Curve head home looking for sweep

By Cory Giger

BOWIE, Md. — As much as Bowie dominated the season series against the Curve, going 14-5, a closer look at the individual games showed there wasn’t that much difference between the teams.

Altoona led in the seventh inning or later in seven of the losses but just couldn’t stop the bleeding when the Baysox rallied.

At some point, things usually even out in baseball. Fortunately for the Curve, that’s happened when it matters most.

Altoona’s offense enjoyed a big night Friday in an 8-4 win over Bowie at Prince George’s Stadium, giving the regular-season Western Division champ a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five playoff series.

The Curve host Game 3 tonight at Peoples Natural Gas Field and need one more win to advance to the Eastern League Championship Series for just the third time in franchise history.

“We go home, and we’re looking for the sweep, for sure,” Curve pitcher Alex McRae said.

Altoona has a commanding lead in the series, but it’s certainly not over against a potent Bowie offense.

“We’ve still got to get one more,” Curve manager Michael Ryan said. “The third one’s going to be the hardest. We know that. But we’ve put ourselves in a really good position. The goal coming down was to get at least a split. To be able to take two is just huge.”

Altoona won the series opener, 2-0, behind a 1-hit shutout by Mitch Keller. Game 2 turned out very differently, with both teams having a lot of scoring chances, and the Curve cashing in far more often than Bowie.

Michael Suchy went 3-for-5 with a two-run homer and three RBIs, while Elvis Escobar was 2-for-5 and also drove in three runs. Escobar batted seventh and Suchy ninth, so the bottom half of the batting order did a ton of damage for the Curve.

“Me and Suchy, the bottom of the lineup got big hits for the team today,” Escobar said. “We’re trying to put the ball in play and got the big hits in big situations.”

Escobar had a two-run single in the third as Altoona took a 3-0 lead. Bowie answered with three runs in its half of third, pulling even on Garabez Rosa’s two-run homer.

Altoona had chances to score in just about every inning, putting pressure on Bowie’s pitching staff all night. The Curve took control in the fifth with another three-spot, with Escobar doubling home Wyatt Mathisen for the go-ahead run.

“(Thursday) wasn’t a good game for me offensively,” Escobar said of Game 1. “I made a good defensive play, but at the plate I wasn’t that good. So I came out today and made the adjustment. They were throwing everything but fastballs, so I made an adjustment.”

Suchy doubled home Escobar later in the fifth, and Mitchell Tolman single in Jon Schwind to make it 6-3.

Bowie got a run back in the fifth, but Suchy blasted a two-run homer in the seventh for an 8-4 lead that held up.

“It felt very good,” Suchy said of his home run.

McRae gave up four runs on four hits in six innings for the win, striking out three with two walks. Yeudy Garcia followed with two scoreless innings, and Tate Scioneaux finished it off in the ninth.

“We came here knowing that we played them well all year and just lost some close games,” McRae said. “But the fact that we came out here and won both is huge for us.”

Alec Asher came on in the third inning and took the loss for Bowie in relief, giving up the three runs in the fifth. Asher spent most of the season in the big leagues with the Orioles and didn’t spend a day in Double-A. He closed the season with Triple-A Norfolk and was sent to the Baysox for the playoffs.

“Impressive tonight for us offensively,” Ryan said. “Suchy had a big couple at-bats, big two-run homer, big (RBI) double.

“We had a lot of baserunners. I think it helped McRae to settle into some things. To have good at-bats against (starter Tanner) Scott and Asher, who had major league service time this year, it shows you what we can do offensively at times.”

The Curve now have a chance to end the series tonight. They went 40-30 at home this season, but just 3-5 against the Baysox.

Winning both games in Bowie put the club in a great position.

“On the road starting off, it’s good to split with a team,” Suchy said. “But we were trying to put ourselves in an even better situation heading back to our own field.”

Game recap

Key player: RF Michael Suchy went 3-for-5, hit a two-run homer and had three RBIs.

Key play: The Curve scored three runs in the fifth, taking the lead for good on CF Elvis Escobar’s RBI double.

Key stat: The Curve lead the series, 2-0, and have a chance to reach the EL finals for just the third time ever (also 2004, 2010).

How they scored

Top 3rd: Reyes walked, scored on Suiter double (1-0); Jhang singled, scored along with Suiter on Escobar single (3-0).

Bottom 3rd: Salcedo walked, scored on Mountcastle groundout (3-1); Mullins singled, scored on Rosa two-run homer (3-3).

Top 5th: Mathisen singled, scored on Escobar double (4-3); Suchy double scored Escobar (5-3); Schwind hit by pitch, scored on Tolman single (6-3).

Bottom 5th: Mullins solo homer (6-4).

Top 7th: Schwind singled, scored on Suchy two-run homer (8-4).