Curve knocked out of playoffs

By Matt Michelone

For the Mirror

Curve manager Michael Ryan believed that starting pitcher Dario Agrazal was about to bounce back from two brutal starts to end the regular season.

Those performances included a five-run-on-10-hit outing against Trenton on Aug. 29, despite going seven innings.

His final regular-season outing on Monday against Bowie was even more dreadful as he gave up five home runs on his way to getting blasted for 10 runs on 13 hits in three frames.

Saturday afternoon was more of the same for the right-hander as he was lit up for five runs on six hits in 21/3 innings of work as the defending Eastern League champions were officially dethroned by the Akron RubberDucks, 9-0, before 2,898 fans at Peoples Natural Gas Field.

“It sucks,” shortstop Cole Tucker said of being eliminated. “We’ve got a great group of guys in here. It would’ve been really cool to tie up the series and force a game 5. We just didn’t have that good of at bats. (Sean) Brady pitched a good game, and you tip your cap to them. They played really well.”

Akron now is 5-0 all-time in the EL playoffs series against the Curve, posting a commanding 15-7 record all-time in the 22 individual games.

The RubberDucks, meanwhile, advanced to their second championship series in the last three years, this time against the New Hampshire Fisher Cats.

Akron manager Tony Mansolino’s ball club suffered what could’ve been a devastating loss on Friday which they led 5-0 before Tucker’s grand slam set off a come back.

“At the end of the day, it’s just minor league baseball,” he said. “It’s not that big of a deal for us. These guys are having fun with it, there’s no pressure, there’s no stress, it’s just fun.

“They’re getting an extra pay check right now to help pay for their rent, and they get to play some competitive baseball.”

His team came out firing from the first pitch as Ernie Clement and Josh Donaldson both came up with singles on back-to-back at bats. Both would score on a Tyler Krieger ground out and Andrew Calica single to give the Ducks a 2-0 lead.

“You got to tip your cap to Akron,” Curve manager Michael Ryan said. “They played so well, they’re going to be a tough team to beat in any series, and their starters were really good, their bullpen was really good.

“They swung the bats great, they didn’t make any mistakes. They beat us, there’s nothing to be disappointed about. They earned it.”

The RubberDucks ultimately put the game away in the third, thanks to a two-run home run by Calica to increase the Akron cushion ultimately to five.

Altoona did have a chance to put a dent into that lead in the fifth thanks to singles by Jordan George and Logan Hill, but that was shut down following a ground out by Alfredo Reyes.

Sean Brady was solid on the mound as he went seven innings giving up seven hits, but striking out three as the Curve left seven men on base.

“Sometimes stuff is going to happen when you can not do anything right and you’re going to score runs, or you do everything perfectly and you’re not going to score,” Curve first baseman Will Craig said. “That’s how baseball works.”

“If we were to lose to them, that’s probably who I’d want it to be,” third baseman Ke’Bryan Hayes said. “They’re a really good team, they do all the little things right, they’re able to get those clutch hits, grind out at bats.”

The loss ends what ended up being a year they went 78-60, and won the franchise’s fourth regular season division championship. This is the first time the club did not win the Eastern League Championship after winning the division title since 2004 when they were swept by the New Hampshire Fisher Cats in that year’s championship series.

Despite the ending, Hayes saw the year as a moment of growth for the club.

“It was a lot of people’s in this room first year in Double-A,” he said. “It’s a really good league to play in, a lot of good players in this league who will eventually play in the big leagues.

“A lot of people including myself got to know a lot about ourselves. It was a fun year.”

Ryan hopes the impact he had on the team will be positive as the players move on.

“I was just honored to manage them, and hopefully I impacted some of their careers just as much as they impacted mine this year. It’s a great year.”

Game recap

Key player: Akron CF Andrew Calica went 3-for-5 with a 2-run home run in the 3rd inning.

Key play: Stephen Alemais and Alfredo Reyes’ groundouts in the 5th inning ended the Curve’s best chance to rally back.

Key stat: The Curve are now 7-15 all time against the Akron RubberDucks/Aeros franchise in Eastern League Playoff games, and are 0-5 all time in playoff series.

How they scored:

Top 1st: Clement singled, scored on Krieger ground out (0-1); Donaldson singled, scored on Calica single (0-2).

Top 3rd: Krieger singles, scored on Calica home run (0-4); Carter walks, scores on Salters walk (0-5).

Top 7th: Rodriguez singled, scored on Keselica wild pitch (0-6); Calica singled, scored on Mathias single (0-7); Carter singled, scored on Salters single (0-8); Tom walks, scored on Clement walk (0-9).