Curve sweep Trenton
There have been several points this season when it looked like things were slipping away from the Curve, who bottomed out at 13 games below .500.
Winning isn’t the top priority in the minor leagues, but the losing pace the club was on could have made this one long, miserable summer had it continued.
How quickly things have changed.
“We’re not going to quit, no matter what,” first baseman Justin Howard said after the Curve won their season-best fifth straight game Sunday night, 2-1, over Trenton before 5,382 fans at Peoples Natural Gas Field.
“We’re definitely starting to come together pretty well,” said pitcher Jameson Taillon, who gave up one unearned run in five innings.
The winning streak has pulled the Curve within seven games of .500 (30-37), the closest they’ve been in nearly a month. The surge has been impressive on several accounts, most notably that it’s come after all-everything slugger Andrew Lambo was promoted to Triple-A Indianapolis on June 8.
The team could have collapsed after Lambo’s departure, and sure enough, the Curve lost their first two games without him. But the five-game winning streak has followed, showing good character from a club that has struggled most of the season.
“You just can’t put all the eggs in one basket,” manager Carlos Garcia said. “I know Lambo contributed a lot for us, and it was kind of a concern after he left because offensively we weren’t doing anything and he was the guy who was carrying the team pretty much.
“That gives you a way to see how united these kids are,” Garcia added of the winning streak. “They play hard, and they play with energy.”
That’s all the manager has wanted to see from the team all year.
“As much as I love to win, winning is not my first priority,” Garcia said. “I just want to make sure they battle every night, they fight to play the game.”
The Curve have done just that during the winning streak, which started with a doubleheader sweep at New Britain on Wednesday and includes a weekend sweep of Trenton.
“It’s fun,” Taillon said of the recent success. “You can tell by the way we’re playing on the field we’re a lot more loose, guys have each others’ backs.”
Taillon skipped his last start because of a stiff neck and was on a 75-pitch limit Sunday. He struck out six, allowed six hits and didn’t walk a batter in his five innings, and while he reported no issues with his neck, he had some other trouble at the end of his outing.
“I got kind of sick at the end, I started like dry heaving a bit in the dugout,” Taillon said.
Howard singled home Jarek Cunningham for a 1-0 lead in the second, and Trenton tied it with an unearned run in the fourth. The Curve took the lead for good in the sixth when Adalberto Santos scored on an error by Thunder shortstop Reegie Corona.
“The keys have just been being aggressive on both sides of the ball,” Howard said. “There for a while at the start we were kind of just letting the game come to us, so we just made that adjustment and, hey, let’s go after it.
“We don’t care what the score is, we’re going to play hard no matter what. We don’t care what the record is, we’re going to play hard no matter what. We’re a family here, so we’ve got each others’ backs and we’re going to pick each other up.”
Luis Sanz earned his fourth save by closing things out in the ninth, after winner Quinton Miller (1-1) and Jhonathan Ramos held Trenton scoreless in the middle innings. Thunder starter Mikey O’Brien (4-2) took the loss.
The Curve are off today, then will try to extend the winning streak when New Hampshire comes to town for a three-game series beginning Tuesday.
The club will have a new pitcher for that series as left-hander Eliecer Navarro has been promoted from Single-A Bradenton, where he had a disastrous 1-9 record despite a very good 2.86 ERA in 13 games (11 starts). He lost his first nine decisions this season even though he had a respectable 3.48 ERA up to that point.
Key player: RHP Jameson Taillon gave up one unearned run and struck out six in five innings for a no-decision.
Key play: Curve 3B Adalberto Santos scored the decisive run on an error by SS Reegie Corona in the sixth.
Key stat: The Curve have won five in a row, a season high.
How they scored
Bottom 2nd: Cunningham doubled, scored on Howard single (1-0).
Top 4th: Pirela singled, scored on Santos error (1-1).
Bottom 6th: Santos walked, scored on Corona error (2-1).