Curve’s margin for error gets smaller

The Curve are in last place and would have to jump four teams to do it, but manager Carlos Garcia believes his club still has a good chance to make the playoffs with one month remaining.

“It is realistic,” Garcia said.

“I think these kids have enough talent, enough tools to be able to overcome that hump,” the manager added. “Definitely we’ve come a long way, and I want to see them excel.”

The Curve have played significantly better in the second half, but they let two close games slip away over the weekend to wrap up a homestand. Akron rallied in the ninth inning to win Saturday night, and Sunday the Aeros won, 4-3, before 6,262 fans at Peoples Natural Gas Field.

The Curve are 6 games behind first-place Harrisburg in the Western Division and 6 games behind second-place Erie. The good news is Altoona has games left against those teams – seven against the Senators, four against the SeaWolves – but the bad news is they’re also behind Bowie, Akron and Richmond in the standings.

The Curve would need to finish at least in second place to reach the playoffs, and they have 30 games left to make up the ground.

“If you see Erie, they don’t have a great team, and they’re probably four or five games over .500,” Garcia said. “Harrisburg is a team we’re going to play a few times, and hopefully we can have a great series with them.

“It’s not like I’m unrealistic,” Garcia added. “The numbers can be there.”

The Curve have the second-worst record in the Eastern League, but as Garcia said, mathematically there is still some reason for hope. One big winning streak of five or more games probably would put the team right in contention down the wire.

“Yeah, sure, why not?” third baseman Adalberto Santos said of the playoff possibility. “Why would you ever shoot for something low? That’s what we’re shooting for, make the playoffs, keep playing well, keep playing team baseball and anything’s possible.”

The players, Santos mentioned, appreciate hearing their manager talk about the playoffs being a goal, even if it would seem like a long shot.

“Him wanting those goals makes us want those goals and makes us push more, and he pushes us to get there,” Santos said.

The Curve were in position to pick up a win Sunday, tied 2-2 in the seventh, before Akron scored twice off reliever Zack Thornton (1-1). The Aeros had taken a 2-0 lead in the fifth off Altoona starter Nick Kingham, but Santos doubled home two runs to tie it in the sixth.

Down 4-3 in the seventh, the Curve failed to cash in on a one-out, bases-loaded opportunity as Alen Hanson grounded into a crisply turned 3-2-3 double play. Hanson, the prized shortstop prospect just up from Single-A Bradenton, is off to a slow start, hitting 4-for-28 (.143) in six games.

Akron starter Toru Murata (5-5) gave up three runs in 6 1/3 innings for the win, while Jose Flores worked the ninth for his 12th save.

Game recap

Key player: Akron RF Carlos Moncrief went 2-for-5 with two big RBI hits, a triple in the fifth and go-ahead single in the seventh.

Key play: SS Alen Hanson bounced into an inning-ending double play with the bases loaded and the Curve trailing 4-3 in the seventh.

Key stat: There were three balks called, including two on back-to-back plays in the first inning by Akron’s Toru Murata, which led to Aeros manager Edwin Rodriguez getting ejected.

How they scored

Top 5th: Lindor singled, scored on Aguilar sacrifice fly (0-1); Hunter singled, scored on Moncrief triple (0-2).

Bottom 6th: Vasquez singled, Maggi singled, both scored on Santos double (2-2).

Top 7th: Lindor walked, scored on Moncrief single (2-3); Hunter doubled, scored on Holt groundout (2-4).

Bottom 7th: Howard singled, scored on Vasquez single (3-4).