Curve win twice in one day
What began as a gray, overcast morning turned into a brilliant, sunny Wednesday afternoon for the Altoona Curve.
After pushing over a run in the bottom of the 11th inning to notch a 2-1 victory in the completion of Tuesday night’s suspended game, the Curve rode another outstanding pitching performance by Jameson Taillon and held off Richmond, 4-3, in Wednesday’s regularly-scheduled game at Peoples Natural Gas Field.
The first Kids’ Day game of the spring was played in front of 2,191 fans.
“We needed those wins the way we’ve been playing offensively,” Curve manager Carlos Garcia said. “We weren’t playing great. We weren’t running the bases well, but today was a different day.”
Charlie Cutler’s ninth-inning double Tuesday scored Andy Vasquez to break a 17-inning scoreless streak that began in the first game of the series Monday. However, the Curve couldn’t complete the comeback and, when the rains came, the teams picked up the action Wednesday morning.
Cutler was at the center of things again as he led off the 11th by reaching on a fielding error by Richmond pitcher Fabio Castillo. After Mel Rojas Jr. walked and pitcher Luis Sanz’s sacrifice attempt failed, Andrew Lambo laced a single to right and Cutler scored the winning run.
“That’s the great thing about baseball,” Garcia said. “Every day is different. Yesterday, Cutler tied it, and today, he won it.”
That set the stage for another impressive outing by Taillon in the second game. The Pirates’ No. 2 prospect needed 24 pitches (including two walks) to get through the first inning, but he quickly gained his composure and was outstanding the next six innings.
Garcia said he did not tell the club the importance of winning Wednesday before heading out of the road again.
“We joked around a little,” he said. “It wasn’t a big meeting, but they came back and finished what we started last night. It was nothing big, just normal talk.”
Taillon left after the seventh inning with a 4-0 lead, giving up only two singles while striking out six and walking three on 101 pitches.
“The bar is up there, and we expect nothing less,” Garcia said. “He pitched part of the season last year with me [in Bradenton.] I’ve seen him when he’s really, really good. Today, he was a little shaky, but he picked up after the second inning and his fastball dominated the inside part of the plate. That makes his breaking ball even better.”
Taillon said he has a lot of flexibility in what pitches he uses during a game, noting that he used both fastballs and curves yesterday while using his changeup sparingly.
“It’s about getting outs,” he said. “That’s what I’m doing.
“I feel prepared every time I go out there. I know what I want to do, what I want to throw. I just go about my business and so far, so good.”
The Curve, who earlier in the homestand went 20 consecutive scoreless innings against Harrisburg, gave Taillon a 2-0 cushion in the first inning. Rojas Jr. walked and Kelson Brown, making his first start of the season, singled. When pitcher Chris Gloor’s attempted pickoff hit Brown, Rojas raced to third and scored on Lambo’s sacrifice fly. Cutler’s double sent Brown to third and he scored on Drew Maggi’s groundout.
The Curve made it 4-0 with a pair of runs in the sixth. Rojas doubled and moved up on Brown’s sacrifice. Lambo’s singled plated Rojas for a 3-0 lead and Maggi’s single scored Lambo, who had stolen second.
Besides driving in two runs, Maggi made two outstanding defensive plays in left field.
“This kid is a hard-nosed player,” Garcia said. “Wherever I put him in the lineup, he goes out there and just loves to play. He just wants to be in the lineup and contribute, and he brings a lot of energy to the ballclub.”
Nathan Baker relieved Taillon after the seventh, but walked two batters and served up a three-run homer to Javier Herrera that enabled the Flying Squirrels to cut the lead to 4-3.
Altoona turned to Jeff Inman who earned his first save of the season by retiring five straight batters [three by strikeout] over the final 1 2/3 innings.
“That’s the difference when you’re throwing the ball over the plate,” Garcia said of Inman. “When you pitch to contact and attack the strike zone, they expand the strike zone. That’s what he did – he threw strikes and made them swing.”
Key player: Jameson Taillon pitched seven scoreless innings, giving up only two hits, striking out six and walking three while throwing 101 pitches.
Key play: Drew Maggi made two outstanding catches in left field to preserve the shutout.
Key stat: Now 2-1, Taillon lowered his ERA to 1.00
How they scored
Bottom 1st: Rojas walks, Brown singles; Rojas advances on throwing error and scores on Lambo sacrifice fly (1-0); Cutler doubles Brown to third and Brown scores on Maggi groundout (2-0).
Bottom 6th: Rojas doubles, scores on Lambo single (3-0); Lambo steals second and scores on Maggie single (4-0).
Top 8th: Adrianza walks, Panik walks, Herrera homers (4-3).