Curve capture series
It’s an accomplishment to put double-digit runners on base in a single game. It’s a whole different challenge, Binghamton discovered, to convert those baserunners into runs.
Curve pitchers twice stranded the Rumble Ponies with the bases loaded to keep the scoring much lower than it could have been in Altoona’s 4-3 victory over Binghamton Sunday afternoon in front of 5,097 fans at Peoples Natural Gas Field. The Curve took three out of four games in the series.
“It’s a combination of a lot of things,” Curve manager Michael Ryan said about his team’s ability to maneuver out of high-stress situations. “It’s guys bearing down in big game situations, making quality pitches, pitches where they might expand out of their zone to get big outs.”
In total, the Rumble Ponies left 13 on base and were 3-for-16 with runners in scoring position. Over the course of the series, Binghamton left 43 on base and was just 20-for-67 with runners in position.
Luis Escobar nearly avoided any damage after loading the bases with zero outs in the third, but a line drive that ricocheted off Escobar’s glove slowed the defensive play just enough to allow for Binghamton to scratch across a single run.
Escobar worked a stressful four innings in his third Double-A start, needing 76 pitches to get through four innings, but ultimately turned in a solid outing, only allowing one run on four hits while striking out a pair.
“I thought Escobar did a nice job limiting (the third inning) to just one run and getting out of the jam,” Ryan said. “He did a good job today, but he just threw a lot of pitches, so I had to cut him short.”
Logan Sendelbach (3-2) came on for two innings to record the win, but it was Sean Keselica who once again left Binghamton frustrated as he escaped a busy seventh inning that saw the Rumble Ponies load the bases yet again without scoring.
On the other end of the baserunning spectrum, Altoona’s Cole Tucker continued to show why he’s one of the best. After stealing second base in the sixth inning, Tucker displayed his flashy speed on a Bryan Reynolds shallow single to right field that forced the shortstop to dive into home and avoid the tag for Altoona’s second run.
“In a day and age where it’s all about launch angle and swing plane,” Tucker said, “I think baserunning is becoming a lost art. I definitely take pride in it. It’s a part of my game and is going to continue to be a part as long as I’m able to run and be young and fast.”
The steal leading up to the play was Tucker’s 28th of the year and moved him past New Hampshire’s Bo Bichette for sole possession of most steals in the Eastern League.
“Anytime (Tucker) is on base,” Ryan said, “whether it’s a walk or a single, there’s the opportunity for it to turn into a double. He can steal or he can go from first to third. We always say that when he goes, we go. He uses so many of his weapons, anytime he’s on base there’s a good chance we are going to score.”
Reynolds and first baseman Will Craig did most of the damage at the plate for Altoona against Franklyn Kilome (4-7) who was making his Binghamton debut after being traded from the Phillies organization on Tuesday for Asdrubal Cabrera. Reynolds extended his hit-streak to seven games while Craig picked up RBIs number 83 and 84 to move him into fifth all-time in Curve single-season history.
The Curve left just three runners on base before Tate Scioneaux came on to pick up his third-consecutive successful save conversion.
Key player: CF Bryan Reynolds was 2-for-4 with an RBI.
Key play: LHP Sean Keselica stranded the bases loaded in the top 7th to keep Binghamton off the board.
Key stat: Binghamton was 3-for-16 with runners in scoring position.
How they scored
Bottom 1st: Hayes doubled, scored on Craig sac-fly (1-0).
Top 3rd: Kilome singled, scored on Toffey single (1-1).
Bottom 6th: Tucker singled, scored on Reynolds single (2-1); Hayes singled, scored on Craig sac-fly (3-1); Reynolds scored on fielder’s error (4-1).
Top 8th: Franco singled, Ely walked, both scored on Gimenez double (4-3).
Covering the bases
LEADING OFF: With the win, Altoona moved to nine games over .500 for the first time this year. The Curve topped out at nine games over .500 on three occasion during last season’s Eastern League championship run.
SAFE AT FIRST: With Bryan Reynolds’ two singles, he now has 12 hits in his last seven games and has seen his batting average increase 20 points to .276 over that span.
STEALING SECOND: “Absolutely.” Michael Ryan’s response when asked if he will continue to turn to RHP Tate Scioneaux in the ninth inning of close games. Scioneaux record his sixth save of the year Sunday.
ROUNDING THIRD: After existing as the Binghamton Mets for 25 seasons, Binghamton changed its mascot last season to the Rumble Ponies as a nod to Binghamton being the “Carousel Capital of the World.”
HEADING HOME: The Curve are off Monday before heading to Harrisburg for a three-game series. The two teams will battle for second place in the Western Division before Altoona returns home to face Western Division-leading Akron.
Tuesday: Altoona at Harrisburg, 6:30 p.m.
Pitchers: Curve RHP Cam Vieaux (6-2, 3.21) vs TBD