Things get wild in Curve victory

PORTLAND, Maine — The Curve hit the ball hard and got hit hard — literally — in winning a contest that pulled them within a half game of first place.

Bryan Reynolds belted a go-ahead two-run homer in the fifth inning, and Altoona took advantage of some very wild pitching to pull away for an 8-1 win over Portland on Friday night at Hadlock Field.

The Curve are chasing Akron and trying to hold off Harrisburg in the Western Division. The RubberDucks are playing a road series against the Senators this weekend, and Harrisburg won Friday’s opener.

Altoona now trails Akron by just half a game and holds a 3 1/2-game lead over the Senators for the division’s second playoff berth.

Portland reliever Jared Oliver had a crazy night, hitting three batters, walking four and throwing three wild pitches in just 1 1/3 innings. He allowed five runs despite giving up only one hit.

Oliver threw two wild pitches that allowed runners to score from third in the sixth inning as Altoona built a 6-1 lead. Oliver then hit three batters in the seventh inning — including Logan Hill in the head — and he followed that up by hitting Jordan George to force in a run.

Oliver was mercifully lifted at that point as the Curve stretched their lead to 8-1. Tyler Gaffney was later hit by a pitch in the ninth inning, the fourth Altoona batter hit in the game.

Luis Escobar allowed just one run on three hits but lasted only four innings for the Curve. Bret Helton (6-6) won in relief, tossing three scoreless innings. Teddy Stankiewicz (7-11) took the loss for the Sea Dogs.

SUBHD: Best tools

The Curve were well represented on Baseball America’s annual Best Tools list, released Friday.

First baseman Will Craig, second baseman Stephen Alemais and third baseman Ke’Bryan Hayes were all named the best defensive player in the Eastern League at their positions.

Former Curve pitcher Mitch Keller was named the best pitching prospect in the EL, as well as having the best fastball and breaking ball in the league.

SUBHD: Game recap

Key player: CF Bryan Reynolds hit his sixth homer and went 2-for-3 with two RBIs, two runs and two walks for the Curve.

Key play: Reynolds’ two-run homer gave Altoona the lead for good in the fifth.

Key stat: Portland reliever Jared Oliver hit three batters, threw three wild pitches and walked four in 1 1/3 innings.

SUBHD: How they scored

Bottom 4th: Betts singled, scored on Escobar wild pitch (0-1).

Top 5th: Reyes singled, scored on Hayes sacrifice fly (1-1); Tucker singled, scored on Reynolds two-run homer (3-1).

Top 6th: George walked, scored on Oliver wild pitch (4-1); Kelley singled, scored on Oliver wild pitch (5-1); Reyes walked, scored on Tucker sacrifice fly (6-1).

Top 7th: Reynolds walked, scored on George hit by pitch with bases loaded (7-1); Craig hit by pitch, scored on Kelley single (8-1).