Offense takes the night off
Tonight: Portland at Altoona, 6:30 p.m.
Pitchers: Curve RHP James Marvel (5-5, 3.68) vs. Sea Dogs LHP Matthew Kent (1-1, 3.13)
The Curve — literally — couldn’t get out of their own way on Friday night.
Trailing by four runs with two outs in the bottom of the eighth inning, Altoona right fielder Bligh Madris stepped to the plate with the bases loaded and a chance to cut into Portland’s lead, and potentially tie the game.
Madris found the hole between the first and second baseman for a base hit, but the ball just barely deflected off Hunter Owen’s foot on the way and that became the final out of the inning. Finding themselves with the bases loaded and no outs for the second straight inning, the Curve came up empty-handed.
“It’s just a night where we didn’t catch a break,” Curve manager Michael Ryan said. “That play just sums it up right there. You get a great at bat from Madris and it just tips the foot of Hunter, who’s trying to get a good jump and go first to third. It just happens. [The] game does that to you sometimes.”
It was a night in which the Curve out-hit the Sea Dogs nine to seven, but the final scoreline was a 6-1 loss in front of 2,969 fans at Peoples Natural Gas Field Wednesday night.
“It’s definitely frustrating because we’re doing a good job of getting guys on,” Curve designated hitter Jared Oliva said. “We needed that one big hit. [Portland] did a good job today of scoring and manufacturing runs. That’s something that we can improve on and learn from tonight. That’s baseball. That happens.”
Altoona were certainly lacking any sort of clutch hit on Wednesday night as the Curve went just 2-for-12 with runners in scoring position and stranded nine runners on base throughout the game.
“No run, no hit comes easy at this level at baseball,” Oliva said. “You’ve gotta fight for everything. The moment you think it’s going to be handed to you, you’re going to get smacked in the face.
Oliva learned first-hand that no run was going to come easy against the Sea Dogs.
On the play before Madris’ single that hit the foot of Owen, ending the inning, Oliva was called out at home on a bang-bang play that was made by his former Arizona teammate, Portland third baseman Bobby Dalbec.
Dalbec certainly took a chance throwing the ball home in that scenario when he could have easily taken the easy out at first and surrendered the run. But he made a strong throw to the plate and prevented the Curve from cutting into the lead.
“I thought I got in there, but he made a really good play, making an accurate throw,” Oliva said.
The Curve were able to generate another scoring chance in the bottom of the ninth as catcher Jason Delay and shortstop Brett Pope delivered back-to-back singles to lead off the inning, but a double play and a pop-up by the next two batters officially put Altoona’s hopes to bed.
“Just flip the page, and we’ll come back out and try to get ’em tomorrow,” Ryan said was his message to the team after the loss. “Nothing needs to be said. They know. They’re pros.”
Key player: Portland designated hitter Jeremy Rivera had just one hit in the game, but he finished with three RBIs that made the difference for his team’s offense.
Key play: Madris’ single in the bottom of the eighth
Key stat: Pope was 2-for-4 on the night and now has a hit in each of his last five games.
How they scored
Top 6th: Romanski hit by pitch, scored on Rivera’s fielder’s choice (0-1).
Top 7th: Tendler homered to right (0-2).
Bottom 7: Hill singled, scored on Delay’s sacrifice fly to right field (1-2).
Top 8th: Cubillan singled, Duran reached on an error, both scored on Rivera’s single. Rivera scored on Dalbec’s sacrifice fly to right (1-5).
Top 9th: Matheny singled, scored on Romanski’s single (1-6).
Covering the bases
LEADING OFF: The Curve’s four-game win streak was snapped on Wednesday night, but the team is still an impressive 8-3 so far in June.
SAFE AT FIRST: The script of Wednesday night’s game was flipped from the previous night as this time around it was the Curve who out-hit the Sea Dogs in a losing effort.
STEALING SECOND: “It’s kind of a two way street,” Oliva said. “Obviously you’d like to have those nine hits, but the fact that we didn’t score those runs — that’s why you get hits, to score runs. Scoring runs and driving in runs, that’s Pirate baseball for us. Some guys had some good days so hopefully that’ll give us some momentum going into tomorrow. Hopefully we’ll get that one clutch that opens it all.”
ROUNDING THIRD: Curve starter Sean Brady had a bounceback performance after his outing on last Friday in which he gave up five runs on 10 hits in six innings. Brady suffered the loss, but had faced the minimum through five innings and allowed just three hits in seven innings. “I thought he was really good,” Ryan said of Brady’s performance. “He kept us in the game — that’s what you ask of your starter. He was able to get weak content, get the ball on the ground. We played really good defense behind him.”
HEADING HOME: Owen got hit by a pitch twice during Wednesday night’s game and after he got hit in the hand during his at-bat in the seventh inning, he took a few minutes to walk to first base and it was unclear if he would remain in the game as he spoke with the Curve training staff. But he managed to stay in the game and afterward Ryan said his star hitter is “good to go,” for Thursday’s game.
— Tyler King