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Tolman’s ejection part of Curve defeat

Next stop

Tonight: Richmond at Altoona, 7 p.m.

Pitchers: Curve LHP Sean Brady (3-8, 4.74) vs. Flying Squirrels LHP Caleb Baragar (2-3, 3.62)

Record: 17-17 (second half); 52-49 (overall)

If pitching coach Joel Hanrahan hadn’t said anything to home plate umpire Jacob Metz, Mitchell Tolman would’ve ran out to his spot at second base.

After he struck out looking in the top half of the fifth inning, Tolman said something to Metz and in his eyes, it was enough to warrant an ejection.

The Curve second baseman had scored the team’s only run up to that point — the only run they’d score in Thursday night’s 3-1 loss to the Richmond Flying Squirrels — and was surprised at what transpired between he and Metz.

“I was just confused because I really didn’t say anything to him, bad,” Tolman said. “I just said the pitch was outside and turned around and walked away. That’s the big thing is not showing up umpires. I feel like you can say things to them, as long as you’re not directly making fun of them or saying how bad they are.”

“He threw him out walking away, like c’mon,” Curve manager Michael Ryan added. “That shows you that he didn’t say much. I don’t know if he thought it was Tolman or somebody else said something that he heard, but who knows.”

From his perspective in the dugout, Ryan agreed that pitches on the outer half of the plate were being called strikes more often than not.

“I think Jacob established what he was going to call, early in the game, whether it’s on the corner or three inches off it was being called,” Ryan said. “The problem was, Tolman doesn’t really say that much, I don’t think, to warrant an ejection. I think there’s a lot more said by their guys instead of ours and I think it was quick trigger.”

Both Ryan and Tolman agreed that both teams had to deal with some questionable calls.

When he was out in the field, Tolman could see that a few pitches were being called strikes that were a few inches off the plate.

“It seemed like pitches on the inner half, [Metz] did a really good job of calling. But for both sides, if the catcher caught it good sitting on the outside part of the plate, it didn’t matter how far it was,” Tolman said. “As long as the catcher received it well, it was getting called a strike. You see that from my perspective and you’re like, ‘Oh no, that’s not good.’ Then I get in the box and it’s the same thing for me. Then I get frustrated and I said something that I shouldn’t have said.”

Ryan constantly praises Tolman’s work ethic and even described him as the heart and soul of this year’s Curve team. So losing him meant more than just losing a good defender that also provides solid at-bats at the plate.

“That frustrated me because it screws our team, mainly, and you lose a bench guy,” Tolman said. “Then it’s a close game, too, so I want to be on the field, I want to play as much as I can. I don’t want to get thrown out for something stupid [like] me running my mouth or whatever.”

“Tolman plays his butt off every inning and every pitch,” Ryan added. “He was frustrated and sometimes it doesn’t take the manager to get thrown out in situations. Sometimes it’s your guy that’s your heart and soul to maybe spark the club. It just didn’t work.”

The Curve offense struggled again with runners in scoring position, going 1-for-6 in the game and stranding eight runners on base. It’s clear to Ryan some guys aren’t going up to the plate right now with the team in mind.

“When we go through stretches like this, it’s because we’re not hitting well with runners in scoring position,” Ryan said. We’re looking for a guy to step up and not do too much. Look what Richmond did night [with] three, two-out runs with what? Shooting stuff the other way. We’re still trying to yank everything and leave the ballpark.”

For a team that ranks second-to-last in the league in home runs this season, it certainly seems like guys are trying to do damage with one swing, instead of having quality at-bats and trying to pass the baton to the next guy.

“100 percent agree with that,” Ryan said.

Game recap

Key player: Richmond starter Brandon Lawson pitched six innings, allowing just one run and recording his fourth win of the season in the process.

Key play: Mitchell Tolman’s ejection in the top of the fifth was the culmination of a few innings worth of comments from dugouts toward home plate umpire Jacob Metz about his strike zone.

Key stat: Curve outfielder Jared Oliva, who is second in the Eastern League in stolen bases, was caught stealing for just the sixth time this year on a questionable call in the top of the first inning.

How they scored

Bottom 1st: Tolman singled, scored on Hill’s double (1-0).

Top 3rd: Johnson doubled, scored on Heyward’s single (1-1).

Top 4th: Lawson walked, scored on Johnson’s single (1-2).

Top 7th: Miller walked, scored on Brusa’s single (1-3).

Covering the bases

LEADING OFF: Altoona’s all-star right hander Pedro Vasquez made his return to the mound on Thursday night and struggled. He didn’t make it through the fourth inning, allowing two runs on six hits and two walks in his first start since he left his last start on July 15 with discomfort in his elbow.

SAFE AT FIRST: “There was a lot of pitches in the third,” Curve manager Michael Ryan said of Vasquez. “You walk the opposing pitcher with two outs, you’re asking for trouble. It just shows you that he was a little rusty and the command wasn’t there. With a long layoff, fatigue’s going to hit a little quicker and you get high pitch counts in certain innings.”

STEALING SECOND: The Curve bullpen came in and provided five and a third solid innings of relief after Vasquez exited, allowing just one run on four hits. The trio of Yeudy Garcia, Joel Cesar and Jesus Liranzo kept Altoona in the game, but the offense wasn’t able to produce any runs after the first inning.

ROUNDING THIRD: Over the past week, the Curve offense has really begun to slip. As a team, they’re hitting .226 and have more strikeouts than hits.

HEADING HOME: The only other team with less home runs this season than the Curve is their opponent this weekend, Richmond.

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