ERIE - Pitching is supposed to be the Curve's strength this season, but it didn't look that way in Thursday's opener.
Tiny Jerry Uht Park has a way of doing that to pitching staffs.
Erie pounded Altoona's pitchers in a 10-6 win to send 3,689 fans home happy on a clear but frigid Thursday night. Pitchers usually have the advantage in cold weather, but the SeaWolves disproved that by ripping 12 hits, with seven going for extra bases, including a grand slam by Daniel Fields that broke open the game.
"It's just getting the first-game jitters out of the way," said Curve starter Brandon Cumpton, who allowed four runs in five innings. "I think we'll be all right after this."
The Curve won their final six games last season, so Thursday's loss snapped that streak. They scored six runs on 10 hits, getting two apiece from Jarek Cunningham, Matt Curry and Alex Dickerson, but the offense didn't get much help from the pitching.
Former Curve catcher Ramon Cabrera, who was traded to the Tigers organization in the offseason, had a big night in his Erie debut with a 3-for-5 game and helped the SeaWolves grab a 4-2 lead after three innings. Altoona was within 4-3 in the bottom of the sixth until Fields crushed a 2-1 pitch from reliever Nathan Baker for a grand slam to cap a five-run inning.
Tonight: Altoona at Erie, 6:35 p.m.
Pitching matchups: Curve RHP Casey Sadler vs. SeaWolves RHP Patrick Cooper
"It was a good pitch, but he kind of left it up, I was able to get it with a good swing," Fields said.
Baker had a rough and short night. The lone lefty on the Curve staff allowed five earned runs on three hits and two walks in just 1/3 of an inning, leaving him with a 135.00 ERA.
"Baker did it to himself," Curve manager Carlos Garcia said, referring to Baker's control problems. "He didn't throw the ball over the plate. When that happens, what do you expect?"
Cumpton (0-1), who finished second in the Eastern League with 12 wins last year, struck out six and walked two. He struggled at times, but he also caught a bad break that allowed Erie to take the lead for good in the third.
The game was tied at 2-2 when the Curve got Erie's Tyler Collins caught up in a rundown between second and third. Instead of throwing home to gun down Fields for the second out and giving the Curve momentum in the inning, third baseman Adalberto Santos tried tagging Collins going to third, letting Fields score.
Making matters worse, Santos missed the tag on Collins, so the runner made it to third. Cabrera then doubled to make it 4-2.
"It definitely changed that inning. ... The game should have been tied with two outs," Garcia said. "Definitely it's a play that we practice in training camp, and we have to be able to execute it with no problems. Anticipation wasn't there."
The Curve were still in the game after Drew Maggi doubled in Gift Ngoepe in the fifth, but Fields' grand slam in the sixth all but sealed it for the SeaWolves.
Erie starter Kyle Lobstein (1-0) earned the win, giving up three runs on three hits in five innings. The Curve missed a chance to do a lot of damage against him early as they loaded the bases with no outs in the second inning but managed only one run.
Key player: Erie CF Daniel Fields had a grand slam and went 2-for-5.
Key play: Fields' grand slam gave the SeaWolves a 9-3 lead in the sixth.
Key stat: Seven of Erie's 12 hits went for extra bases.
How they scored
Top 2nd: Lambo walked, scored on Paulino double play groundout (1-0).
Bottom 2nd: Gaynor singled, Cabrera singled, both scored on Castillo double (1-2).
Top 3rd: Cunningham solo homer (2-2).
Bottom 3rd: Fields singled, scored on Gaynor single (2-3); Collins walked, scored on Cabrera double (2-4).
Top 5th: Ngoepe walked, scored on Maggi double (3-4).
Bottom 6th: Cabrera doubled, scored on Robbins double (3-5); Castillo walked, Robbins walked, both scored along with Robbins on Fields grand slam (3-9).
Top 7th: Dickerson singled, scored on Rojas single (4-9).
Bottom 8th: Perez doubled, scored on Gaynor single (4-10).
Top 9th: Howard walked, scored on Cunningham double (5-10); Curry single scored Cunningham (6-10).