Curve beaten; Diaz stays hot

TRENTON, N.J. – Catchers rarely win batting titles, but with less than a month to go, the Curve’s Elias Diaz finds himself right in the thick of the Eastern League batting race.

Diaz went 3-for-4 with a solo homer Tuesday night to raise his average to .326, just six points behind EL leader Matt Duffy of Richmond.

Diaz’s big night helped the Curve keep fighting back after they fell behind early against Trenton, but they couldn’t catch all the way up as their five-game winning streak ended with a 7-5 loss at Arm & Hammer Park.

Diaz has moved up to second in the EL in hitting, but he will have a tough time winning the batting title. Duffy put up a big number at .332 in 97 games for Richmond, but he’s now gone and is playing second base for the San Francisco Giants.

Duffy, though, already had enough at-bats with the Flying Squirrels in those 97 games to qualify for the EL leaderboard for a full season’s worth of games. So if Diaz is going to win the batting title, he will have to top .332.

Diaz has been solid all season for the Curve and has been on a tear of late, hitting .488 (20-for-41) during his 10-game hitting streak. He has had three hits in each of the past two games and also in one other game during the streak.

Both catchers had a big night at the plate as Trenton’s Gary Sanchez went 2-for-3 with three RBIs and a solo homer in the first inning.

Diaz homered in the eighth inning to bring the Curve within 6-5, after they had trailed 5-2 through six innings. Altoona couldn’t get any closer, though, as Trenton added an insurance run in the eighth and snapped the Curve’s winning streak at five, one shy of the team’s season high.

Jaron Long (5-0) picked up the win for Trenton, giving up two runs in six innings. James Pazos closed it out in the ninth for his fifth save.

Curve starter Tom Harlan (2-2) took the loss, allowing five runs in six innings.

Josh Bell went 2-for-5 with a pair of RBI singles for Altoona, which had won nine of its last 10. The Curve have played their best ball of the season since the all-star break, going 13-6.

Game recap

Key player: C Gary Sanchez went 2-for-3 and helped the Thunder take charge early with a solo homer in the first, RBI single in the third and sacrifice fly in the fifth.

Key play: The Curve had a chance to tie it at 5 in the seventh inning, but 3B Drew Maggi was thrown out at the plate trying to swipe home as part of a double steal.

Key stat: C Elias Diaz is second in the EL in hitting at .326.

How they scored

Bottom 1st: Sanchez solo homer (0-1).

Bottom 2nd: Bird solo homer (0-2).

Top 3rd: Hanson singled, scored on Bell single (1-2); Maggi walked, scored on Allie single (2-2).

Bottom 3rd: Castillo singled, scored on Sanchez single (2-3).

Bottom 5th: Williams tripled, scored on Sanchez sacrifice fly (2-4).

Bottom 6th: Fiorito tripled, scored on Blaser single (2-5).

Top 7th: Gamache doubled, scored on Sanchez error (3-5); Broxton walked, scored on Bell single (4-5).

Bottom 7th: Cave singled, scored on Austin triple (4-6).

Top 8th: Diaz solo homer (5-6).

Bottom 8th: Toussen singled, scored on Cave single (5-7).