Mistake catches up with Curve

Little mistakes turn out to be big for struggling teams, and big mistakes, well, they lead directly to bad losses.

The Curve made one huge mistake on the basepaths Friday night, and sure enough it came back to bite them in a 2-1 loss to Richmond before 3,366 fans at Peoples Natural Gas Field. Altoona has now lost three in a row, six out of eight and sits a season-high nine games below .500.

Manager Carlos Garcia expressed more disappointment than usual after the loss when discussing how key mistakes continue to cost the team.

“For the most part that seems to be the case, one mistake here, one mistake there,” he said.

“I’m not frustrated,” Garcia added. “I’m not here to win or lose. My concern is their readiness. When things have to be done, it has to be done in order to evaluate the players, in order to go through the process. But the process has to show some improvement, and sometimes I don’t see it.”

The glaring mistake Friday came with the Curve trailing 2-0 in the seventh inning. Drew Maggi led off with a double, then with one away he was thrown out trying to steal third on a play that wasn’t close.

Maggi’s poor decision to run when he was already in scoring position was magnified by the fact that the Curve had a left-handed hitter up in Justin Howard, so Richmond catcher Eliezer Zambrano had a clear throw to third.

Wouldn’t you know it, Howard walked and scored on a double by Keon Broxton, which would have tied the game had Maggi not been thrown out.

“If you’re going to go in a situation like that, you need to be safe,” Maggi said. “Err on the side of aggressive, but if you’re going to have the [guts] to do that you need to be safe.”

Maggi wasn’t safe, then he found himself on the bench as Garcia pulled him to start the next inning.

“Of course he was pulled for that,” Garcia said.

“In that situation, he has to be perfect. He just can’t be close. He has to be perfect, has to get there by miles. It was his decision. He chose to do that and paid the consequences. The team paid the consequences, and he paid the consequences.”

Despite that mistake, and even playing with four everyday players not in the starting lineup (see Covering the bases), the Curve still had a chance to win in their final at-bat.

Mel Rojas Jr. singled and Howard walked, and Altoona managed to get runners at the corners with two outs. Andy Vasquez then came within inches of tying the game as he lifted a popup to short right field that looked like it might fall, only to be snared by leaping second baseman Skyler Stromsmoe to end the game.

“It was exciting to win the game like that after coming in late for defense,” said Stromsmoe who’s 5-foot-10. “Our other second baseman probably would have had it standing up; he’s about 4 inches taller than me.”

Richmond scored both of its runs in the third inning on a single by Angel Villalona off Curve starter Nick Kingham (1-4), getting helped out by an error on third baseman Jarek Cunningham.

Flying Squirrels starter Kyle Crick (2-1) hadn’t pitched all that well coming into the game with a 4.34 ERA and going longer than 3 1/3 innings only once. But he baffled the Curve lineup, allowing just two hits in six shutout innings with six strikeouts and one walk.

Game recap

Key player: Richmond RHP Kyle Crick gave up only two hits over six scoreless innings.

Key play: 1B Angel Villalona singled home the Flying Squirrels’ two runs in the third.

Key stat: The Curve dropped to a season-high nine games below .500.

How they scored

Top 3rd: Graham singled, Duffy walked, both scored on Villalona single (0-2).

Bottom 7th: Howard walked, scored on Broxton double (1-2).