Curve playoff tickets going on sale today; teams falls at NH

The Curve are in great position for a fourth straight postseason appearance, and possibly a regular-season division title, so the franchise will put playoff tickets on sale today.

Individual game tickets cost $5 for any seat on any level at Peoples Natural Gas Field, and fans can purchase tickets for all five potential playoff games for $25. The playoffs begin Sept. 5, but Altoona’s home dates have yet to be determined.

The Curve hold a 3¢-game lead over Harrisburg for the final playoff spot in the Western Division, and they trail first-place Akron by just a game and a half. Altoona will have a chance to win a second straight Eastern League championship if it can reach the postseason for the ninth time in the franchise’s 20 seasons.

“Any time that you can make the playoffs it’s special,” Curve general manager Derek Martin said. “We’re very fortunate that the Pirates have done a fantastic job supplying their minor leagues clubs with great teams, and to make it four straight years would be unbelievable.”

The Curve are averaging 4,556 fans per game this season, but playoff crowds usually are smaller because the season-ticket base from the regular season does not carry over in the postseason. The crowd for last year’s championship clincher was 3,656 at PNG Field.

Playoff games also draw a different type of crowd, which the franchise understands after getting there so many times.

“The difference between selling regular-season tickets and playoff tickets is the playoffs are more catered to the baseball fan than a typical minor league baseball game, where you’re selling baseball but you’re also selling the entertainment value,” Martin said.

“Selling for the playoffs, it’s our goal to get fans in the ballpark to try to energize players when they’re on the field.”

That certainly was the case in last year’s clinching game as the crowd was very loud and into all aspects of the contest, which usually isn’t the case for a typical minor league game.

“Unbelievable,” Martin said of last year’s crowd. “It shows that Altoona is a strong baseball community. They like their baseball, they show up to see the team and they’re into it.

“I remember it like it was yesterday when Tate (Scioneaux) threw one of the pitches and it was called a ball and you hear the crowd go, ‘ahhhh.’ The crowd was so into it. They wanted to see our great team from last year win it all.”

Curve squander lead

MANCHESTER, N.H. — No matter how well the Curve are playing or how big of a lead they get in a game, the feeling that the bullpen might not be able to hold on continues to be a troubling reality.

It wasn’t all the bullpen’s fault Thursday night as a very costly error did plenty of damage, but Altoona squandered a three-run lead and missed a chance to sweep New Hampshire. The Fisher Cats scored three runs in the eighth inning to tie and won on a walk-off homer by Cavan Biggio in the ninth, 7-6, at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium.

Biggio, son of hall of famer Craig, hit two homers on the night, upping his league-leading total to 26. He’s also second in the league in RBIs with 88, trailing only Will Craig of the Curve (94).

Tyler Gaffney hit a three-run homer in the second inning for Altoona, which led 4-0 after three. It was 6-3 in the eighth until Yeudy Garcia walked two batters then gave up a two-run double to Max Pentecost.

Tate Scioneaux replaced Garcia with one out and the tying run at third. Scioneaux got a strikeout for the second out and appeared to be out of the inning on a grounder to shortstop. Cole Tucker’s throw was there in time for the out, but Craig dropped it for a crucial error, and Pentecost came in with the tying run.

The Curve had runners at second and third with two outs in the ninth, but Jin-De Jhang grounded out. Biggio came up with two outs in the bottom of the ninth and won it with his homer to right on a 3-0 pitch from Scioneaux (2-3).

Travis Bergen (3-1) won in relief for New Hampshire.

Game recap

Key player: RF Cavan Biggio went 3-for-4 with two homers and three RBIs for New Hampshire.

Key play: A two-out error by 1B Will Craig allowed New Hampshire to score the tying run in the eighth, and Biggio won it with a walk-off homer in the ninth.

Key stat: The Curve could have pulled within a half game of first place since Akron lost, but instead they remain 1 ¢ games out of first place.

How they scored

Top 2nd: Jhang walked, Hill hit by pitch, both scored on Gaffney three-run homer (3-0).

Top 3rd: Hayes reached on Espinal error, scored on Jhang double (4-0).

Bottom 3rd: Wall singled, scored on Biggio two-run homer (4-2).

Top 4th: George singled, scored on Tucker single (5-2).

Bottom 6th: Biggio doubled, scored on Espinal sacrifice fly (5-3).

Top 7th: Tucker tripled, scored on Reynolds sacrifice fly (6-3).

Bottom 8th: Bichette walked, Biggio walked, both scored on Pentecost double (6-5); Pentecost scored on Tucker error (6-6).

Bottom 9th: Biggio solo homer (6-7).