Willy Garcia will never forget his first hit in Double-A, even if it did take him a little longer than he had hoped to get it.
The Curve played power ball Tuesday night with four solo home runs, and in fitting fashion, they won the game on a long ball. Garcia drilled a shot to left-center with one out in the ninth as Altoona walked off with a 4-3 win over Akron before 2,061 fans at Peoples Natural Gas Field.
"It feels really good to get my first walk-off home run of my career," Garcia said, with the help of Mel Rojas Jr. translating. "It feels good, especially since everybody was hitting base hits, home runs, and I couldn't get a hit the first four games."
Garcia had gone 0-for-11 entering his at-bat in the ninth inning, but he's one of the guys on this year's team who can change a game in a hurry. He hit 16 homers and drove in 60 runs last year for Single-A Bradenton.
"It's going to boost his confidence," Curve manager Carlos Garcia said. "First hit, game-winning home run, it can't get better."
Stetson Allie belted his first Double-A home run, while Rojas and Jarek Cunningham also hit their first of the season.
Tonight: Akron at Altoona, 6:30 p.m.
Pitchers: Curve LHP?Zach Dodson vs. RubberDucks RHP?Gabriel Arias
Covering the bases: B3
Allie's blast, in the first inning, was a laser shot to right-center and showed off his immense power. It also was his first hit of the season, and he said he wasn't sure the ball was going out.
"Actually, no, I didn't because everyone was saying how the ball doesn't travel to right," Allie said. "I knew I hit it well, and I was sprinting around the bases when it went over and thought, man, what a great feeling that was. First hit, home run."
Lefty Joely Rodriguez made his Double-A debut for the Curve, and the Pirates 40-man roster member gave up two runs on five hits in six innings. The RubberDucks had an incredible five stolen bases off Rodriguez in the third inning, leading to a pair of runs. Both Bryson Myles and Tyler Holt stole second and third base.
Four of the five steals were directly to blame on Rodriguez, while the fifth was a poor throw by catcher Elias Diaz.
"They really caught him by surprise because he is one of those guys with a high leg kick," Carlos Garcia said of Rodriguez
A pitcher needs to be in the 1.25- or 1.3-second range delivering the ball to the plate to give his catcher any chance. Garcia said Rodriguez was 1.4 to 1.5 seconds before he started going to more of a slide step.
"He worked on it tonight," the manager said. "He understood that to be able to compete he's got to do it. After that he did pretty well.
"That's one of the things he has to be more consistent doing, because if he doesn't do that he's going to have trouble in the upper levels."
Rodriguez took a no-decision, and Tyler Sample (1-0) won in relief, giving up one unearned run on just one hit in three innings.
The Curve did not hit a homer in their first three games before ripping four Tuesday.
"They crushed them," Carlos Garcia said. "You could see they were good swings. The ball was carrying very good, and they put good swings on them.
"I'm not looking for the home runs, but definitely I want the swing compact, short in the strike zone, and they did that tonight."
Tyler Sturdevant (0-1) took the loss in relief for Akron,
Key player: Four guys hit solo homers for the Curve: OF Willy Garcia, 1B Stetson Allie, 3B Jarek Cunningham and CF Mel Rojas Jr.
Key play: Garcia ripped a walk-off homer with one out in the ninth inning to give the Curve the win.
Key stat: The Curve hadn't hit a homer the first three games before belting four Tuesday.
How they scored
Bottom 1st: Allie solo homer (1-0).
Top 3rd: Smith walked, scored on Myles single (1-1); Holt reached on fielder's choice, scored on Lindor single (1-2).
Bottom 5th: Cunningham solo homer (2-2).
Top 7th: Smith walked, scored on Wolters double (2-3).
Bottom 7th: Rojas Jr. solo homer (3-3).
Bottom 9th: Garcia solo homer (4-3).