Nick Kingham pitched just fine, as it relates to throwing the ball from the mound to the plate. Some of his other throws, however, are what got him into trouble Thursday night.
Kingham committed two errors on pickoff throws - one leading directly to the decisive run - and also made a mental mistake on a comebacker when he didn't throw to second base immediately for what would have been an inning-ending double play.
Those were examples that as good as prospects are - and Kingham is the best the Curve have - that they still have things to learn every step of the development ladder.
Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski
Claire Nihart, 5, of Ashville gives Diesel Dawg a big hug during Altoona’s game against Richmond on Thursday.
"That's what we're here for, just try to perfect our craft," the pitcher said. "That's why they have a minor leagues, to work on things and try to perfect whatever you bring to the table that day."
Kingham gave up two unearned runs and lowered his ERA to 0.53, but he suffered the defeat as the Curve fell to Richmond, 2-1, before 2,257 fans at Peoples Natural Gas Field.
Altoona was getting shut out until Stetson Allie drilled a long homer to left-center in the ninth, but it wasn't enough to prevent a fifth loss in six games.
Covering the bases
LEADING OFF: Curve utility player Kelson Brown, playing 3B, crashed into the wall down the left field line chasing a foul ball in the eighth inning and had to be lifted with an ankle injury. Brown, who had just entered the game moments earlier replacing Jarek Cunningham on a double switch, said the ankle is sprained and will have X-rays today. Manager Carlos Garcia said he expects Brown to be out "a while."
SAFE AT FIRST: C Elias Diaz went 2-for-4 with a walk, raising his average to .400 (12-for-30). He also now has enough at-bats to qualify for the Eastern League leaderboard and is tied for third in hitting.
STEALING SECOND: Despite the loss, RHP Nick Kingham moved up to third in the EL with a 0.53 ERA. Both runs charged against him were unearned.
ROUNDING THIRD: CF Mel Rojas Jr. had his eight-game hitting streak snapped Thursday, going 0-for-4.
HEADING HOME: OF Josh Bell, one of the Pirates' best prospects, got off to a strong start at high-A Bradenton before cooling off lately. He was hitting .429 after seven games, then an 0-for-14 dropped him to .311 entering play Thursday. He has one homer, three doubles, two triples and four RBIs.
- Cory Giger
"We're making too many mistakes right now," said Curve manager Carlos Garcia, whose team committed four errors.
"If you don't take care of the baseball, which we didn't do that in a couple opportunities, we opened the door for them. It could have been a 1-1 game in the bottom of the ninth, but we gave them the opportunity to score another run with a bad throw."
There actually were two bad throws in the third inning that helped Richmond score both of its runs. Shortstop Alen Hanson's throwing error to open the frame allowed Tyler Graham to reach first.
Skyler Stromsmoe singled Graham to third, and the runner scored on Jarrett Parker's forceout.
Parker was at first base when Kingham's second errant pickoff throw went down the right field line. Parker made it all the way to third base and scored on Angel Villalona's sacrifice fly for a 2-0 lead.
Kingham avoided trouble after his first wild pickoff throw in the second as he worked out of the jam.
"I don't know what it was," he said of the low throws to first. "The grip was fine. Cold is not an excuse. It's just I threw it away."
Kingham also hurt his cause in the first inning when, with a runner on first and one out, he fielded a comebacker from Parker. The pitcher would have had an easy double play had he fired to second base immediately, but instead he took a few steps toward first base before realizing his mistake and throwing down to second for a forceout.
As it turned out, Kingham needed to throw 12 more pitches in the inning to get that extra out he would have had with a double play. That probably cost him a chance to pitch an extra inning, which would have saved pinch-hitter Justin Howard for a situation later in the game, such as the ninth when the offense threatened.
"I just needed to pay more attention to detail and be more aware of the situation," Kingham said. "Before the pitch, even before the batter stepped in, I knew what I had on a comebacker. It was just one of those brain farts that just happens."
The Curve offense didn't put up much fight until the ninth, then got a boost on Allie's second homer of the season. Elias Diaz later walked with two outs and stole second, but pinch-hitter Keon Broxton couldn't tie it up as he bounced out to second to end the game.
Clayton Blackburn (1-1) gave up just four hits over 6 scoreless innings for the Flying Squirrels, who have won four in a row against the Curve. Derek Law pitched the ninth for his third save.
Kingham (1-1) allowed five hits with three strikeouts and three walks over five innings in the loss.
Much like last season, the Curve have played well enough to win for the most part but have found ways to lose a lot of close games.
"Obviously we need to win. We need the Ws. That makes everything so much better for the team, for the mental health of the guys," Garcia said. "But you know what, they play hard. We play hard, we get the work in, we see the development, we see the approach, we see the enthusiasm and the energy. If I don't see those things, then yes, I have a concern. But those things are there."
The team, Kingham said, hasn't lost any confidence with the early struggles.
"I think we know what kind of team we are," he said. "We know we're better than what we're playing right now and what the record shows. I think we just need to trust ourselves and keep doing what we're doing, going out and trusting the process and what we know how to do."
Key player: Richmond RHP Clayton Blackburn threw 6 1/3 shutout innings for the win.
Key play: An error by SS Alen Hanson and a wild pickoff throw by RHP Nick Kingham helped Richmond score two runs in the third inning.
Key stat: The Curve have lost four in a row against Richmond and five of six overall.
How they scored
Top 3rd: Graham reached on Hanson error, scored on Parker groundout (0-1); Villalona sacrifice fly scored Parker (0-2).
Bottom 9th: Allie solo homer (1-2).