ERIE - The Curve need a big weekend at Erie if they are to have any shot of getting back in the playoff race, and things did not start out well in the series opener Friday.
The SeaWolves beat Altoona, 6-3, at Jerry Uht Park, scoring four runs in the third inning to take control. The Curve trailed second-place Erie by seven games for the second and final playoff spot in the Western Division entering the night, and this weekend's four-game series provides a big opportunity to cut into that deficit.
Instead, the SeaWolves stretched the lead over Altoona to eight games, and anything short of winning the next three games this weekend would make it highly unlikely the Curve can catch up with only 19 games remaining. The teams play a doubleheader tonight, then one more game Sunday.
The SeaWolves moved into a first-place tie with Harrisburg in the division with their win and the Senators' loss to Portland.
Erie jumped on Curve starter Nate Baker in the third inning, getting a pair of two-RBI hits for a 4-0 cushion. Jamie Johnson singled home the first two runs, and Tyler Collins doubled home two more for the four-run edge.
The SeaWolves went on to make it 6-1 in the sixth before the Curve scored twice. Carlos Paulino had a hand in all three Altoona runs as he went 2-for-2 with two runs, an RBI and a walk.
Covering the bases
LEADING OFF: OF Mel Rojas Jr. had won the previous two games for the Curve with clutch RBI hits, but he didn't have a chance to make it three in a row as he began serving his three-game suspension Friday for his role in last week's brawl against Harrisburg.
SAFE AT FIRST: As Rojas started serving his suspension, INF Drew Maggi and RHP Luis Sanz returned to action after serving their three-game suspensions at home against Portland.
STEALING SECOND: The Curve lost Friday, 6-3, but had an impressive four outfield assists against Erie. LF/CF Andy Vasquez had two, while CF Gregory Polanco and RF Alex Dickerson had one apiece.
ROUNDING THIRD: U Oscar Tejeda went on the DL Friday with a right ankle injury, while C Ali Solis rejoined the Curve from Triple-A Indianapolis. INF Kelson Brown went on the DL Thursday, retroactive to Tuesday, and RHP Tyler Waldron was promoted from high-A Bradenton. Waldron missed most of the season with a shoulder injury.
HEADING HOME: Pitching coach Stan Kyles was ejected during the ninth inning Friday night for arguing balls and strikes.
- Cory Giger
Baker (3-2) allowed five runs on 10 hits in five innings for the loss. He has had no success this season against Erie, posting a 10.80 ERA in six games (one start).
SeaWolves reliever Ryan Robowski (4-2) picked up the win after starter Drew VerHagen lasted just four innings, giving up no runs on two hits. Justin Souza worked the ninth to earn his 16th save.
Key player: Erie RF Jamie Johnson went 2-for-4 with three RBIs.
Key play: Johnson's two-run single and a two-run double by LF Tyler Collins gave Erie a 4-0 lead in the third inning.
Key stat: Erie and Harrisburg are in a good battle in the Western Division as they are tied for first place after Friday's action.
How they scored
Bottom 3rd: Douglas singled, Robbins singled, both scored on Johnson single (0-2); Fields singled, Cabrera singled, both scored on Collins double (0-4).
Bottom 4th: McCann solo homer (0-5).
Top 5th: Paulino walked, scored on Santos sacrifice fly (1-5).
Bottom 6th: McCann singled, scored on Johnson single (1-6).
Top 7th: Paulino hit by pitch, scored on Robowski wild pitch (2-6).
Top 8th: Howard hit by pitch, scored on Paulino single (3-6).