliever as he worked a scoreless ninth to earn his 13th save and finish with a 1.65 ERA. Black's ERA is fourth best in franchise history among pitchers with at least 55 innings in a season.

The Curve played Monday without outfielder Oscar Tejeda, who was designated for assignment by the Pirates before the game.

Former Curve infielder Brock Holt won the Eastern League batting title with a .322 average. He was called up to Triple-A a month ago but had enough plate appearances with Altoona to qualify for the EL leaderboard.

"I'm proud for him," Forbes said. "He came a long way growing up this year, went through some tough times. But I think it says what type of kid he is, the resiliency. I'm just happy for him, and for [hitting coach] Ryan Long, the tireless work that goes unnoticed that he does in the cage every day with every guy."

Holt, who was called up to the Pirates on Saturday, is the second straight Curve player and third in franchise history to win the batting title. Starling Marte won it in 2011, and Jeff Keppinger won it in 2004 as he started the season with Altoona, was traded to the Mets and finished with Binghamton.

"I'm just happy for the organization with back-to-back batting titles, which says a lot about what we have coming," Forbes said. "And those guys are only going to get better."

The Pirates' top two affiliates enjoyed success this year as the Curve finished with a winning record, and Triple-A Indianapolis went an astounding 89-55 to easily win its division in the International League.

"I think the organization has a lot to be proud of, obviously with what Indy's done and how we finished," Forbes said.

Game recap

Key players: SS Kelson Brown went 4-for-4 to finish with a .290 average, and C Charlie Cutler went 2-for-4 with two triples and a run.

Key play: Cutler tripled leading off the second inning to ignite a two-run frame for the Curve.

Key stat: The Curve won their final six games and 13 of their last 16 to finish 72-70.

How they scored

Top 2nd: Cutler tripled, scored on Latimore single (1-0); Chambers single scored Latimore (2-0).

Bottom 3rd: Douglas walked, scored on Johnson groundout (2-1).

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