Tough way to start season
It took a couple of extra days for the Curve to finally get to play baseball, but opening night did not go well for the team’s 16th season.
“I think we’re going to be fine,” manager Carlos Garcia said after his club was swept in a doubleheader by Erie. “We just had a rough night.”
The Curve were shut out in the season opener, 2-0, then showed some life offensively in game two before the SeaWolves pulled away for a 5-2 win. Paid attendance at Peoples Natural Gas Field was 4,139 although only a small fraction of that actually braved the cold weather in the ballpark.
Players on both teams already had seen what life is like in the Eastern League in April with rainouts Thursday and Friday, and Saturday brought another rough element. The temperature was only 36 degrees throughout the evening, much different than the 70-degree weather they’ve been used to in spring training.
“It was tough because of the weather, but it’s not an excuse,” Curve outfielder Mel Rojas Jr. said. “You’ve just got to grind through it. It goes both ways; they also came from Florida.”
The weather didn’t impact the SeaWolves, especially shortstop Eugenio Suarez, who belted two home runs in the second game. His second blast, in the fifth inning, came just moments after the Curve had pulled even at 2-2 in the fourth and gave Erie the lead for good.
The Curve failed to score in their first 10 innings, then finally broke through as Andy Vasquez singled to left-center to bring home Rojas.
Altoona had runners at first and third with two outs, and Vasquez took off to steal second. As the throw went to second, Drew Maggi raced to the plate trying to steal home. Suarez took the throw at the bag and fired to the plate, but his throw was wide as Maggi slid in to tie things at 2-2.
All the momentum disappeared, though, when Suarez belted his two-run homer in the fifth for a 4-2 SeaWolves lead. Erie added an insurance run in the sixth, and the Curve couldn’t rally as they finished with only five hits, just 11 for the doubleheader.
“It’s only two games in one day, and definitely the approach was back and forth,” Garcia said of his hitters. “We’ve got to tighten it up just a little bit [today], and there were some guys who probably tried to do a little bit too much, swing was long.”
One Curve hitter got off to a sizzling start as catcher Elias Diaz went 3-for-3 in the opener.
“Diaz, very good approach hitting the other way,” Garcia said.
Maggi had two of Altoona’s five hits in the second game.
Erie also managed only 11 hits in the doubleheader but made them count for seven runs.
Reliever Chad Smith (1-0) won the nightcap for the SeaWolves, while reliever Jhonathan Ramos (0-1) took the loss. Altoona’s A.J. Morris, a relief pitcher, allowed one run on two hits over three innings in a spot start.
SeaWolves starter Warwick Saupold (1-0) was sharp in winning the opener, tossing five shutout innings and allowing only three hits with five strikeouts and one walk.
The Curve’s opening-day starting pitcher was scheduled to be Nick Kingham, but he was pushed back to today after the two rainouts. So that distinction went to Double-A newcomer Adrian Sampson, who turned in a solid outing in a losing effort.
Sampson (0-1) gave up two runs on five hits over six innings, striking out six with no walks.
“I had a good game plan coming in, talking with Stan [Kyles, the pitching coach], talking with some of the other guys who have been here. The game doesn’t change that much from where I was last year. You’ve just got to have the game plan, stick to it and hope for the best.”
Sampson did his job, but the offense failed to do its part in getting shut out.
Regardless, the season finally is now officially under way, and that’s what matters most to the players.
“We’re excited to be back on the field,” Rojas said.
SUBHD: Doubleheader recap
Key players: Erie RHP Warwick Saupold threw five shutout innings in the opener, while SS Eugenio Suarez hit two homers in the second game.
Key plays: 1B Aaron Westlake’s solo homer gave Erie a big insurance run with a 2-0 lead in the sixth inning of game one, and Suarez belted a go-ahead two-run homer in the fifth inning of game two.
Key stat: The Curve scored only two runs on 11 hits in the two games.
SUBHD: How they scored
Top 2nd: Westlake tripled, scored on Moya sacrifice fly (0-1).
Top 6th: Westlake solo homer (0-2).
Top 3rd: Suarez solo homer (0-1).
Top 4th: Green walked, scored on Brown error (0-2).
Bottom 4th: Rojas walked, scored on Vasquez single (1-2); Maggi singled, stole home (2-2).
Top 5th: Krizan doubled, scored on Suarez two-run homer (2-4).
Top 6th: Johnson singled, scored on Krizan sacrifice fly (2-5).