Kingham will pitch in Altoona Monday

READING — The Curve are on the road this weekend, and when they return home Monday night, Nick Kingham will be their surprise starting pitcher.

Altoona won at Reading on Thursday night, 5-4, but the more noteworthy item surrounding the team came a few hours before that. Kingham, whose last two starts were in the major leagues with the Pirates, had his option switched from Triple-A Indianapolis to the Curve.

Why would the Pirates do that?

Well, the reason Kingham was optioned to the minor leagues a few days ago was because the Bucs don’t need a fifth starting pitcher until May 19 because of some scheduling quirks. The thinking all along has been that Kingham would make one start in the minors, then rejoin the Pirates for a spot start on May 19 at home against the San Diego Padres.

The Pirates want Kingham to make his minor league start Monday, so that he would be on his usual rest when he returns to face the Padres five days later. The problem, though, is that Indianapolis is off Monday, and with the Curve playing at home, it created an ideal situation for the organization to send him to Altoona for one start.

Kingham, remember, took a perfect game into the seventh inning of his MLB debut April 29 against the St. Louis Cardinals. In his second outing, he held the Milwaukee Brewers to one run over the first five innings, then gave up three more runs in the sixth.

Kingham is no stranger to Altoona, having pitched here in 2013, ’14 and ’16 as he was working his way up the minor league system and, in the case of 2016, coming back from injury.

The Curve opened up a four-game series against Reading on Thursday, and Cole Tucker broke out of his recent slump with a single to start the game, then later scored the first run on a single by Jason Martin.

Tucker hit an inside-the-park home run in the fifth inning for a 3-1 lead, and Jordan George ripped a two-run double for a four-run cushion.

There’s usually a lot of offense at FirstEnergy Stadium, and sure enough, the Fightin Phils fought back with three runs in the sixth inning off reliever Logan Sendelbach to pull within 5-4. The Curve bullpen made that slim lead hold up, though, as Sendelbach regrouped to pitch a scoreless seventh, then Jesus Liranzo worked the final two innings to earn his third save.

Taylor Hearn (1-3) had a strong outing for Altoona, holding Reading to just one hit and one run over five inning. The lefty finished with three strikeouts and two walks in earning his first Double-A victory.

Franklin Kilome (2-0) took the loss for Reading, giving up five runs on six hits over five innings.

SUBHD: Game recap

Key player: LHP Taylor Hearn gave up one run on one hit in five innings for the Curve to earn the win.

Key play: SS Cole Tucker hit an inside-the-park homer, and RF Jordan George had a two-run double in Altoona’s three-run fifth inning for a 5-1 lead.

Key stat: RHP Nick Kingham, who took a perfect game into the seventh inning of his MLB debut two weeks ago, will start for the Curve on Monday.

SUBHD: How they scored

Top 1st: Tucker singled, scored on Martin single (1-0).

Bottom 3rd: Bednar reached on strikeout, Hearn wild pitch, scored on Canelo sacrifice fly (1-1).

Top 4th: Martin singled, scored on Kelley groundout (2-1).

Top 5th: Tucker inside-the-park solo homer (3-1); Hayes walked, Hill hit by pitch, both scored on George double (5-1).

Bottom 6th: Tomscha walked, scored on Hernandez double (5-2); Green walked, scored along with Hernandez on Randolph single (5-4).