Curve offense arises
Everybody joined in on the hit parade for the Curve, who desperately needed a big offensive night and finally got one at home Friday.
Altoona’s struggling offense pounded out 18 hits and scored 14 runs – both tying season highs – in a 14-4 win over Richmond before 2,683 fans at Peoples Natural Gas Field. The Curve snapped a five-game losing streak and scored more runs in one game than they had in their previous six combined (13, including a suspended game Thursday at Reading).
“Over the last six games on the road trip, I think everyone was just kind of fed up with what happened,” said Curve second baseman Jarek Cunningham, who went 4-for-6. “To come home and have a good night, that’s huge for us.”
Every Altoona starter had at least one hit, including pitcher Jameson Taillon. Eight of the nine starters scored runs, and six had at least one RBI, with catcher Carlos Paulino setting a career high with four.
“That’s one of the things we talked about in early batting practice – we had Cunningham in there and Paulino, and the stuff we worked on in there, they put it together in the game,” Curve manager Carlos Garcia said. “Definitely we need those kind of nights from them.”
Charlie Cutler went 3-for-4 to raise his average to .349, and Mel Rojas Jr. scored four runs on his 23rd birthday.
The Curve scored a run in the third, three in the fourth on an Andrew Lambo bases-loaded triple and poured it on with six in the sixth for a 10-1 lead. Richmond scored three times in the seventh before Altoona came right back with three more in its half of the inning before scoring again in the ninth.
The outburst matched the Curve’s 14 runs and 18 hits April 9 at Akron.
Despite the offensive explosion, the game actually hinged in large part on the first inning.
Taillon gave up a leadoff homer to Jarrett Parker and got into a jam with two runners on and two outs. With Taillon’s pitch count already above 20 – and the Pirates’ strategy of not letting starters go much above 30 in any one inning – Garcia got a reliever up in the bullpen just in case Taillon ran into further trouble.
That didn’t happen, though, as the right-hander retired Ryan Lollis on a groundout to first to escape the jam.
“I knew my pitch count was up; I didn’t notice they had anyone up [in the bullpen],” Taillon said. “Obviously you never want to be taken out after one, so I’m glad I got to finish that inning, keep going and save the bullpen a bit.”
Taillon cruised after the first, lasting five innings and allowing no more runs on just three more hits. He finished with six strikeouts and three walks. Still, he threw so many pitches in the opening inning that it ultimately prevented him from going deeper into the game, and he was lifted after five innings and 98 pitches.
“That hurts you,” Taillon said of the sluggish first inning. “That from the get-go, that hurts you. But getting through five is always good, too.”
The game-time temperature was only 43 degrees, but Taillon said the weather didn’t impact his early performance.
“I’d just blame it more on me not being ready out of the chute,” he said.
The Curve and Richmond have played 14 times already this season, and Friday marked the fifth time Taillon has faced the Flying Squirrels. He’s also now made three consecutive starts against them, so given how familiar they are with him, holding them to one run in five innings was an accomplishment.
Taillon (3-5) also snapped a personal four-game losing streak and won for the first time since April 17 – against, of course, Richmond.
“It doesn’t matter how many times you face them or who you’re facing, if you command your pitches … you’re going to get guys out,” Taillon said.
Richmond starter Craig Westcott (2-5) allowed four runs in four innings for the loss.
Key player: Curve C Carlos Paulino went 2-for-5 with a career-high four RBIs, while 2B Jarek Cunningham went 4-for-6 with two RBIs.
Key play: LF Andrew Lambo’s bases-loaded triple gave the Curve a 4-1 lead in the fourth.
Key stat: The Curve had scored only 13 runs total in their previous six games before erupting for 14 Friday.
How they scored
Top 1st: Parker solo homer (0-1).
Bottom 3rd: Cutler singled, scored on Santos sacrifice fly (1-1).
Bottom 4th: Taillon singled, Rojas singled, Cutler singled, all scored on Lambo triple (4-1).
Bottom 6th: Rojas Jr. walked, scored on Cunningham single (5-1); Cutler singled, scored along with Cunningham on Howard double (7-1); Santos walked, scored along with Howard on Paulino triple (9-1); Hollingsworth single scored Paulino (10-1).
Top 7th: Parker walked, Duvall walked, both scored on Minicozzi three-run homer (10-4).
Bottom 7th: Rojas walked, scored on Santos single (11-4); Welch singled, Lambo singled, both scored on Paulino single (13-4).
Bottom 8th: Rojas walked, scored on Cunningham single (14-4).