AKRON, Ohio - The Altoona Curve used four early runs and made them stand up in a 5-3 victory over the Akron RubberDucks in the first game of the three-game series Friday night.
It was the Curve's fifth victory in a row.
With the win, the Curve (10-9) now are above .500 for the first time since they were 4-3 after a victory over Harrisburg on April 11, 2013.
The Curve kept their first-inning scoring prowess intact on Friday night, scoring two early runs in the first inning in support of starter Joely Rodriguez, who picked up his first win ever at the Class AA level.
With one out, Ducks starter Gabriel Arias (2-2) walked Gift Ngoepe and Stetson Allie to put two on. Mel Rojas, Jr. followed and cleared the bases with a triple to the gap in left-center and the Curve led, 2-0.
A member of the Pirates' 40-man roster, Rodriguez (1-2) faced the minimum in the first with some help from Elias Diaz, who threw out Francisco Lindor trying to steal with one away. In the second, the Curve once again made Arias pay for his free passes. This time, he hit Jarek Cunningham and walked Keon Broxton with one away. Alen Hanson popped out for the inning's second out, but Ngoepe smashed a double off the wall in right to score both Cunningham and Broxton to increase the lead to 4-0.
Today: Altoona at Akron, 2:05 p.m.
Pitching matchups: Curve RHP A.J. Morris (0-0, 2.53) vs. Ducks RHP Cody Anderson (1-2, 4.50)
Record: Curve 10-9
It was nearly smooth sailing from there for Rodriguez, who didn't really run into trouble until the sixth. The southpaw permitted a pair of runs - one earned - but was able to work out of the jam and finish the inning. It was a strong bounce-back start for Rodriguez, who was coming off of a pair of tough outings against Richmond.
Akron threatened in the eighth when the Ducks pulled within one run after an RBI triple by Tyler Naquin. The Curve offense, which had gone silent since the second inning in large part to Duke von Schamann, woke up in the ninth.
With one out, Diaz singled by Lindor and into left-center before Justin Howard smoked a screamer to right-center that scored Diaz from first for an insurance run. Ryan Beckman worked the ninth and picked up his second save of the season.