Curve get to experience late-inning success
Countless times this season the Curve have built an early lead, only to squander it and lose, so they were way overdue for what happened Friday night.
Reading scored four runs in the third inning and appeared to have control of the game, but Altoona found a way to fight back. The Curve pulled even in the seventh, then got a gift error in the ninth that ended a 5-4 win before 4,092 fans at Peoples Natural Gas Field.
“It feels great, especially getting down 4-0,” said Jarek Cunningham, who got the Curve offense on the board with a solo homer in the fifth. “Our bullpen did a great job, and we just kept battling and put some runs up there.”
The three-spot in the seventh was capped by a game-tying single by Andy Vasquez. Gift Ngoepe opened that frame with a triple and scored on a single by Matt Curry, then Alen Hanson tripled home Curry before coming home on Vasquez’s hit.
“Good at-bats when we really needed,” Curve manager Carlos Garcia said. “We just battled, battled, battled and got the pitch and hit it. We put ourselves in good situation to score.”
Cunningham jumpstarted the ninth inning with a leadoff single and moved to second on a wild pitch. Junior Sosa was trying to bunt Cunningham to third, but instead he was able to work a walk from reliever Ryan O’Sullivan (2-3).
Hanson came up with runners at first and second and no outs and dropped down a perfect sacrifice bunt to third base. The Curve then got a break that gave them the victory as Reading third baseman Carlos Alonso threw wild to first base for an error, allowing Cunningham to score the winning run.
“When you get down, some guys don’t take at-bats as they would as if they were winning the game or if it’s a close game,” Cunningham said. “But everyone put together good at-bats, and throughout the lineup we got hits and drove in runs when we needed to.”
The Curve have had trouble coming back all season, but not this time.
“Down four, a couple days ago we probably don’t come back,” Garcia said. “We hung in there, hung in there, kept fighting and putting good at-bats here and there and showing good energy.”
The manager credited reliever Kenn Kasparek for throwing two shutout innings after the Curve had tied the game at 4-4. Kasparek (1-0) wound up with the win in his first game back with the team since returning from Triple-A.
Four players had two hits for the Curve, including Cunningham, who has his average up to .246, or 30 points higher than a year ago. His homer, though, was just his third, so he’s down significantly in that department after belting 19 last season.
“I’ve been swinging at pitches that last year I might have hit out, and this year I haven’t gotten a good barrel on them,” Cunningham said. “The average is good, but I see myself and I think others see me as more of hitting home runs and some power and hitting doubles. That’s one thing I wish I could do and keep the average.”
Vasquez, Ngoepe and Willy Garcia also had two hits for Altoona.
Key player: 3B Jarek Cunningham went 2-for-4 with a homer, RBI and two runs for the Curve.
Key play: Altoona got triples from Gift Ngoepe and Alen Hanson to ignite a three-run seventh inning that tied the game 4-4.
Key stat: The season is more than two months old, yet this is the first time the Curve have played in-state foe Reading, which used to be in the same division as Altoona but not anymore.
How they scored
Top 3rd: Cartwright singled, Alonso singled, both scored on Altherr double (0-2); Fox two-run homer scored Altherr (0-4).
Bottom 5th: Cunningham solo homer (1-4).
Bottom 7th: Ngoepe tripled, scored on Curry single (2-4); Hanson triple scored Curry (3-4); Vasquez single scored Hanson (4-4).
Bottom 9th: Cunningham singled, scored on Alonso error (5-4).