Curve offense struggles again

The Curve have scored 18 runs total in their nine home games, and while that’s a small sample, it’s at the very least a troublesome trend in the early going.

Altoona struggled offensively again Saturday night in a 3-1 loss to Erie before 3,926 fans at Peoples Natural Gas Field. It was the 1,000th regular-season home game in franchise history, but the offense didn’t give the home crowd much to cheer.

The Curve have been productive on the road, averaging 5.0 runs per game, but it’s been a much different story averaging only 2.0 runs at home.

“What’s the secret?” Curve manager Carlos Garcia said before the question could even be asked. “I don’t know. Maybe they spend more time with their family here. Those stats, sometimes it’s hard to figure it out because when you’re at home, you’re comfortable, you take advantage of the home field, and we’re not doing that this year.”

Jameson Taillon started and went 5 innings for the Curve, giving up three runs on five hits with seven strikeouts and two walks. Taillon said he felt like he had his best stuff of the season, with a fastball that topped out at 99 mph and a good changeup, but he twice ran into trouble after retiring the first two batters of an inning and took the loss.

“One thing that I did see today is he needs to be better focused to close an inning down, because he has two quick outs, and to get the third out it took him a long time to do that,” Garcia said.

Taillon issued a two-out walk in the fourth inning, then gave up a single before Jamie Johnson tripled home both runners for a 2-0 Erie lead.

In the sixth, Taillon struck out James McCann on a nasty curveball for what would have been the third out, but the ball skipped away for a wild pitch and allowed Johnson to reach. James Robbins ripped the next pitch for an RBI double that ended Taillon’s night.

“I’ve never had any issues with it,” Taillon said of finishing off innings after getting two quick outs. “My last two starts I have a little bit. You get two quick outs, you’ve just got to put your foot on the gas and end the inning quick.”

Taillon (2-2) has done well going deep into games, but it took him 96 pitches to get through 5 2/3 innings.

“As a starter, that’s your No. 1 job is to go deep and keep your team in the game and compete, so I feel like I’ve done a pretty good job doing that so far,” Taillon said.

Erie starter Kyle Lobstein (2-2) gave up just one run on seven hits with eight strikeouts and one walk in eight innings. Justin Souza pitched the ninth for his fourth save.

The Curve were shut out until the seventh, when Carlos Paulino singled home Alex Dickerson. That’s all the damage the offense did, though, and as a team the Curve are hitting .212 at home, compared to .254 on the road.

“I think it’s just chance,” Dickerson said of the big disparity. “We’re only three-and-a-half weeks in, we can’t really judge anything like that in three-and-a-half weeks.”

Garcia has been able to judge one key thing so far.

“We’re not putting good at-bats together,” the manager said. “We don’t battle at the plate with two strikes. Sometimes we try to hit the long ball with two strikes; it doesn’t work like that. At 0-2 the pitcher’s got you [in a hole], so now you’ve got to try to stay inside of the ball, fight, fight, fight until you get a pitch that you can put a good swing on. We’re not doing that right now.”

Game recap

Key player: Erie LHP Kyle Lobstein gave up just one run in eight innings and struck out eight.

Key play: RF Jamie Johnson’s two-run triple in the fourth gave Erie a 2-0 lead.

Key stat: The Curve are averaging just 2.0 runs per game and hitting .212 as a team at home.

How they scored

Top 4th: McCann walked, Robbins singled, both scored on Johnson triple (0-2).

Top 6th: McCann struck out, reached on wild pitch, scored on Robbins double (0-3).

Bottom 7th: Dickerson reached on fielder’s choice, scored on Paulino single (1-3).