After loss, Curve lead at 2

By Cory Giger

cgiger@altoonamirror.com

The Curve’s record 15-game homestand got off to a promising start with a couple of wins, but the team hasn’t taken advantage of its golden opportunity in the past three games.

Harrisburg downed Altoona for the third time in a row, 3-2, Sunday afternoon before 3,487 fans at Peoples Natural Gas Field. The Senators are now tied with Akron for second place in the Western Division, with both teams trailing the Curve by two games.

Altoona had a five-game lead on Harrisburg after winning game one of a doubleheader Friday, but the Senators held the Curve to two runs in each of the past three games to win.

Sunday marked the second and final rehab game for catcher Elias Diaz, the Curve’s 2014 MVP who is coming back from an elbow injury. Diaz will now head to Triple-A Indianapolis for the next stage of his rehab.

“I’m not 100 percent, but … I’m feeling really good, and I’m close, really close,” Diaz said.

Diaz went 1-for-3 with an RBI on Sunday after going 1-for-4 Saturday night. He caught 18 innings and showed no signs of any elbow issues, which forced him to undergo surgery in May.

Asked about his timing at the plate, he said, “It’s the time off that we’re trying to get right now, the timing with the pitcher. The injury did not affect my swing.”

Diaz had a breakthrough season with the Curve in 2014, hitting .328 and showing superb defensive skills to earn team MVP honors.

“It feels very good getting back to like my house, Altoona,” he said. “I’ve been feeling really good, and they want me to play at the next level to get ready for the big leagues at some point.”

Diaz wasn’t able to corral a couple of sliders in the dirt by Brandon Waddell in the sixth inning that went for wild pitches and helped Harrisburg snap a 2-2 tie.

The Senators got a leadoff double in the sixth from Andrew Stevenson, then he took third on a groundout and scored on a wild pitch by Waddell to make it 3-2.

Waddell (6-5), who gave up two runs in the first inning, did some good things on the mound and induced a lot of groundouts. But he also hit the first batter of the game and had a walk in the first that helped Harrisburg jump ahead early, then threw the wild pitches in the sixth.

“Especially there in that sixth inning where he gave up that run, I thought he was trying to be too perfect and he ended up bouncing some sliders,” pitching coach Justin Meccage said. “It just comes with trusting every pitch that you throw, and we’re all working through that right now with these young guys. We’re seeing more and more conviction, but it’s still not where it needs to be.”

Waddell was able to escape the first inning and keep pitching as left fielder Barrett Barnes threw out a runner at the plate for the third out. Without that, Waddell probably could have faced only one more batter before possibly getting lifted because of his pitch count.

The Curve rallied with a pair of runs in the fourth, getting RBI singles by Harold Ramirez and Diaz to tie it.

Senators reliever Derek Self (3-2) picked up the win, and Nick Lee finished it off in the ninth for his first save.

The game ended on a bad play by the Curve that cost them a chance to stay in it and potentially tie.

With one out, Eric Wood was on second and Barnes on first, and Justin Maffei crushed a ball to deep center. Stevenson was playing shallow, but the ball hung up long enough for him to run underneath it near the warning track. Wood strayed too far from second, couldn’t get back in time and was doubled off to end the game.

Game recap

Key player: 3B Drew Ward went 1-for-4 with two RBIs in the first inning for Harrisburg.

Key play: The Senators grabbed a 3-2 lead on LHP Brandon Waddell’s wild pitch in the sixth.

Key stat: The Curve have dropped three in a row, and Harrisburg is now tied for second with Akron, both two games behind Altoona.

How they scored

Top 1st: Stevenson reached on fielder’s choice, Difo singled, both scored on Ward single (0-2).

Bottom 4th: Newman doubled, scored on Ramirez single (1-2); Diaz single scored Ramirez (2-2).

Top 6th: Stevenson doubled, scored on Waddell wild pitch (2-3).