Curve keep on winning
That’s the perfect word to describe the Curve and Justin Howard of late.
Howard, who was on a roll in July, extended the roll when he hit his fourth homer of the year as the Curve blanked Akron, 4-0, before 5,067 at Peoples Natural Gas Field on Friday.
The Curve have won eight of their last nine and are now just four games under .500 – the first time they have been that close to the number since June 20.
“We are playing well right now,” Curve manager Carlos Garcia said. “Now, we are rolling. We are putting all the pieces together. Hopefully we continue to do that.”
In his last 10 games, Howard has hit .400, driving in five runs and scoring six runs. In the last five, he’s hit .500.
While Alex Dickerson’s stellar June and July have overshadowed him. Howard finished July hitting .338 and has recorded four hits in seven at-bats in the first two games of August.
“Honestly, our approaches have been better as the year as gone on,” Howard said of his and Dickerson’s past two months. “[Ryan Long] has been working with us every day. He’s been keeping us on a roll, not really letting us go through that slump.”
Howard’s path hasn’t been the smoothest in becoming the Curve’s everyday first baseman.
He played just 20 games in April and May combined. He also spent time on Single-A Jamestown’s roster even though they weren’t playing at the time.
But due to Stefan Welch getting traded, Andrew Lambo being promoted and Matt Curry being hurt, Howard has hit .368 since the start of June.
“If you are hot, they are going to keep you in so I’ve been able to get on that roll,” Howard said. “I started to get more playing time and it just all snowballed from there.”
Howard has now played in 49 games since June 1 and has safely earned the position as the Curve’s everyday first baseman. He’s also contributed to the Curve’s 17-11 record since the start of July – the best in the Eastern League.
“He’s been huge,” Garcia said. “He’s played well. He’s a professional. He knows how to hit. He has a good understanding of the strike zone. He put a good battle every night. He gives you quality at-bats every night. I’m not surprised by what he his doing.”
Key player: RHP Casey Sadler earned his ninth win of the year, allowing three hits through six innings.
Key play: 1B Justin Howard hit a solo homer in the fifth inning, opening the scoring for the Curve.
Key stat: It’s the first time the Curve are four games under .500 since June 20.
How they scored
Bottom 5th: Howard homered (1-0); Rojas Jr. homered (2-0).
Bottom 7th: Howard doubled, scored on Vasquez fielder’s choice (3-0); Rojas walked, scored on Hanson double (4-0).