Curve follow up Friday night win with another solid outing
Today: Erie at Altoona, 2 p.m.
Pitchers: Curve RHP James Marvel (3-3, 3.07) vs. SeaWolves TBD
The Curve have put together back-to-back impressive victories after edging Erie in a pitchers’ duel Saturday afternoon.
Scooter Hightower tossed six shutout innings for Altoona, besting 2016 first-round draft pick Matt Manning of the SeaWolves, in a 2-1 win before 4,147 fans at Peoples Natural Gas Field.
The Curve lost two of three at home against struggling Bowie in the middle of the week, but have bounced back with two good wins in a row over Erie.
“I love the response from this team, especially the last two days against two of the top pitchers in the league,” Curve manager Michael Ryan said. “So of course it feels very good after a tough series against Bowie.”
The Curve rallied Friday night for an 8-4 win, after falling behind 4-2 against 2018 No. 1 draft pick Casey Mize and rallying against Erie’s bullpen.
Saturday’s win came against another outstanding prospect in Manning (3-2), who allowed two runs on six hits over 52/3 innings to take the loss.
Hightower, who came in with a 5.52 ERA, was fantastic, giving up just three hits over six scoreless innings and striking out three with no walks.
“Hightower did an excellent job of getting ahead,” Ryan said. “(Going) 0-1 is very effective against this team; 1-0 is not. So we knew that the first pitch for each hitter was going to be important.
“He did a great job of establishing the corners both inside and outside, mixing speeds and keeping Erie off balance.”
Neither offense could get much going, but the Curve gave Hightower a lead with a run in the fourth. Logan Hill was hit by a pitch and later scored on a sacrifice fly by Jerrick Suiter.
Altoona doubled the lead to 2-0 in the sixth as Hunter Owen doubled and scored on a single by Suiter.
Erie’s lone run came in the seventh as Kody Eaves homered off reliever Joel Cesar.
Tate Scioneaux finished it off in the ninth to earn his first save. Scioneaux has a 12.71 ERA but will have to be counted on in save situations with Matt Eckelman getting promoted to Triple-A Indianapolis.
Owen and Brett Pope had two hits apiece for the Curve. Owen continues to be a force offensively as he’s batting .299 with seven homers, eight doubles, 26 RBIs and a .923 OPS.
The back-to-back wins improved the Curve’s home record to 7-10, an unusual figure given that the team has enjoyed great success at home over the years. This season, the club has played better on the road, going 11-6.
Altoona has moved two games over .500 at 18-16 and will try for a three-game sweep of the SeaWolves this afternoon.
“I feel that the rhythm and timing of each of our hitters are getting better little by little each day,” Ryan said. “I believe that the second time that we face guys in this league we do that much better, so it just shows you the type of adjustments that this team can make.”
SUBHD: Game recap
Key player: RHP Scooter Hightower tossed six shutout innings for the Curve, allowing just three hits.
Key play: An RBI single by 1B Jerrick Suiter in the sixth gave the Curve a 2-0 lead and proved to be the decisive run.
Key stat: The Curve have won back-to-back games despite Erie starting first-round draft picks on the mound each day.
SUBHD: How they scored
Bottom 4th: Hill hit by pitch, scored on Suiter sacrifice fly (1-0).
Bottom 6th: Owen doubled, scored on Suiter single (2-0).
Top 7th: Eaves solo homer (2-1).
Covering the bases
LEADING OFF: The Curve are in second place in the Western Division and trail Harrisburg by six games. That’s a sizable margin midway through the first half, but the Senators have cooled off since their blazing start, so a nice winning streak could bring Altoona within striking distance.
SAFE AT FIRST: The Curve are only 7-10 at home and have been outscored 77-59 in those games.
STEALING SECOND: Altoona’s pitchers had the fewest strikeouts in all the minors entering play Saturday with 228. But they had the sixth-fewest walks in the minors with just 87.
ROUNDING THIRD: The Curve’s defense has been spectacular, with a .987 fielding percentage entering playing Saturday. That was tied with Triple-A Iowa for the best in the minors.
HEADING HOME: Following today’s series finale with Erie, the Curve head to Binghamton for three games starting Monday. They’ll be back home Thursday to begin a four-game series against Harrisburg.
— Cory Giger