Curve add another ‘W’ to streak
The Curve are playing their best ball of the season, in large part because they’ve flat out owned the team that just visited town over the weekend.
Altoona has beaten Harrisburg eight consecutive times, including Sunday’s 6-5 comeback victory that finished off a three-game sweep. The Curve have won five in a row overall, matching their longest winning streak of the year.
Sunday’s win, before 4,325 fans at Peoples Natural gas Field, also moved the Curve out of the cellar in the Eastern League standings. At 34-54, they no longer have the league’s worst record, and that dubious distinction now falls to the Senators, who are 33-54.
Altoona’s other five-game winning streak this season also had a strong Harrisburg flavor as it included a four-game sweep of the Senators in late April.
“We match up well against them,” Curve manager Carlos Garcia said. “Pitching-wise we pitch well against them, and the offense is doing a very good job against them. Even when we don’t play our best, we continue to make pitches and get out of trouble and don’t allow a big (deficit).”
Playing the tougher teams in the league, such as Akron and Richmond, the Curve have found out they can’t make mistakes and still win close games.
But playing a poor Harrisburg club, several of Altoona’s wins during the streak have been a result of the Senators shooting themselves in the foot.
Sunday was a perfect example.
The Curve went into the eighth inning trailing, 5-4, but got a leadoff walk from Keon Broxton. Gift Ngoepe dropped down a sacrifice bunt, and Senators reliever Robert Benincasa (0-2) threw the ball away to first base, allowing Broxton to score the tying run all the way from first and letting Ngoepe reach third.
Two batters late, Alen Hanson smacked a two-out single to right to bring home Ngoepe for a 6-5 edge.
“It felt great in that moment. I’m excited,” Hanson said of his go-ahead hit.
Kenn Kasparek blanked Harrisburg in the ninth to earn his fourth save. Ryan Beckman (2-4) won in relief for Altoona after starter Joely Rodriguez gave up five runs – four earned – in five innings.
“Right now we’re in a hot streak, we’re playing well as a team, and when we’re down we’re not giving up,” Curve first baseman Stetson Allie said. “Our bullpen’s coming in, doing well and we’re feeding off them.”
Rodriguez gave up two runs in the first inning and another in the second as Altoona fell behind, 3-0. The Curve scored twice in the third, only to see Harrisburg stretch the margin back to three with a couple of runs in the fourth.
It’s been tough for the team all season to come back from deficits, but playing well of late and playing against a weak opponent helped make it happen Sunday.
“We believe,” Garcia said. “Right now we are playing well, and you believe no matter what they do we’re going to be close.”
The Curve have five home games over the next four days against Erie to see if they can keep up their solid play.
“We’re on a little win streak,” Allie said. “Everyone’s feeling good about themselves, and we’ll just keep doing what we’re doing.”
SUBHD: Game recap
Key player: SS Alen Hanson went 2-for-5 with the go-ahead RBI single in the eighth.
Key play: An error on Senators RHP Robert Benincasa allowed the Curve to tie the game and put the go-ahead run at third in the eighth.
Key stat: The Curve have won five in a row overall, tying a season high, and have beaten Harrisburg eight straight times.
SUBHD: How they scored
Top 1st: Latimore singled, scored on Hanson error (0-1); Ramsey reached on fielder’s choice, scored on Hague single (0-2).
Top 2nd: Leonida doubled, scored on Taylor single (0-3).
Bottom 3rd: Hanson singled, scored on Howard single (1-3); Diaz walked, scored on Allie sacrifice fly (2-3).
Top 4th: Martinson solo homer (2-4); Leonida walked, scored on Dupra single (2-5).
Bottom 6th: Allie singled, scored on Vasquez double (3-5); Broxton sacrifice fly scored Vasquez (4-5).
Bottom 8th: Broxton walked, scored on Benincasa error (5-5) that allowed Ngoepe to reach; Hanson single scored Ngoepe (6-5).