Curve come away with strange win

His teammate, Casey Sadler, called him “Clutchler.”

Some might have just called him lucky.

But either way, Charlie Cutler got the job done.

With two outs in the bottom of the ninth, Andrew Lambo on second and the game tied, Cutler sent a towering shot to deep center field that forced Richmond’s Jarrett Parker to retreat to the warning track.

Parker, who was in stride, stuck his mitt out and appeared to be in position for the catch.

Instead of making the play, the ball bounced out of Parker’s mitt, and Lambo scored to give the Curve a bizarre 2-1 walk-off win Sunday afternoon before 2,909 fans at Peoples Natural Gas Field.

“I think today the key thing was the hole in the center fielder’s glove,” Cutler, who was pinch hitting, said with a chuckle.

In a game where the Curve struggled with runners in scoring position (1-for-7) and have struggled at the plate in general with the Eastern League’s lowest batting average (.228), a break like that is one welcomed in the Altoona clubhouse.

“That really picked the energy up,” manager Carlos Garcia said. “The guys have been hitting the ball decent lately. We’ve been looking for those kinds of breaks.”

While the Curve were able to muster just three hits in the first six innings, righty Jameson Taillon kept the Flying Squirrel bats at bay, pitching six shutout innings and striking out eight.

“I’ve had a couple rough outings, a couple tough losses,” said Taillon, who had lost his previous three straight starts.

While Taillon didn’t get a decision, his ERA improved to 2.82, down from 3.26.

Both pitching staffs kept it close until Richmond’s Javier Herrera scored on a sacrifice fly in the top of the eighth. But in the Curve’s next chance at the plate, second baseman Neil Walker, in his final rehab game for Altoona, singled home the tying run.

Walker said he felt good to help get a win for a team that has been struggling.

It looked like the game was heading to extra innings before the fluke play in the bottom of the ninth. That’s when Garcia called on Cutler to pinch hit, and he put pressure on the defense to make a play with a 395-foot drive to center.

Cutler has struggled at times at catcher for the Curve. He’s only caught 3-of-23 runners stealing this year, and Altoona’s other catcher, Carlos Paulino, has stopped five times as many (15-of-34).

But where Cutler has succeeded is at the plate, hitting .311 overall and .333 with runners in scoring position and two outs.

“He believes he can do it,” Garcia said of the veteran hitter. “He looks for those situations, and he knows that I will put him in those situations.”

Garcia added that with two other catchers on the roster – Miguel Perez recently was activated – he is able to do more things, whether it is using Cutler as a pinch hitter or designated hitter.

“They both understand how things work,” Garcia said. “[Paulino] is going to have the majority of the playing time, but [Cutler] will catch. Now, having another catcher on the roster, [Cutler] probably will be the designated hitter when we play American League.”

The walk-off win comes before an off day for the Curve, who are 5-7 in May and 5-5 in their last 10.

“It’s a tough game,” Cutler said. “It kind of pushes you down a lot, but when you have something to feel good about it, you need to feel good about that.”

Game recap

Key player: RHP Jameson Taillon threw six shutout innings with eight strikeouts.

Key play: Richmond CF Jarrett Parker’s error in the bottom of the ninth cost the Flying Squirrels the game as the Curve’s Andrew Lambo scored the winning run.

Key stat: Taillon worked out of a jam with runners on the corner and didn’t allow a run in the fourth inning. He has struggled in that inning this year with a 9.00 ERA, giving up seven earned runs and his only homer this year.

How they scored

Top 8th: Herrera walks, scored on a Susac sacrifice fly (0-1).

Bottom 8th: Vasquez walks, scored on Walker single (1-1).

Bottom 9th: Lambo walks, scored on an error by Richmond’s Parker (2-1).