AKRON, Ohio - The Curve might not suffer a more disappointing loss all season than the one they had Thursday night.
Altoona belted four homers, two by Keon Broxton, and led by five runs entering the seventh inning but blew it, losing 9-7 to Akron at Canal Park. The RubberDucks rallied from a 7-2 deficit by scoring twice in the seventh inning and five times in the eighth, highlight by a grand slam from shortstop Francisco Lindor.
Broxton hit a solo homer in the fourth for a 5-1 lead and belted a two-run shot in the sixth to make it 7-2. Broxton has been on fire at the plate lately, with an eight-game hitting streak that has more than doubled his average from .136 to .278. He has collected two hits in three straight games and four of the past five.
Elias Diaz also smacked a two-run homer for the Curve, while Willy Garcia hit a solo shot. All of it went for naught, though, as the pitching staff - the strength of the team all season - failed to protect the 7-2 lead.
Akron cut the deficit to 7-6 when Ronny Rodriguez led off the eighth with a double and scored on a groundout against reliever Jhonathan Ramos, who allowed three runs. Ryan Beckman took over for Ramos but had a rough night, walking the first batter he faced to load the bases.
Lindor, a very impressive offensive shortstop, came up and drilled a ball over the wall in right for a grand slam to give Akron a 9-7 lead. Lindor is hitting .298 with a team-high 23 RBIs to go along with four homers.
Covering the bases
LEADING OFF: 1B Matt Curry joined the Curve on Thursday after a tough year for him. Curry broke the hamate bone in his right wrist last year and missed the rest of the season, and ironically, Thursday marked the one-year anniversary of his surgery. He wasn't healthy enough to start the season but, after missing a month, he's now back playing. He was the DH in his first game back, batted cleanup and went 1-for-4.
SAFE AT FIRST: Having Curry back presents an interesting situation. He's a proven left-handed hitter, and in most situations he'd be the primary 1B on this team. But the Pirates paid Stetson Allie more than $2 million, he has huge power potential and he has to play. Curry is a better hitter and fielder than Allie at this point, but that's not what the minor leagues are about. Curry will get his at-bats as a DH and some as 1B, but he also may need to learn to play the outfield.
STEALING SECOND: With Curry back, Justin Howard now appears to be the odd-man out, which has to be very disappointing for him. Howard was one of the best hitters in all of Double-A the second half of last year but didn't even have a job this season because of Allie. Now he's behind both Allie and Curry, so at-bats could be tough to come by for him.
ROUNDING THIRD: LF Keon Broxton, C Elias Diaz, RF Willy Garcia and 3B Jarek Cunningham each had two hits Thursday for the Curve.
HEADING HOME: Akron RF Jordan Smith went 4-for-4, while Tyler Naquin was 3-for-5 with three RBIs and three runs.
- Cory Giger
Curve starter Adrian Sampson was having a solid night, allowing just two runs through six innings, but he struggled in the seventh. Akron tagged him for two more runs to begin its rally.
Sampson entered the game with the best ERA in the Eastern League at 1.53, but he allowed four runs in 6 1/3 innings and now ranks second in ERA at 2.27.
Key player: SS Francisco Lindor went 3-for-5 with four RBIs and a run for Akron.
Key play: Lindor's grand slam in the eighth gave the RubberDucks the lead.
Key stat: The Curve blew a 7-2 lead.
How they scored
Bottom 1st: Naquin singled, scored on LaHair groundout (0-1).
Top 2nd: Curry walked, scored on Diaz two-run homer (2-1).
Top 3rd: Maggi doubled, scored on Rojas Jr. double (3-1).
Top 4th: Garcia solo homer (4-1); Broxton solo homer (5-1).
Bottom 5th: Smith singled, score don Naquin double (5-2).
Top 6th: Cunningham singled, scored on Broxton two-run homer (7-2).
Bottom 7th: Smith doubled, scored on Naquin double (7-3); LaHair double scored Naquin (7-4).
Bottom 8th: Rodriguez doubled, scored on Naquin fielder's choice (7-5); Wolters hit by pitch, Holt walked, both scored along with Naquin on Lindor grand slam (7-9).