Offense in a funk for Curve
The Curve are making a bad habit out of wasting good starting pitching.
The club has scored just three runs in its past three games – all losses – and clutch hitting has been virtually non-existent. The struggles continued Sunday afternoon in a 4-2 loss to Harrisburg before 3,043 fans at Peoples Natural Gas Field.
“Right now it’s not going our way, simple as that,” Curve manager Carlos Garcia said.
It’s the same offense that scored nine runs in one inning last week at Akron in a 14-run explosion, but the offense was anything but explosive over the weekend in scoring just the three runs in 28 innings to drop three in a row.
The Curve have stayed in games thanks to strong starting pitching, and they got another good outing Sunday from Tyler Waldron. The right-hander gave up two runs on six hits in six innings but was saddled with the loss.
“Pitching and offense, they’re both contagious,” Waldron said.
Getting them both contagious in a good way was the Curve’s issue against Harrisburg.
“[The Senators] have decent pitching,” Garcia said. “I don’t want to give all the credit to them, but I mean, they’re throwing the ball very well keeping our hitters off balance for the most part.”
Andy Vasquez homered for the Curve in the third to tie the game at 1-1, but Harrisburg took the lead for good with a run off Waldron (0-2) in the fifth. The Senators added two big insurance runs off reliever Ethan Hollingsworth in the seventh for a 4-1 lead.
The Curve didn’t go quietly in the ninth, thanks in large part to Charlie Cutler, who manufactured his own run. He singled, swiped second, took third on a groundout and came home on a sacrifice fly by Drew Maggi.
Altoona continued to battle, with Vasquez reaching on an error and Jarek Cunningham drawing a two-out walk to put the tying runs on base. That brought up Matt Curry, a proven Double-A hitter who worked a 3-0 count against Senators reliever Marcos Frias.
Curry is a left-handed hitter against Frias, a righty, and the Curve had another lefty on deck in Andrew Lambo. Garcia decided to give Curry the 3-0 green light to see if he could put a charge into one.
Curry didn’t get a good swing on the pitch and grounded to shortstop for a game-ending forceout at second.
“I’m trying to find out who can be able to hit in 3-0,” Garcia said.
That’s the learning process taking place early in the season for both the manager and the Curve players as they get to know each other and understand strengths and tendencies. Garcia said he respects Curry’s “effort and his knowledge of the game” to see if he could deliver in that spot.
“Definitely he’s got to look for a pitch that he can drive,” Garcia said. “I don’t expect at 3-0 to hit a groundball to shortstop.”
Frias earned his first save for the Senators, while starter Brian Broderick (1-0) picked up win after allowing one run on three hits in five innings.
The Curve collected seven hits, with Cutler’s 3-for-4 leading the way, but they stranded 10 on base.
“The only thing we can do is come back [today], have a good, positive attitude through the workout and try to stay positive and try to play a better nine-inning game,” Garcia said.
One thing that has to be helping the hitters is knowing the pitching staff is capable of keeping the team in the game every day. The Curve are tied for second in the Eastern League with a 3.78 team ERA, and they’re just barely behind Erie (3.76) for the top spot.
One of the big keys has been the starters avoiding early troubles so they can go deep into games.
“It builds our confidence, and at the same time, it helps out our bullpen,” Waldron said. “We’ve yet to have a starter get knocked out of a game early, so it’s keeping our entire staff live, ready to go.
“I think for [the offense] too it’s confidence knowing that our guys are for real on the mound every fifth day and we’re going to go deep into the game.”
SUBHD: Game recap
Key player: Harrisburg CF Brian Goodwin went 3-for-5 with three runs.
Key play: RBI singles by SS Jose Lozada and 3B Anthony Rendon gave the Senators a 4-1 lead in the seventh.
Key stat: The Curve have scored only three runs in 28 innings during their three-game losing streak.
SUBHD: How they scored
Top 3rd: Goodwin doubled, scored on Lozada single (0-1).
Bottom 3rd: Vasquez solo homer (1-1).
Top 5th: Goodwin double, scored on Rendon double (1-2).
Top 7th: Hague singled, scored on Lozada single (1-3); Goodwin singled, scored on Rendon single (1-4).
Bottom 9th: Cutler singled, scored on Maggi sacrifice fly (2-4).