Curve close within half game of first place

BINGHAMTON, N.Y. — Will Craig’s impressive and historic season saw him reach a milestone Monday night in helping the Curve to a win that pulled them within a half game of first place.

Craig became just the ninth player to hit 20 homers in a season for Altoona when he belted a two-run blast in the seventh inning. That gave the Curve a four-run lead, and they held on for a 5-4 victory over Binghamton at NYSEG Stadium.

Akron lost Monday, so Altoona is knocking on the RubberDucks’ doorstep at just a half game out of first in the Western Division. The Curve’s stronghold on a playoff spot also got tighter as Harrisburg lost, so Altoona is now 5 ¢ games up on the Senators for the division’s wild-card berth.

The Curve also improved to a season-high 13 games over .500.

Craig drove in two runs, giving him 96 RBIs, just 10 shy of Adam Hyzdu’s long-standing Curve record.

Hyzdu is the only Curve player to have hit 20 homers in two different seasons (24 in 1999, 31 in 2000). Craig joined a 20-homer list that also includes Josh Bonifay (25), Jose Bautista (23), Carlos Rivera (22), Stetson Allie (21), Craig Wilson (20), J.J. Davis (20) and Ray Sadler (20).

James Marvel turned in a solid outing on the mound and delivered a key hit for Altoona. Marvel singled home a run in the sixth inning, and a second run scored on an error on the play as the Curve broke up a tie and grabbed a 3-1 lead.

Craig’s homer in the seventh made it 5-1, and the Curve appeared to be on their way to an easy win. Binghamton came back against Altoona’s bullpen, though, scoring twice and pulling within a run in the ninth.

A throwing error by shortstop Cole Tucker with two outs in the ninth allowed the Rumble Ponies to score a run and pull within 5-4. Geoff Hartlieb escaped a jam, though, stranding runners at second and third by getting a flyout to end the game and earn his eighth save.

Marvel (2-1) allowed two runs on five hits in 6 1/3 innings, striking out five with three walks.

Matt Gage (2-3) took the loss for Binghamton, giving up three runs — two earned — on eight hits over 5 2/3 innings, striking out eight with two walks.

Arden Pabst went 3-for-4 with a double and a run for the Curve, while Tucker had two hits.

SUBHD: Game recap

Key player: RHP James Marvel won on the mound and gave the Curve the lead for good when his single drove in one run and another scored on an error in the sixth.

Key play: RHP Geoff Hartlieb saved the game in the ninth by stranding the tying run at third and go-ahead run at second.

Key stat: 1B Will Craig became the ninth Curve player to hit 20 homers in a season, and Altoona moved within a half game of first place.

SUBHD: How they scored

Top 2nd: Hill walked, scored on Reyes single (1-0).

Bottom 5th: Taylor tripled, scored on Urena sacrifice fly (1-1).

Top 6th: Pabst doubled, Reyes intentionally walked, both scored on Marvel single (3-1).

Top 7th: Reynolds reached on Gimenez error, scored on Craig two-run homer (5-1).

Bottom 7th: Nido singled, scored on Mora bases-loaded walk (5-2).

Bottom 8th: Terdoslavich solo homer (5-3).

Bottom 9th: Mazeika singled, scored on Tucker error (5-4).