Scioneaux saves the day for Curve

By Thomas Schlarp

For the Mirror

The Curve might have finally found the answer to their closer conundrum, and the solution may have been as easy as turning to the guy responsible for recording the save in last year’s Eastern League Championship Series clincher.

Tate Scioneaux’s fourth save of the season snapped a three-game losing streak as the Curve held on to beat Bowie, 5-3, Wednesday afternoon before 4,440 fans at Peoples Natural Gas Field.

“Closing is cool,” Scioneaux said. “Everyone wants the ball in their hand at the end of the game when you’re (in a close game). For me to just get the ball, regardless of the situation, I just want to compete.”

Following two consecutive games in which the Curve bullpen lost leads in the ninth inning, Yeudy Garcia and Scioneaux finally turned in a combined relief effort to plug the Bowie offense after starter Luis Escobar (1-0) exited to begin the seventh.

Scioneaux, who’s now 4-of-5 in save opportunities, has also started two games and pitched as many as three innings on three occasions. The starts were necessary because the club was short a starter and had to turn to bullpen days, with Scioneaux getting the ball first.

If his success continues late in games, however, Scioneaux could be just the guy Curve manager Michael Ryan turns to in a close ninth inning.

“It just depends on the situation,” Ryan said. “He was built up for a couple innings after doing some long relief, so that’s why when some doubleheaders came up we decided to try and give him a start. But he got the save today, so he’ll get the next opportunity.”

Scioneaux’s opportunity arose following Escobar’s Double-A debut. It appeared early on that the Curve bullpen wouldn’t get a chance for a save after Escobar surrendered a double off the wall, a walk and single to the first three batters of his first performance for Altoona, but the right-hander eventually settled down, giving up a pair of solo home runs on just four hits.

“(Escobar) was amped up, a lot of nervous energy (for his first game),” Ryan said. “Sometimes that affects release point and mechanics. Bowie can put up some runs quick, but he held them to solo home runs. Once he settled in, his stuff played. It was a great first outing for him.”

Will Craig knocked in three runs, including his 14th home run and Eastern League-leading 70th RBI of the year, to help build Altoona’s two-run lead against Bowie starter Christian Binford (1-4).

Garcia struck out four in two innings before Scioneaux entered the decisive ninth inning, which has been unkind to Altoona this season and especially of late. History looked destined to repeat as the Baysox put runners on first and third with one out, but damage was averted as Scioneaux retired the next two batters.

“For me to just get an opportunity, and whatever the team needs or wherever the manager wants to put me, I’m ready for it,” Scioneaux said. “Our bullpen has been biting the bullet a lot. Whatever situation you’re put in, you’ve just got to step up and get the job done.”

Scioneaux spent much of the time as the Curve’s setup man in 2017, but moved to a closer role after Montana DuRapau’s promotion to Triple-A Indianapolis. Scioneaux converted 14-of-17 save opportunities during the championship season.

Keeping pace with his 82 percent save conversion percentage, much higher than Altoona’s team success that is just north of 50 percent, will be key to the continuation of Scioneaux’s role as a dependable closer.

“If a guy has success in a role, then we’ll keep him there,” Ryan said. “If he doesn’t, then we’ll try to find someone else who will have the opportunity to find success in a role, and we’ll go with them. You’ve got to play the hot hand.”

Game recap

Key player: DH Will Craig finished 2-for-4 with a home run and three RBIs.

Key play: SS Cole Tucker tripled home a run and then scored to help give the Curve a 5-1 lead in the second.

Key stat: The Curve snapped a three-game losing streak.

How they scored

Top 1st: Brugman doubled, scored on Santander groundout (0-1).

Bottom 1st: Hayes singled, scored on Craig two-run homer (2-1).

Bottom 2nd: Alemais singled, scored on Tucker triple (3-1); Tucker scored on Hayes single (4-1). Hayes scored on Craig single (5-1).

Top 3rd: Mountcastle solo homer (5-2).

Top 4th: Rodriguez solo homer (5-3).