Curve come back but fall in 11 innings

TRENTON, N.J. — The Curve had a chance to move back into first place in prized prospect Mitch Keller’s Double-A debut, but they couldn’t outlast the best team in minor league baseball.

Altoona tied the game with a run in the ninth inning, only to lose in 11 on a walk-off two-run homer by Rashad Crawford that gave Trenton a 4-2 win at Arm & Hammer Park.

Bowie had already lost Sunday, so a Curve victory would have put them back on top of the Western Division by half a game. Instead, they trail the Baysox by half a game and hold a 2¢-game lead on Akron and Erie for the final playoff spot.

Keller, the Pirates’ No. 1 pitching prospect, was solid in his Double-A debut but had some control issues. The 21-year-old right-hander allowed two runs on five hits in six innings, but he walked three to go along with four strikeouts.

Keller took a shutout into the fifth, then gave up a pair of runs. Francisco Diaz singled home Dante Bichette Jr., and Zack Zehner, who doubled, later came in on a sacrifice fly to make it 2-0.

Jin-De Jhang hit a solo homer for the Curve in the sixth to cut the deficit in half. In the ninth, Justin Maffei walked, took third on a single by Jackson Williams and scored the tying run on a sacrifice fly by Cole Tucker.

The Curve offense couldn’t get anything else going against Trenton’s superb pitching staff. The Thunder then won it in the 11th as Crawford homered off Cody Dickson (2-4) with two outs.

Andrew Schwaab (1-0) won in relief for the Thunder, who are 75-37, the best record in all the minors.

Alex McRae, a starter making one scheduled appearance in relief, tossed two scoreless innings for the Curve. Luis Heredia followed with two more scoreless frames.

Altoona is off tonight, then begins a seven-game homestand Tuesday at Peoples Natural Gas Field against Reading.

Game recap

Key player: CF Rashad Crawford went 2-for-5 with a homer for Trenton.

Key play: Crawford’s two-run shot in the 11th gave the Thunder a walk-off win.

Key stat: RHP Mitch Keller allowed two runs on five hits in six innings in his Double-A debut.

How they scored

Bottom fifth: Bichette Jr. singled, scored on Diaz single (0-1); Zehner doubled, scored on Hendrix sacrifice fly (0-2).

Top sixth: Jhang solo homer (1-2).

Top ninth: Maffei walked, scored on Tucker sacrifice fly (2-2).

Bottom 11th: Diaz singled, scored on Crawford two-run homer (2-4).

Next stop

Tonight: Idle

Next game: Reading at Altoona, Tuesday, 7 p.m.

Record: 58-54