Day off welcomed after tough setback

By Thomas Schlarp

For the Mirror

The Curve spent much of Sunday in a state of frustration.

Frustration at the plate to start the game, an ejection of Curve manager Michael Ryan in the top of the seventh inning, and a questionable called check-swing to end the 10th with the bases loaded all encapsulated the type of day it was in a series ending, extra-inning defeat to Erie.

Four innings of no-hit baseball from Spencer Turnbull to start the game silenced Altoona’s offense long enough in Erie’s 4-3 victory over the Curve in front of 6,777 fans at Peoples Natural Gas Field in the final contest before an eight-game road trip for Altoona.

“The day off (Monday) will help (ease the frustration),” Ryan said. “Usually when you have a day off, the previous game seems like it was two weeks away. I think that will help. (Sunday’s loss) might hurt on the bus ride (to New Hampshire), but they’ll be able to wash it off and respond like they usually do. It’s a big series against a big club. It’s a big series, and I know the guys will be ready for it.”

Ryan’s ejection came after Ke’Bryan Hayes attempted to barehand a Sergio Alcantara single that appeared to have rolled foul.

Turnbull turned in his best outing since he pitched a complete-game, shutout in early June. The right-hander threw six innings, allowing just three hits and two earned runs with one strikeout.

Altoona’s first run-scoring hit came from a Will Craig single that pushed his record-pace RBI total to 93 on the year. The two-run hit ended an RBI drought for the first baseman,. Craig hadn’t batted in a run in five games, miraculously his second-longest streak of the season.

Craig had a chance to win the game in the 10th, but the questionable check-swing call ended his opportunity.

“I can’t leave the call in the umpire’s hand,” Craig said. “I always want to give myself the best chance to hit. Whether I did swing or didn’t swing, I was frustrated because I at the very least wanted to get the ball in play. We don’t want to let this carry over.”

Scooter Hightower was nearly as effective as Turnbull, turning in the best performance of his five-game Curve career. Hightower’s five innings pitched were a season-high and his six strikeouts tied his season’s best. The lone run that came across while he was on the hill was unearned.

“He’s going to go back to the bullpen now,” Ryan said. “We’ve got our five starters with (James) Marvel here now. It was just because of us using two starters yesterday in the doubleheader we had to start (Hightower) today and needed a bullpen day, but overall, yeah it was a good day for him.”

Erie struck for the most damage off of Logan Sendelbach who entered Sunday’s game carrying a 14-plus inning scoreless streak. Sendelbach worked one clean inning to take the new Altoona season-high for consecutive innings pitched without an earned run, but four-straight hits and two earned runs to open the seventh spelled the end of his night.

From there, the Curve essentially emptied the bullpen, using five different relief pitchers in the extra-inning game.

Yeudy Garcia (2-5) was the final pitcher on the mound for Altoona and tagged with the loss when Erie scored its game-winning run via the extra-inning rule that starts each inning with a runner on second.

Erie used just three pitchers out of the pen to relieve Turnbull. John Schreiber (2-6) pitched two scoreless innings to keep Altoona off the scoreboard in extras and hold on for the win.

“The first game we hit the ball really well,” Craig said. “We just need to work on consistently stringing hits together. I think the next eight days are going to be really big for us. We kind of solidified ourselves enough, not necessarily in playoff race wise, but in other areas if we continue to play like we are playing right now. We just can’t let this linger and waste an opportunity in the next few series.”

Game recap

Key player: RHP Spencer Turnbull allowed three hits and two runs in six innings of work.

Key play: LF Cam Gibson sac-fly in the 11th to score the winning run.

Key stat: Erie and Altoona combined to go 7-for-26 with runners in scoring position.

How they scored

Top 3rd: Alcantara singled, scored on Castro single and fielding error (0-1).

Bottom 6th: Tucker and Hayes walked, scored on Craig single (2-1).

Top 7th: Paredes and Rodgers singled, scored on Woodrow single (2-3).

Top 8th: Gaffney doubled, scored on Hayes single (3-3).

Top 11th: Eaves started at second, scored on Gibson sac-fly (3-4).

Covering the bases

LEADING OFF: The Curve begin an eight-game, eight-day road trip up the East Coast beginning Tuesday before returning to PNG Field for 10-game homestand. The road trip begins in New Hampshire against the Fisher Cats, the top team in the Eastern Division.

SAFE AT FIRST: 3B Ke’Bryan Hayes walked twice and had one single to move his hitting streak to 14 games. Hayes is batting .321 during the streak with six doubles and two home runs.

STEALING SECOND: The series split with Erie was the second split for Altoona in its last 10 series. The Curve have won six of the last ten series, dropping just two. Altoona has won 12 of their last 20 games.

ROUNDING THIRD: INF Stephen Alemais was placed on the 7-day disabled list with a sprained left ankle retroactive to August 11. C Jin-De Jhang was reinstated from the temporarily inactive list.

HEADING HOME: Akron continued its slide since the start of August. A 6-2 loss to Portland was the ninth loss in 11 games for the RubberDucks. What was once a seven-game lead over Altoona for the top position in the Western Division is now just 2.5 with 22 games remaining in the season.