Garcia still sees effort in defeat

It looked bad. And it was bad – one of the worst home losses in Curve history.

The fact that Sunday’s 12-0 drubbing by New Britain occurred near the end of a very rough season might have given the impression to some that the Curve quit in the game.

Manager Carlos Garcia was adamant that wasn’t the case.

“No, no, no, no, never. I never see the team quit,” he said. “Not on my watch. It won’t happen. If I see something like that happen, (the player) immediately is going to be out of the ballgame.”

The 12-0 score matched the largest margin of defeat in a shutout in Curve history. Ironically, the other time that same score occurred also was against New Britain, on the road Aug. 13, 2006. Altoona had only four hits Sunday, the same number it had in the other 12-0 loss to the Rock Cats eight years ago.

The crowd of 5,533 at Peoples Natural Gas Field saw the Curve get pounded from the start, falling behind 5-0 after two innings before New Britain tacked on three more runs in the fourth and four in the sixth for the 12-run cushion.

Altoona’s pitching was poor, beginning with starter Jhonathan Ramos (5-6) allowing five runs in only 1 1/3 innings, while the Rock Cats got a superb outing from Pat Dean (8-9). The left-hander didn’t give up a hit until there were two outs in the fifth, and he dazzled all night, firing eight shutout innings and allowing just three hits.

Garcia said the team’s effort was just fine, but the problem was execution.

“We are struggling against left-handed pitching,” the manager said. “The whole year has been like that. And they threw a very good game.”

It doesn’t help the Curve’s cause that they’re without some of their best firepower on offense. Elias Diaz and his .328 average are now in Triple-A, Alen Hanson (.280) is out with a hamstring injury, Josh Bell (.287) has a bruised knee and Drew Maggi (.278) has a groin strain.

Take away four good hitters like that, and most offenses will struggle.

“There’s no at-bats where anyone’s just throwing it in,” said Jarek Cunningham, who had one of the team’s four hits. “(Dean) was able to throw three pitches for strikes to leadoff hitters. That makes it tough.”

The Curve have now lost 78 games and are 22 games below .500. Oh, and the Eastern League’s second-best team, Richmond (74-60) is coming to town starting tonight for four games.

No matter how rough of a season it’s been, there are still eight games left, and every at-bat, every inning pitched still matters.

“Definitely we are not where we want to be,” Garcia said, “but you understand what this level is about, and you keep pushing the players to try to finish strong.

“They know (to do that), but my obligation is continue to drive to finish strong. Continue to drive to get a good at-bat. Continue to drive to get after it down the line. Continue to drive to stay professional in the drills and the preparation. And when the game happens, just go and play.”

Garcia played on some bad teams in his major league career, including a 58-86 Pirates club in 1995, so he knows what it takes to show up to the ballpark every day and give a good effort despite being buried in the standing.

“Yeah, it can be tough when you don’t play for anything,” he said. “But your mentality should be play for your teammates, play for the guy next to you, play for somebody who you really enjoy dedicating this game for. Look for something to motivate you to give great four at-bats, to play nine innings strong.”

Part of doing that is not wasting at-bats, regardless of the score.

“No one wants to do that,” Cunningham said. “We’re all competitors here. When you see yourself struggling, you want to get better. Even down 12, you’re still trying to put up good at-bats.”

And even after a 12-0 loss at this point in a long season, Garcia believes his players will be able to bounce back with a better showing.

“I feel like tomorrow’s a new day, and we come back and play a better game,” he said.

SUBHD: Game recap

Key player: New Britain LHP Pat Dean pitched eight shutout innings, allowing only three hits.

Key play: The Rock Cats scored four runs for a 5-0 lead in the second inning, which included a bases-loaded walk by LHP Jhonathan Ramos and a two-run single by 1B Mike Gonzales.

Key stat: The 12-0 defeat matched the largest margin ever in a shutout loss by the Curve.

SUBHD: How they scored

Top 1st: Wimberly doubled, scored on Ramos wild pitch (0-1).

Top 2nd: Waring doubled, scored on Paulino passed ball (0-2); Knudson walked, scored on Hanson bases-loaded walk (0-3); Wimberly singled, Polanco walked, both scored on Gonzales single (0-5).

Top 4th: Polanco reached on strikeout and wild pitch, Hanson reached on Cunningham error, both scored on Gonzales double (0-7); Rosario double scored Gonzales (0-8).

Top 6th: Gonzales walked, scored on Rodriguez two-run homer (0-10); Waring singled, scored on Knudson double (0-11); Polanco single scored Knudson (0-12).