Curve end miserable year with victory

If only the Curve would have been able to accomplish all season what they accomplished in Monday’s finale, this wouldn’t have been such a disastrous year.

If only.

Altoona won a one-run game on the road in its final contest of the year, 6-5 over Bowie at Prince George’s Stadium. The following statistic will go down as one of the most staggering in franchise history:

The Curve finished a miserable 5-25 in one-run games away from home.

That’s the season in a nutshell.

The team played essentially even with its opponent for 30 games on the road and only found a way to pull out five of them. The Curve finished with the worst record in club history at 61-81, which is 20 games below .500, or exactly the same number as the team’s record in close games away from home.

This 61-81 season breaks the futility mark set by the 2009 club, which finished 62-80. The Curve also were just 21-38 in one-run games overall, so they were drastically better at home at 16-13.

The other bugaboo for Altoona was its propensity to blow saves, which in many ways corresponds with all the one-run losses. The Curve blew 26 saves, meaning they were good enough to have the lead late in many games, just not good enough to hold onto it.

This year’s 61-81 finish comes after last year’s 63-79 mark. So two of the three worst seasons in franchise history have come in back-to-back years, with a 124-160 record all told.

Manager Carlos Garcia guided the team both seasons, and his 124-160 mark is by far the worst of the seven managers in team history. It’s hard to pin too much of a team’s record – good or bad – on a manager in the minor leagues because wins and losses generally come down to whether a team has more organizational talent than the opponent. The Curve just haven’t had that on most nights the past two years.

Still, they’ve been talented enough to win more than they have, and all of the one-run losses this year can be blamed on a number of things. Much of the blame has to fall on the bullpen for failing to preserve leads, but then, the Pirates didn’t exactly stock the Curve pen with a great deal of talent.

Actually, as bad as the final record is, it would have been much worse if not for the second-half performance of closer Kenn Kasparek. He converted the save Monday to finish off the one-run win.

Kasparek saved 13 games and blew only two chances.

Everyone else combined saved just 19 games while blowing 24 opportunities.

Kasparek finished with a 2.25 ERA. The only other reliever who was close to being consistently reliable was Ryan Beckman, who saved five of his seven chances and finished with a 2.62 ERA.

The Curve wrapped up the season with a come-from-behind win, rallying from a 5-3 deficit. They scored twice in the seventh inning to tie, then took the lead on a leadoff homer by Andy Vasquez in the eighth.

Joely Rodriguez (6-11) picked up the win, despite allowing five runs on nine hits in seven innings. Julio DePaula (1-5) lost in relief for Bowie.

Keon Broxton finished the season on a hot stretch, reaching base in 19 straight games and going 2-for-4 Monday to get his average up to a solid .275. Dan Gamache also finished at .275 after a 2-for-5 day, and Gift Ngoepe drove in three runs while going 2-for-4.

The Curve finished with the second-worst record in the Eastern League, ahead of only Western Division cellar dweller Harrisburg’s dreadful 53-89 mark.

SUBHD: Game recap

Key player: SS Gift Ngoepe went 2-for-4 with three RBIs for the Curve.

Key play: RF Andy Vasquez homered to start the eight to put Altoona on top to stay.

Key stat: The Curve finished 61-81 for the worst record in the team’s 16 seasons. They also were an abysmal 5-25 in one-run games on the road.

SUBHD: How they scored

Bottom 1st: Yastrzemski singled, scored on Marrero single (0-1).

Top 3rd: Curry singled, Henriquez reached on Schoop error, both scored on Ngoepe double (2-1); Gamache single scored Ngoepe (3-1).

Bottom 3rd: Starr singled, scored on Kang single (3-2).

Bottom 5th: Chavez singled, scored on Yastrzemski triple (3-3); Rosa single scored Yastrzemski (3-4).

Bottom 6th: Schoop solo homer (3-5).

Top 7th: Henriquez doubled, scored on Ngoepe triple (4-5); Gamache reached on fielder’s choice, scored on Broxton double (5-5).

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