Curve get sweep in impressive fashion
Tonight: Erie at Altoona, 6 p.m.
Pitchers: Seawolves RHP Spencer Turnbull (4-6, 4.69) vs. Curve RHP Scooter Hightower (0-1, 4.66)
By Thomas Schlarp
For the Mirror
A Cole Tucker, game-winning, bases-clearing triple in the nightcap of a doubleheader — and the best start to any game of the season in the opener — proved quite a response on Saturday night to the quiet bats that plagued the the Curve just one night before on Friday.
Tucker’s hit sparked the comeback in a 4-2 nightcap victory over Erie, and six consecutive hits without an out to begin the first game with five first-inning runs sent the Curve on their way to a 6-4 win in the opener
“In a situation like that where everybody is up clapping, there’s definitely a higher sense of excitement,” Tucker said of his game-winning hit. “I actually had this little moment in the 3-2 count where I thought my family is probably sitting at home, huddled over the computer watching. I’ve got to give them something to cheer about here. Then I hit it, slid into third and was so excited. I was freaking out. All at-bats are important, but that one was really special.”
In the opener, Erie’s Alfred Gutierrez (2-2) needed 32 pitches to navigate through the disastrous inning and sprung the SeaWolves’ bullpen in to early action.
However, Gutierrez settled down to throw 5-plus innings and allow just two more runs the rest of the way.
Four Curve players finished game one with multiple hits, led by Bryan Reynolds’ three singles and two RBIs to continue his impressive pace at the plate that has included 15 hits in his last 10 game.
“It’s a good response from yesterday,” Curve manager Michael Ryan said. “Each guy on the club responds the next day. If they don’t come through, it seems like they always step up.”
Luis Escobar (3-0) picked up the win for the Curve in his fifth start of the season for Altoona. He allowed seven hits and walked three batters in five innings. He gave up all four runs in the fourth. Matt Eckel-man successfully converted
his fourth-straight save to preserve the victory.
Eckelman’s four-straight successful saves moved the pitcher to 7-of-9 on save opportunities this season for Altoona. The right-hander has not allowed a run in his last eight appearances.
A masterful pitching performance from Cam Vieaux (8-3) in the second game appeared destined for a wasted start as Altoona was kept off the board until the sixth when the Erie bullpen fell apart.
Altoona needed just a single hit to load the bases thanks to erratic SeaWolves pitching before Tucker delivered his decisive triple off Kurt Spomer who came in to relieve Sandy Baez (1-8). Tucker’s triple came on the same night that he caught the ceremonial first pitch from former Pirate shortstop Jack Wilson.
“It’s a great job by Tucker making the adjustment,” Ryan said. “He got to 3-0, went to 3-1, then 3-2, so he was able to see a lot of pitches. He was able to see something up (in the zone) and was able to drive it into the gap.”
Vieaux’s impressive start included six innings on the hill of just three-hit baseball and at one point retired 14-consecutive Erie batters. Tate Scioneaux came on in the seventh for his seventh save of the season.
“I just have a better sense of focus right now than earlier in the year and a better understanding of the game,” Tucker said. “As minor leaguers we are always learning about ourselves, the game and situations…I have a better sense of what people are trying to do against me.”
Key player: Bryan Reynolds had his second three-hit game in the last three days in the opener.
Key play: DH Jordan George’s 2-run double in the first inning of the opener. SS Cole Tucker’s 3-run triple in the sixth inning of the second game.
Key stat: Will Craig picked up his 100th hit of the season with a double in the first inning of the first game. It was Cole Tucker’s fifth triple of the season.
How they scored
Bottom 1st: Tucker singled, Hayes doubled, both scored on Reynolds single (2-0); Craig doubled, scored with Reynolds on George double (4-0); Hill double scores George (5-0).
Top 4th: Lester reached on fielder’s choice, scored on Ficociello double (5-1); Eaves singled, scored with Ficociello on Maddox single (5-3); Thole walked, scored on Woodrow single (5-4).
Bottom 6th: Reyes doubled, scored on Hayes single (6-4).
Top 2nd: Ficociello singled, scored on Woodrow single (0-1).
Top 6th: Castro solo homer (0-2).
Bottom 6th: George singled, scored Ratledge hit-by-pitch (1-2); Hill walked, Pabst reached on error, both scored with Ratledge on Tucker triple (4-2).
Covering the bases
LEADING OFF: “I love his glove,” former Pirates and Curve shortstop Jack Wilson said about Cole Tucker. “I watched him take ground balls today before the game. He has great hands, great instincts…things you really can’t teach. His athleticism, his great feet, obviously he’s still a young guy and has time to develop on the offensive side, but defensively he’s ready to make the next step.”
SAFE AT FIRST: “He’s the man,” Tucker said of Jack Wilson. “He’s a good guy to know. He did it for a long time in a place where I want to go…I can’t say enough about him. Outstanding human being and really good person…It was an honor (to catch his first pitch) with him being a Pirates shortstop and me hopefully being a Pirates shortstop one day.”
STEALING SECOND: 3B Ke’Bryan Hayes extended his hit streak to 13 games by recording a hit in each game. The 13-game streak is the longest of any Curve player this season.
ROUNDING THIRD: INF/OF Alfredo Reyes was assigned to the Curve from Triple-A Indianapolis. He went 1-for-3 with a double in the first game of the doubleheader.
HEADING HOME: The top of the Western Division had a winning Saturday. Harrisburg picked up its 60th win of the season Saturday, and Akron rebounded from its Friday loss to keep its lead atop the division.