Late rally falls short as Curve lose to Ducks

The Curve had 10 hits, including six for extra bases, on Thursday night, but they were wasted.

Akron pitchers struck out 12 Altoona batters, including two with the tying and winning runs on base in the bottom of the ninth inning and escaped with a 5-4 win over the Curve before 2,065 fans at Peoples Natural Gas Field.

“Our two-strike approach was a little inconsistent,” Curve manager Carlos Garcia said. “Early, when we didn’t get good pitches to hit, we expanded the strike zone.

“Later on, we made a good adjustment and scored four runs with two outs, so that was a good sign.”

Akron scored a pair of unearned runs in the first inning and it was an uphill battle for the Curve all night.

With one out, Joe Wendle singled to left and the ball eluded Andy Vasquez, enabling Francisco Lindor to score while Wendle raced to third. Ronny Rodriguez’s sacrifice fly scored Wendle for the 2-0 lead.

The Rubber Ducks tacked on single runs in the second and third frames to make it 4-0.

The Curve cut the lead in half in the bottom of the third. Vasquez reached on an error and was doubled to third by Alen Hanson. Gift Ngoepe’s single up the middle scored both.

The Ducks answered with one in the fourth when Tony Wolters scored on a double play. It stayed 5-2 until Jared Cunningham doubled and Vasquez smacked a two-run homer in the sixth.

There was no more scoring as relief pitchers dominated the rest of the way. The Curve, however, had opportunities in both the eighth and ninth, but came up empty.

In the eighth, Mel Rojas Jr. singled with one out, but Cunningham struck out and Rojas was thrown out trying to steal.

In the ninth, Elias Diaz singled with one out. Drew Maggi battled through a 14-pitch at-bat, finally drawing the Curve’s only walk of the night.

But, with the tying and winning runs on base, Akron closer Kyle Crockett got Hanson to look at a third strike before whiffing Ngoepoe for the final out.

“It doesn’t surprise me about Maggi,” Garcia said of player’s outstanding at-bat in the ninth. “He’s one of those guys who fights and brings a lot of energy to the game. Every time he’s there, I feel like something is going to happen.”

Garcia noted that Akron’s early start (five runs in the first four innings) was tough to overcome.

“We put up a good fight, though,” he said. “It [win] didn’t happen tonight, but the kids played well. The relievers pitched well and gave us an opportunity to stay in the game, and that’s all we’re looking for.”

The Curve ended their first homestand at 2-3 and head to Richmond tonight to begin a seven-game segment on the road.

“If we keep playing the way we’re playing, we’ll be good,” Garcia said. “We have a young ballclub, we’re still getting our feet wet, and I think we’ll be fine.”

Third baseman Cunningham agrees.

“A lot of our hits came at different times and it’s all about putting them together,” Cunningham said. “Vasquez’s homer and Gift’s hit up the middle were huge, but we couldn’t get enough together.

“The first series was tough with the rain,” he said, “but it’s nice to get back in the swing of things and know we’ll be playing every day.”