HARRISBURG - The Curve haven't had much trouble getting off to good starts, but finishing games has been a problem.
They still had an issue with the latter part Wednesday afternoon, but only after building a comfortable cushion.
Altoona scored two runs in the first inning and three in the eighth, then held on during another shaky ninth inning for a 5-2 win over Harrisburg at Metro Bank Park. The Curve snapped a four-game losing streak and begin a seven-game homestand starting tonight.
The start of the 10:30 a.m. scheduled game was delayed by more than an hour because of cold, and it was only 32 degrees when play finally got under way shortly before noon.
The cold didn't bother Altoona's hitters in the first inning. Gift Ngoepe walked and Stetson Allie doubled with one out, then Mel Rojas Jr. drove in both with a single to left-center for a 2-0 lead.
The early cushion held up for most of the day, thanks mostly to a superb outing by starter Adrian Sampson. The first-year Double-A pitcher tossed six shutout innings, giving up only three hits with six strikeouts and three walks.
Tonight: Richmond at Altoona, 6:30 p.m.
Pitchers: Curve RHP Nick Kingham (1-0, 0.75) vs. Flying Squirrels RHP Clayton Blackburn (0-1, 3.00)
Covering the bases
LEADING OFF: The Curve went 2-4 on their road, trip, but it easily could have been 4-2 as they blew a 4-1 lead in the ninth and 3-0 lead in the eighth in two of the losses.
SAFE AT FIRST: Former Curve OF Quincy Latimore, who was slated to be with the Curve this season but was released by the Pirates at the end of spring training, has been assigned to the Harrisburg Senators after signing with the Washington Nationals. Latimore made his Senators debut Wednesday against the Curve and struck out as a pinch hitter. Latimore played for Altoona in 2011 and '12.
STEALING SECOND: RHP Adrian Sampson not only pitched six shutout innings Wednesday, he also went 1-for-2 at the plate. That was his second hit of the season and of his career, and he's now 2-for-4.
ROUNDING THIRD: SS Alen Hanson went 0-for-5 Wednesday to drop his average to .186. Two other regulars also are hitting below .200: RF Willy Garcia (.146) and LF Keon Broxton (.136).
HEADING HOME: The Curve play Richmond tonight through Saturday at home, are off for Easter and welcome Harrisburg for four games Monday through Thursday.
- Cory Giger
The Curve have only four wins, and Sampson (2-1) has two of them. He's allowed just three runs and 11 hits in 17 innings over his three starts, striking out 16 with five walks.
A.J. Morris followed Sampson with two scoreless innings of relief.
Willy Garcia doubled the lead to 4-0 in the eighth with a two-run double that scored Ngoepe and Allie, both of whom walked. Rojas later came home on a sacrifice fly by Jarek Cunningham to make it 5-0.
The insurance runs turned out to be very important as the Senators put together a rally in their final at-bat. The Curve already had blown 4-1 and 3-0 leads in the eighth or ninth inning on the trip, but this time they held on.
Ryan Beckman gave up two runs and three hits, but a big double play groundout by Matt Skole helped the Curve pitcher minimize the damage.
Senators starter Felipe Rivero (0-3) took the loss as his team dropped to an Eastern League-worst 3-9.
Key player: Curve RHP Adrian Sampson threw six shutout innings and allowed only three hits for the win.
Key play: Mel Rojas Jr.'s two-run single in the first put the Curve on top to stay.
Key stat: The Curve snapped a four-game losing streak.
How they scored
Top 1st: Ngoepe walked, Allie doubled, both scored on Rojas Jr. single (2-0).
Top 8th: Ngoepe walked, Allie walked, both scored on Garcia double (4-0); Rojas reached on Bantz error, scored on Cunningham sacrifice fly (5-0).
Bottom 9th: Bantz singled, scored on Taylor double (5-1); Nicol singled, scored on Skole double play groundout (5-2).