Miscues doom Curve

AKRON, Ohio – The Curve have been a good baserunning team all season, but they picked the worst possible time to have a brutal game on the basepaths.

Here’s the kind of night it was: Even on a two-run double that tied the game, Altoona had two baserunners thrown out on the play.

Overall, the Curve had four guys thrown out on the bases, preventing them from being able to grab the lead, then one defensive mistake did them in. Akron took a one-run lead in the seventh and poured it on with four in the eighth for a 9-4 win in Game 3 of the Western Division series at Canal Park.

“We made a bunch of bad outs on the bases, and we gave them life,” Curve manager Joey Cora said. “We kept them in the ballgame, and then at the end they blew it open.”

The Curve fell behind 4-0 through three innings, then tied it with four runs in the fourth. Kevin Newman’s bases-loaded double pulled Altoona even, but Chris Diaz was thrown out at the plate trying to score from first, then Newman was thrown out trying to get to third.

Instead of keeping the big inning going, the Curve ran themselves out of a chance to take the lead.

“I was running to second, and I watched the play at home rather continuing to run to third, and I hesitated,” Newman said. “It caused me a split second, and unfortunately I got thrown out at third.”

In the sixth, with runners at the corners and only one out, Eric Wood tried getting to second on a pitch in the dirt and was thrown out. That cost Altoona another great chance to pull ahead.

“The thing is, on a dirtball read, you either read it right way or don’t go,” Cora said. “It wasn’t automatic for him. He saw it and he thought about it, then he went.”

“Once that happens, you have no chance.”

Even with all the baserunning blunders, the game was tied 4-4 in the seventh until a costly throwing error by catcher Tomas Morales.

Cody Dickson, on in relief after starter Nick Kingham struggled, walked the first two Akron batters in the seventh. Then with one out, Morales tried to throw behind runner Mike Papi at first base on a pickoff attempt, and the ball short-hopped past first baseman Edwin Espinal and rolled deep into foul territory down the line.

Nellie Rodriguez came around from second to score and give the RubberDucks the lead for good.

“We’ve done it a lot of times this year, and I can’t blame (Morales) for trying to do it,” Cora said of the risky throw. “We’ve picked off a lot of guys off first base. It just happens that when it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t look good. But that play, we’ve done it a bunch of times this year, and it has worked out.”

Altoona had a chance to pull even in the eighth after Morales singled and took second on a passed ball. Wood was up with two outs and rolled out to second to end the inning.

Akron poured it on in the eighth to prevent any late-game drama. Yan Gomes, on a rehab assignment from the Cleveland Indians, doubled in a run, and Papi drilled a three-run homer off Montana DuRapau to make it 9-4.

“It was a very wacky, unorthodox kind of game,” Papi said. “Fortunately, most of those plays were on our end. That’s the difference in a baseball game sometimes. It’s the weird plays that fall your way.”

“In some aspects, I consider ourselves pretty fortunate,” Akron manager David Wallace said. “But hey, when the other team makes some mistakes, we need to take advantage of it. That’s what we were able to do.”

Things might have changed dramatically from an overall strategic standpoint if instead of remaining 4-4 the Curve could have grabbed a 5-4 lead.

“It was frustrating, definitely,” Cora said before later adding, “We had chances to get to 5-4, and we didn’t come through.”

Akron reliever Cameron Hill (1-0) picked up the win, while Dickson took the loss and Cole Sulser earned the save.

The Curve now must win tonight to stay alive and hope to force a deciding Game 5 on Sunday. The club has bounced back from disappointing losses and extended stretches all season, so there’s confidence among the players that they can do it again.

“Super confident,” outfielder Jon Schwind said. “Backs are against the walls, but we had that last week, and we ended up coming out with a W (to clinch a playoff berth).

“Guys are confident, we’re swinging the bats well, bullpen and pitchers are throwing a little better, so I think we’re going to be ready to go tomorrow and hopefully we can jump on them early and continue that throughout the game.”

Game recap

Key player: LF Mike Papi went 3-for-5 with a homer, five RBIs and two runs.

Key play: Catcher Tomas Morales’ throwing error to first base allowed the go-ahead run to score for Akron in the seventh inning.

Key stat: The Curve had four runners thrown out on the basepaths.

How they scored

Bottom 2nd: Rodriguez singled, Papi singled, both scored on Mathias single (0-2).

Bottom 3rd: Gomes walked, Smith walked, both scored on Papi single (0-4).

Top 4th: Espinal singled, scored on Schwind single (1-4); Allie singled, scored on Diaz bases-loaded walk (2-4); Wood walked, scored along with Schwind on Newman double (4-4).

Bottom 7th: Rodriguez walked, scored on Morales error (4-5).

Bottom 8th: Allen singled, scored on Gomes double (4-6); Smith hit by pitch, scored along with Gomes on Papi three-run homer (4-9).