HARRISBURG - The Curve's opponent this week has a great deal to play for as the season winds down, and it played like that Monday night.
Harrisburg had a pair of four-run innings and ripped Altoona, 12-5, in the opener of a four-game series at Metro Bank Park. The Senators are in a neck-and-neck battle with Erie for the Western Division title, and their win Monday maintained their half-game lead over the SeaWolves.
The Curve, meanwhile, again have dropped back to a season-low 13 games below .500, and they just haven't had enough consistent pitching to be a real threat day after day.
Lefty Nate Baker, who has had a disastrous season with a 6.30 ERA, gave up six runs on six hits and four walks in six innings to take the loss Monday. Only two of the runs were earned, and the Curve committed four errors, but Baker couldn't overcome a simple leadoff error in the third inning by shortstop Alen Hanson and then hurt himself with a balk moments later.
Harrisburg turned those mistakes into a four-running for a 4-1 lead, then added two more runs in the fourth off Baker (3-4).
The Curve cut it to 6-3 in the seventh, but reliever Jason Townsend then gave up four runs in the bottom of the inning to make it 10-3.
Tonight: Altoona at Harrisburg, 7 p.m.
Pitchers: Curve LHP Eliecer Navarro (4-6, 4.43) vs. Senators TBD
Alex Dickerson and Jarek Cunningham hit solo homers for Altoona, the 16th of the season for Dickerson and team-leading 17th for Cunningham. Justin Howard had an RBI triple, and Mel Rojas Jr. went 3-for-4.
The top of Harrisburg's lineup killed the Curve as three of the top four had three hits apiece. Billy Burns went 3-for-4 with four runs and two RBIs, while Brian Goodwin was 3-for-4 with three runs and two RBIs and cleanup hitter Justin Bloxom was 3-for-5.
Nathan Karns (9-6) gave up three runs on six hits and struck out eight over 6 1/3 innings to win for Harrisburg, which has the league's second-best record at 72-63. The Curve have the league's second-worst record at 61-74.
Key player: Senators leadoff man LF Billy Burns scored four runs, went 3-for-4 and drove in two.
Key play: Harrisburg took advantage of an error and a balk early in the third inning to score four runs for a 4-1 lead.
Key stat: The Curve are 13 games below .500, matching the season low point.
How they scored
Top 2nd: Dickerson solo homer (1-0).
Bottom 3rd: Martinson reached on Hanson error, scored on Burns double (1-1); Karns reached on bunt, scored on Souza sacrifice fly (1-2); Bloxom single scored Burns (1-3); Goodwin walked, scored on Nicol single (1-4).
Bottom 4th: Martinson walked, scored on Burns single (1-5); Goodwin double scored Burns (1-6).
Top 7th: Cunningham solo homer (2-6); Rojas Jr. singled, scored on Santos single (3-6).
Bottom 7th: Burns singled, scored on Goodwin triple (3-7); Bloxom single scored Goodwin (3-8); Souza walked, scored on Hague single (3-9); Nicol groundout scored Bloxom (3-10).
Top 8th: Dickerson singled, scored on Howard triple (4-10); Cunningham sacrifice fly scored Howard (5-10).
Bottom 8th: Burns walked, scored on Souza sacrifice fly (5-11); Goodwin doubled, scored on Bloxom single (5-12).