Having best record in EL doesn’t always matter in the game of baseball
By Cory Giger
The Eastern League’s best team, with the best home record in all of baseball, grabbed a four-run lead in the first inning against the league’s worst team, had its best starter on the mound, then had the league’s best reliever on in the ninth trying to protect a lead.
And still lost.
Because, hey, sports just don’t make sense sometimes.
The Curve appeared headed to yet another win after their big first inning, which included a three-run homer by Edwin Espinal. But New Hampshire rallied not once but twice and pulled a rabbit out of the hat with a 7-5 win Saturday night before 4,054 fans at Peoples Natural Gas Field.
The Curve came into the game 20-12 overall and 11-2 at home, while New Hampshire was 11-23 overall.
“It’s hard every night,” Curve manager Michael Ryan said of trying to win a game. “You take New Hampshire’s record, and you throw that out the window. You take their team average, you take their pitching numbers and throw those out the window. I saw a bunch of those guys last year, that’s a good club. They can swing it. And they’re a good team.”
Curve starter Alex McRae came in with a 1.96 ERA and had been superb over his last 16 games (15 starts) going back to last year with a 2.28 ERA. Yet he couldn’t protect the early 4-0 lead and gave up four runs on eight hits over seven innings.
Despite giving up the four-run cushion, the Curve were still in position to win after Jackson Williams singled and later scored on an error in the seventh for a 5-4 lead.
Montana DuRapau came on to finish out the game. He entered the day having allowed just one run in 16 1/3 innings for a 0.55 ERA, and he was 6-for-6 in save opportunities. But he couldn’t seal the deal this time around.
DuRapau (2-1) stranded the tying run at third in the eighth to protect the 5-4 lead. He gave up a leadoff single in the ninth, then threw a wild pitch to find himself in immediate trouble.
New Hampshire had the tying run at third with two outs, and Jonathan Davis singled to left to bring it in. Richard Urena followed with a two-run double to put the Fisher Cats on top.
“This is a great game in terms of we punch them, they punch right back, we punch them, they punch right back,” Curve shortstop Kevin Newman said. “Tonight they came out on top, and credit to their hitters and their pitchers for keeping them in it.”
The Curve threatened in the ninth, putting the tying runs on with one out, but couldn’t come through.
Dusty Isaacs (1-1) won in relief for New Hampshire.
Ryan was ejected in the bottom of the fifth inning for arguing a play in left field. Espinal hit a sinking liner, and Anthony Alford made a diving catch, then doubled up Kevin Kramer off first.
Ryan argued that Alford didn’t make the catch, and replay appeared to show that, as well. The call on the field also came late, so there was confusion on the basepaths.
“Nobody made a call, nobody saw the call, and their outfield’s so good they don’t need help,” Ryan said. “And why did he throw the ball back in? That was my argument.”
Kramer went 2-for-5 to extend his on-base streak to 30 games, just three shy of the Curve record shared by Ronny Paulino and Steve Pearce.
Newman was hit by a pitch on the bill of his helmet in the seventh inning. He was fine and ran to first base. He was beaned in the head Wednesday at Richmond and avoided a serious injury, and he also was hit in the face last season at high-A Bradenton.
“I think it’s just they’re trying to brush me off the plate a little bit, and that’s part of the game,” Newman said when asked if it makes him a little skittish at the plate. “I know what I signed up for when I’m here playing baseball, and that’s part of the risk.”
Ryan said it’s frustrating to see a player get hit, but he also offered up a good one-liner about Newman.
“It’s one of those things where his face is so pretty, I guess the ball likes it, too,” the manager said.
“We’ll go with that,” Newman said with a laugh.
SUBHD: Game recap
Key player: SS Richard Urena went 2-for-5 with three RBIs for the Fisher Cats.
Key play: Urena’s two-run double gave New Hampshire the lead in the ninth.
Key stat: The Curve led 4-0 after one inning and 5-4 in the ninth before RHP Montana DuRapau blew his first save.
SUBHD: How they scored
Bottom 1st: Escobar singled, scored on Kramer single (1-0); Newman singled, scored along with Kramer on Espinal three-run homer (4-0).
Top 2nd: Lopes doubled, scored on Hissey groundout (4-1).
Top 3rd: Loveless singled, scored on Urena single (4-2); Davis doubled, scored on Alford double play groundout (4-3).
Top 6th: McBroom solo homer (4-4).
Bottom 7th: Williams singled, scored on Harris error (5-4).
Top 9th: Heidt singled, scored on Davis single (5-5); Loveless hit by pitch, scored along with Davis on Urena double (5-7).
Today: New Hampshire at Altoona, 1 p.m.
Pitching matchup: Curve LHP Brandon Waddell (0-1, 9.00) vs. Fisher Cats LHP Shane Dawson (1-4, 5.14)