Curve bats silent in 10-inning loss to Sens
Great pitching but no offense has been a bad formula for the Curve two days in a row.
Shut out Friday night, Altoona was blanked for nine innings Saturday to run its scoreless streak to 21 total innings before finally pushing across a run in the 10th. That was too little, too late, however, as Harrisburg had broken the scoreless tie in the top of the 10th and held on for a 3-1 win before 4,111 fans at Peoples Natural Gas Field.
“We’ve just got to made adjustments,” said Curve first baseman Matt Curry, who went 0-for-5 and left eight runners on base.
One of the major adjustments is coming through in the clutch.
“Basically what they’re doing is expanding the strike zone when we don’t have to, especially with men in scoring position,” Curve manager Carlos Garcia said. “We’ve got to understand the situation and stay tough in our approach, understand when the pitcher’s in trouble and get pitches over the plate and put a good swing on it.”
The Curve managed only five hits and wasted superb pitching performances by starter Stolmy Pimentel and reliever Jeff Inman. Those two combined to throw nine shutout innings, enough to win on most nights but not when the offense struggled once again.
Harrisburg starter Nathan Karns got lit up his first time out this season, giving up seven runs in 3 2/3 innings against New Britain. Karns was masterful against the Curve, though, striking out eight and allowing just three hits in five shutout innings.
Three Senators relievers also kept the Curve in check, then Aaron Barrett gave up a run and worked out of trouble in the 10th for his first save.
“They had a couple good pitchers the last couple days,” Curry said. “They’ve executed their game plan.”
Altoona’s hitters have not, striking out 13 times Saturday to go along with eight in Friday’s 2-0 shutout loss that wasted a dominant effort by Jameson Taillon.
“Probably just offspeed in fastball counts,” Curry said when pinpointing one of the biggest issues. “We’re a good fastball hitting team. Don’t get me wrong, you throw a guy out there that’s got powerful stuff, and we usually get to him. The guys we’ve struggled with are the guys that have those offspeed pitches they can throw for strikes in any count.”
Harrisburg broke through against reliever Luis Sanz (0-1) in the 10th, scoring three runs on three hits and an error. Brian Goodwin singled home Rick Hague for the first run and later came in on a sacrifice fly by Anthony Rendon. Destin Hood later added an RBI double that scored Sean Nicol.
Pat Lehman (1-1) won in relief for the Senators.
Pimentel put together his second consecutive strong start, tossing 6 1/3 scoreless innings with seven strikeouts. He allowed five hits and three walks and has opened the season with 12 1/3 shutout innings but still doesn’t have a decision to show for it.
“This year I feel a lot more comfortable with myself, my mechanics and my pitches,” the third-year Double-A pitcher said. “I feel like the experience of being in this league has helped me. I know the hitters much better, and I think that’s important when you can learn about the hitters.”
As good as Pimentel has been so far, Garcia offered a candid scouting report about what the pitcher needs to do better.
“[His] experience tells me that he understands he has a decent slider, a decent changeup,” the manager said. “For me he has to pitch inside. Today he barely pitched inside, and he had a good result with the breaking ball. But when you go to the upper levels, you have to be able to open up that inside part of the plate to be able to control the outside part of the plate.”
Inman followed Pimentel with 2 2/3 shutout innings to keep the game tied. Pimentel and Inman gave the Curve offense plenty of time to figure things out, but that didn’t happen for the second straight night.
Nicol robbed the Curve of a run with a diving stop at third base in the eighth to take an RBI double away from Jarek Cunningham. Altoona put a runner on third with two outs in the ninth as Adalberto Santos returned from his quadriceps injury and had a pinch-hit single. Drew Maggi walked and stole second, but Gift Ngoepe struck out to send the game to extra innings.
“The biggest thing about Double-A is just having to make adjustments,” Curry said. “We’ll make adjustments. It’s still early. A lot of the guys that are up here now haven’t seen this stuff yet, so hopefully they’re learning. I know I have seen it, and I’ve just got to make an adjustment from here.”
Key player: Senators RHP Nathan Karns struck out eight and gave up just three hits in five shutout innings.
Key play: Harrisburg CF Brian Goodwin’s RBI single in the 10th broke up the scoreless game.
Key stat: The Curve were shut out for 21 consecutive innings before scoring a run in the 10th on an RBI single by PH Stefan Welch.
How they scored
Top 10th: Hague singled, scored on Goodwin single (0-1); Rendon sacrifice fly scored Goodwin (0-2); Nicol reached on fielder’s choice, scored on Hood double (0-3).
Bottom 10th: Rojas reached on Barrett error, scored on Welch single (1-3).