Offense sputters again at PNG

It’s easy to describe the Curve’s offensive problems, but there is no easy fix for them.

“Our offense, we’re not doing very good right now,” Altoona manager Carlos Garcia said Monday night after watching his club get shut out on five hits.

Richmond won, 2-0, before 2,037 fans at Peoples Natural Gas Field, and the Curve have now scored only three runs in 38 innings while dropping four straight games.

“Frustrated? I’m not to that point yet,” Garcia said.

The manager, though, did admit, “We did everything to lose that game today.”

Some of the Curve hitters appear to be frustrated already, so the key will be keeping them focused and concentrating on their approach at the plate to get out of the team’s collective slump.

Sounds easy enough, but as hitting coach Ryan Long said, “There’s never an easy fix when you talk about hitting. It’s the hardest thing there is to do.”

The Curve once again got strong pitching, this time from David Bromberg in his season debut, followed by relievers Kenn Kasparek and Nate Baker.

Bromberg (0-1) allowed two runs, both scoring on a double by Javier Herrera in the third, while giving up four hits in five innings with four strikeouts and two walks. Kasparek threw three scoreless innings and Baker one.

“The only highlight I could probably tell you is the pitching,” Garcia said. “They’re giving us opportunities to score some runs, and we failed to do that.”

Poor hitting is one thing, but the Curve also had two key fundamental mistakes in the eighth inning that ruined their best rally opportunity.

“It’s a bad recipe when you get the fundamentals messed up,” Garcia said.

Alex Dickerson singled and pinch-hitter Adalberto Santos walked to start the eighth, then Gift Ngoepe tried bunting the runners to second and third. But Ngoepe’s bunt went right back to pitcher Tom Vessella, who threw to third for a forceout.

Another mistake by Ngoepe ended the inning. Mel Rojas Jr. beat out an infield single to third, but Ngoepe rounded third base too far on the play and was thrown out.

“He had the play right in front of him,” said Garcia, also the third base coach. “I don’t have to yell anything. He ain’t going to score. If he’d have scored, the game is still [2-1], so he has to be able to understand the situation and become a better baserunner.”

Jack Snodgrass (2-0) gave up only two hits over seven shutout innings for Richmond. The lefty threw the first six innings of a seven-inning no-hitter for the Flying Squirrels in his first start this season and has a 2.20 ERA.

Vessella earned his second save with two scoreless innings, and the Curve were shut out for the second time during their four-game skid.

“Today in particular the approach and plan just weren’t very good,” Long said of the Curve hitters. “We didn’t control the zone very well and were a little anxious. Sometimes when you struggle guys try to do too much, and that’s kind of what’s going on right now is guys pressing.

“I thought the games leading up weren’t as bad. I think it’s a combination of guys starting to press because they’re not getting some hits.”

That’s clearly been the case with the Curve the past four days.

“There’s a bunch of guys that aren’t real experienced at this level,” Long said, “so they’re going to go through a learning curve, which is good. That’s why we’re here.

“The big thing is they’ve just got to stay confident. Stay confident in the approach, trust it and it’s how you come out and how you handle it, because you’re going to go through spurts like this.”

Game recap

Key player: Richmond LHP Jack Snodgrass pitched seven shutout innings, allowing just two hits.

Key play: Flying Squirrels LF Javier Herrera drove home the game’s only runs with a two-run double in the third.

Key stat: The Curve have scored only three runs in the past 38 innings.

How they scored

Top 3rd: Stromsmoe singled, Adrianza walked, both scored on Herrera double (0-2).