Curve look to improve at home
BINGHAMTON, N.Y. — The Curve return home tonight looking to turn around their unusual struggles at Peoples Natural Gas Field, and they’ll be riding high following a come-from behind, nail-biting win Wednesday.
Altoona gave up five runs in the first inning at Binghamton, only to rally and escape with a 9-8 victory at NYSEG Stadium. The Rumble Ponies had the bases loaded and one out in the ninth looking to come back for a win, then hit into a game-ending double play as the Curve held on.
Altoona now returns to PNG Field, where the club has gone just 7-11 so far. The team has played better on the road with a 12-8 record, and it will try to figure out how to play better at home with a four-game series against division leader Harrisburg.
PNG Field has long provided a great home-field advantage for the Curve, but every team and every season is different, and this year’s club has yet to get on a roll at home.
“I’ve thought about that, I just haven’t figured it out,” manager Michael Ryan said during the last homestand when asked about the issues at home.
“Are we trying to do too much at home because of the big right field, or the short left field? No one’s complaining about how they’re not seeing the ball and shadows and things that you might have heard before. Because when the sun comes out the shadows can be tough with a 6 o’clock game. I haven’t heard any of those. It’s just one of those things.”
Ryan talked about the offense, and the Curve do rank near the bottom of the Eastern League in several hitting categories, including runs, home runs, walks and steals.
“We’re not a power team,” Ryan said. “We don’t have the guy that’s going to hit 35 (homers); I say it every year. Will Craig was a 35-home run guy, he hit 20 here. You’re not going to have that in this stadium, and we don’t have that in this lineup. We don’t. So it’s important for us to do the little things.”
While offense has been an issue, pitching has been a bigger culprit at home. The Curve have the worst team ERA at home (4.47) in the league, and combining the poor pitching with subpar offensive numbers, it’s not been a good combination so far.
Altoona also has run into some tough competition at home in games against Harrisburg and Erie. But it also went 1-2 two weeks ago against a Bowie team that came to town with a 7-23 record.
A big part of why the Curve have made the playoffs each of the past four years has been their stellar play at home, winning at least 40 games each season. The last losing season at home occurred in 2014, when the team finished an abysmal 61-81 overall.
The Curve were swept in a doubleheader Tuesday night at Binghamton and fell into a 5-0 hole in the first inning of Wednesday morning’s game. But Altoona showed great fight in coming back, inching closer until finally taking a 7-6 lead on a two-run single by Logan Hill in the seventh inning.
Hill and Hunter Owen hit back-to-back homers in the sixth inning, with Owen’s blast counting as his team-leading eighth of the season.
The Curve added two big insurance runs in the ninth inning for a 9-6 lead, and those turned out to be the difference.
Binghamton pulled within 9-8 in the ninth on a two-run double by Patrick Mazeika, who also hit a three-run homer in the first inning and finished 3-for-4 with six RBIs. Mazeika won Tuesday’s doubleheader nightcap with a walk-off grand slam.
The Rumble Ponies had the bases loaded and one in the ninth out against Curve reliever Angel German, who was able to escape the jam with a grounder to third that turned into a game-ending double play, third to home to first.
Sean Brady (1-3) picked up the win despite allowing six runs on 10 hits over six innings. David Roseboom (1-1) took the loss in relief for Binghamton, while German picked up his first save.
Hill went 3-for-4 for the Curve, and Jason Delay belted a two-run homer. Former Altoona outfielder Barrett Barnes went 2-for-3 for Binghamton and is batting .339.
Key player: 1B Patrick Mazeika went 3-for-4 with a homer and six RBIs in a losing effort for Binghamton.
Key play: The Curve rallied from a 5-0 first-inning deficit, taking the lead for good on LF Logan Hill’s two-run single in the seventh.
Key stat: The Curve are 12-8 on the road but just 7-11 at home.
How they scored
Bottom 1st: Alcantara singled, Gimenez singled, both scored on Barnes double (0-2); Haggerty singled, scored along with Barnes on Mazeika three-run homer (0-5).
Top 2nd: Owen singled, scored on Delay two-run homer (2-5).
Bottom 2nd: Haggerty reached on fielder’s choice, scored on Mazeika single (2-6).
Top 6th: Hill solo homer (3-6); Owen solo homer (4-6).
Top 7th: Valerio walked, scored on Tolman double (5-6); Jackson walked, scored along with Tolman on Hill single (7-6).
Top 9th: Tolman singled, Madris singled, both scored on Suiter sacrifice fly and Haggerty error (9-6).
Bottom 9th: Gimenez doubled, Haggerty walked, both scored on Mazeika double (9-8).