Ex-Curve star Kingham roughed up

By Cory Giger

cgiger@altoonamirror.com

There are about a million examples of why baseball is a crazy game, and one involving Nick Kingham occurred Monday night.

Two weeks ago, Kingham took a perfect game into the seventh inning in winning his major league debut with the Pirates. Monday, facing Double-A hitters, Kingham got hit hard early and allowed four runs in five innings to suffer a loss.

“You’re never as high as you think you are, and you’re never as low,” Kingham said. “Baseball is a humbling sport.”

Kingham was optioned to the Curve to make one start, and Richmond tagged him early for two runs in the first inning and one in the second. The Flying Squirrels got another run off him in the fifth and cruised to a 7-3 win before 3,381 fans at Peoples Natural Gas Field.

Kingham won his first two MLB starts for the Pirates, against the Cardinals and Brewers, but the club didn’t need a fifth starter for a couple of weeks and sent him to the minor leagues.

The assumption is that Kingham now will be called up to the Pirates to make a spot start Saturday on the road against the Phillies. But nothing is set in stone yet, and Kingham said after his start with the Curve that he doesn’t know exactly what’s in store in the coming days.

“I know nothing,” he said. “They have not told me anything. I don’t even know what’s going to be (today). I don’t even know if I should pack my bag or not. I truly do not know anything.”

Kingham has been through quite a whirlwind recently, coming off the highs of his big league wins and then being told he’d have to go back to the minors. But he’s always been a positive guy who focuses on the here and now, so he said he wasn’t disappointed by the Pirates’ decision.

“As long as I’m still playing, they said it was just time to go down, no specific reason other than we had a bunch of off days, so no days for me to pitch,” Kingham said. “So I understand. I can pitch like a big leaguer anywhere I pitch. It’s up to me. I’m just playing against myself, really, going out there and competing with myself no matter who’s in the box.”

The game started 46 minutes late because of rain, and Kingham’s night began with a soft roller to third that turned into an infield single for Luigi Rodriguez. Aramis Garcia followed by ripping a ball down the third base line to score Rodriguez from first.

Kingham walked the next batter, Ryan Howard, and later threw a wild pitch that put runners and second and third with one out. One more run scored on a groundout to shortstop, but Kingham kept the damage at 2-0.

In the second inning, Ali Castillo singled with one out, and Rodriguez tripled to right to make it 3-0.

“I felt like I just didn’t make my pitches early on, kind of settled in toward the end of the game,” Kingham said. “I fell behind, forced to throw the heater, and they hit the pitches that they should have. They hit my mistakes, they did what they were supposed to do with the pitches that I threw.”

Curve manager Michael Ryan said Kingham left his secondary pitches up in the zone.

“Coming in for one game and traveling in or whatever you’re going through, you’ve got to get used to maybe the mound,” Ryan said. “He hasn’t been on this mound in a while. Not to make excuses for him or anything, but facing a team that you don’t know. How can you prepare? It’s hard to get all those things in just one day. He just went out there and competed and got his work in.”

Kingham settled down and was sharp in the third and fourth innings. In the fifth, he gave up three straight hits, with Howard doubling in Rodriguez for a 4-0 lead.

Kingham departed after five innings, having allowed four runs on seven hits with four strikeouts and one walk to take the loss. Cory Taylor (5-1) gave up two runs in 5 1/3 innings to get the win for Richmond.

“I always like coming here; the fans are great,” Kingham said. “They come out, they support us awesome. The town’s cool. It’s a close-knit community.”

Now where will he go?

“I wake up in the morning and go wherever they tell me to go,” Kingham said.

It took Kingham a long time to get to the majors, and he should be back in a few days. Even he said he was amazed by how well things went during his remarkable MLB debut.

“I didn’t even dream it was going to be that good,” Kingham said. “I feel like it was just surreal. I went out there, I was just in the zone, making my pitches, quality pitches, command was awesome. I had everything working for me that day.”

SUBHD: Game recap

Key player: RF Luigi Rodriguez went 4-for-5 with two RBIs and two runs for Richmond.?Key play: The Flying Squirrels opened the game with two hits and a walk that helped them score two runs in the first inning off RHP Nick Kingham.

Key stat: Kingham allowed four runs on seven hits over five innings for the Curve.

SUBHD: How they scored

Top 1st: Rodriguez singled, scored on Garcia double (0-1); Sands groundout scored Garcia (0-2).

Top 2nd: Castillo singled, scored on Rodriguez triple (0-3).

Top 5th: Rodriguez singled, scored on Howard double (0-4).

Top 6th: Jebavy singled, Castillo singled, both scored on Taylor single and George error (0-6).

Bottom 6th: Martin solo homer (1-6); George walked, scored on Jhang groundout (2-6).

Top 8th: Castillo singled, scored on Rodriguez single (2-7).

Bottom 8th: Craig solo homer (3-7).

Covering the bases

LEADING OFF: CF Jason Martin was named Eastern League player of the week Monday after a fantastic week that saw him go 12-for-23 (.522) at the plate with two homers, a double, eight RBIs and seven runs. Martin then started Monday’s game with hits in his first three at-bats, including an opposite-field homer, to run his prolific hitting stretch to 15-for-26 (.577). Martin is the first Curve player to win an EL weekly award this season.

SAFE AT FIRST: Manager Michael Ryan on Martin: “He’s just on everything right now, and he’s just going through one of those stages where I’m sure the baseball looks pretty big to him. … The barrel control that he has and the balance and the plan that he has, it’s just all clicking right now.”

STEALING SECOND: C Jin-De Jhang joined the Curve on Monday after missing the first five weeks with an arm injury. Jhang was a hero of last year’s playoff run as he hit a three-run triple for the winning runs in the clinching game of the Eastern League Championship Series against Trenton.

ROUNDING THIRD: C Jackson Williams was placed on the roster of short-season West Virginia to open up a spot for Jhang.

HEADING HOME: LHP Brandon Waddell came in after RHP Nick Kingham on Monday and pitched three innings of relief. Waddell, therefore, will skip his start through the rotation this time and make his next start Saturday.

— Cory Giger

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