Pride kicks in as Curve snap 10-game skid
Winning does matter to minor league baseball players, and anyone who tells you differently is flat out wrong.
No, it’s not the most important thing, and playing on losing teams in the minors usually doesn’t have a huge impact on a prospect’s major league hopes.
But to a man, every player who suits up for a minor league team does so hoping to win that day and ready to do what he can to help make it happen.
“If you’re playing this game and you’re not competitive, there’s something wrong,” Curve reliever Quinton Miller said.
The Curve took the field Wednesday night having lost 10 consecutive games, and one more would have tied a franchise record. Minor leaguers are transient in nature, so they come and go year after year and may or may not remember all the details about their time in Altoona when their careers are over.
But they would have remembered being part of such a dubious record.
No player wants any part of that kind of historically bad distinction, no matter what sport he’s playing or at what level.
To avoid it, at some point pride has to kick in and enough key players on the team have to say, “Damn it, enough is enough.”
Alen Hanson did that Wednesday night for the Curve. So did Elias Diaz. And Matt Curry. And Joely Rodriguez.
Those four essentially willed the Curve to a 6-5 win over Binghamton in a nail-biter on a rainy night at Peoples Natural Gas Field.
And so, finally and thankfully, the losing streak is over.
“It’s huge, man,” Curry, who went 2-for-4 with a pair of doubles, said of the win.”
More importantly, this is what Curry said of the team’s mentality throughout the game:
“We played that like it was Game 7 of the World Series.”
That’s how important this particular minor league game on June 4, with a ton of the season remaining, was to this team.
“In streaks like that, once you get past five or six games, you’re mentally pressing whether you know it or not,” said Miller, who stranded the tying run at second base with a strikeout looking to end the game and end the dreadful streak.
“Now,” Miller added, “we can just kind of take a deep breath, enjoy this win tonight, come to the field tomorrow and just get back after it.”
That’s a great way to put it when Miller talked about taking a deep breath.
Baseball is such an everyday grind that it’s engrained in the players to try and focus solely on the job at hand each day. But come on, it’s human nature if you’re on a team that has a long losing streak to start to let that impact either your physical performance or mental approach.
“We definitely felt it,” Curry said of the pressure from the streak. “Every day we went out there, it just felt like everything was going wrong.”
The Curve lost six of the 10 games by only one run, and in many ways that makes a losing streak even more painful. Getting blown out 15-6, like they did Tuesday, is easy compared to the frustration of losing every day by one run and knowing you were only one play away from winning the game.
“It means a lot for them because they battled,” manager Carlos Garcia said of snapping the streak. “To be able to get the ‘W,’ they went through a lot of adversity.”
I will never for the life of me figure out how the 2000 Curve team set the franchise record with 11 straight losses. That was a good club that started the season 6-1 and featured some of the best players in team history – eventual Eastern League MVP Adam Hyzdu, RBI machine Rob Mackowiak and Double-A All-Star Game starter Sam McConnell – yet it got on a terrible streak and was lost for nearly two weeks.
That Curve team turned things around and had a good year before losing to Akron in the season finale with a playoff berth on the line.?Things are very different for this year’s team. The Curve are still 16 games below .500 at 21-37, and they are going to endure a lot more rough stretches the rest of the way.
But maybe finally snapping the streak and being able to win a close game Wednesday night can help change things, perhaps kickstarting the team to a little winning streak.
“I think this will relax us a lot more, and that will show on the field,” Miller said.
Whether it will produce a bunch more wins remains to be seen.
But for now, at least, getting over the hump and ending the skid should allow the team to regroup and refocus on what it takes to win instead of constantly being reminded of the things that led to all the losses.
Cory Giger is the host of “Sports Central” from 4 to 6 p.m. daily on ESPN Radio 1430 WVAM. Reach him at 949-7031 or @CoryGiger on Twitter.