Curve counting on duo to shine like this
Two players who have gone in opposite directions the past month came through with big games for the Curve on Wednesday, and if the club is going to sustain any offensive success, both of them will have to produce consistently.
Mel Rojas Jr. had two hits and two runs, while Adalberto Santos had two hits and two RBIs to lead Altoona past Reading, 7-3, before 4,285 fans at Peoples Natural Gas Field. The Curve technically have won four in a row, since Tuesday’s loss in the completion of a suspended game from May 23 actually doesn’t count against the streak.
Andrew Lambo delivered in the clutch again for Altoona – he’s become the most reliable run producer in the Eastern League with a circuit-best 14 homers and 44 RBIs – but Lambo, who went 2-for-3 with two RBIs and two runs, didn’t have to do it all himself.
The Curve scored five runs in the third inning and received key contributions throughout the order all night.
“It takes a lot of pressure off Lambo because he doesn’t have to feel like he is the only guy who’s producing in the lineup,” Curve manager Carlos Garcia said of the solid team offensive performance.
Garcia has to love seeing production from Rojas and Santos, in particular, considering how important those two are to the team’s overall success.
Santos can flat out hit, which he proved last season when he batted .340 for the Curve and early this year when he was at .345 on May 9. But Santos had been mired in a month-long slump that saw his average drop 114 points all the way down to .231 entering Wednesday.
The Curve cannot win consistently with Santos hitting in the .230s.
“I’ve been putting in a lot of work with our hitting coach [Ryan Long], just trying to get back to where I was and where I’ve been, and it’s starting to feel good and keeping my approach,” Santos said.
Hard work is one thing, but Santos also has gone back to one fundamental aspect of the game.
“I’m just staying focused, playing the game, having fun and getting away from all of the mechanical stuff and just really getting back to playing ball how I can,” he said.
Santos missed the final two weeks of April with a hip injury, and when he returned, Garcia said the hitter tried to do too much to help out the struggling offense.
“I think he probably put too much pressure on himself trying to pick up where he left off, and things didn’t click right away for him,” Garcia said.
A sign things could be changing for Santos came Wednesday as the right-handed hitter collected both hits to the opposite field.
“When you start hitting the ball the other way, that allows me to think now he’s confident, now he knows to let the ball travel,” Garcia said. “If you can hit the other way the way he did tonight, that’s it.”
While Santos has slumped since early May, Rojas has been a big force in the lineup. He was hitting .212 on May 7, but now he’s up to .263 after his two-hit effort Wednesday.
It took Rojas some time to get acclimated at the Double-A level, but now that he has, he’s become a much bigger threat at the plate.
“We’ve just got to help each other, get each other’s back,” Rojas said. “If someone doesn’t do the job, the next guy does whatever he can to either bring the runner in, get on base, make the pitcher pitch.”
Curve starter Stolmy Pimentel (3-3) snapped a personal three-game losing streak and won for the first time since April 29. He went six innings, allowing three runs – two earned – on six hits with seven strikeouts and one walk.
Reading starter Seth Rosin (3-4) gave up five runs in 2 2/3 innings for the loss.
SUBHD: Game recap
Key player: 1B/LF Andrew Lambo went 2-for-3 with two RBIs and two runs.
Key play: The Curve scored five runs in the third inning to overcome a 2-0 deficit.
Key stat: RHP Stolmy Pimentel won for the first time since April 29.
How they scored
Top 2nd: Mendonca singled, scored on Hewitt single (0-1).
Top 3rd: Duran reached on an error by Lambo, scored on Mendonca bases-loaded walk (0-2).
Bottom 3rd: Ngoepe walked, scored on Cunningham bases-loaded walk (1-2); Vasquez singled, Rojas Jr. walked, both scored on Lambo single (3-2); Cunningham walked, stole home (4-2); Lambo singled, scored on Santos single (5-2).
Bottom 5th: Lambo doubled, scored on Paulino double (6-2).
Top 6th: Valle homered (6-3).
Bottom 6th: Rojas singled, scored on Santos double (7-3).