Curve enjoy Vieaux from mound

What pitcher Cam Vieaux has done for the Curve over the past week has been very impressive, and very respectable for a player in his position.

Vieaux shut out Hartford on four hits over seven innings Monday night in Altoona’s 3-0 win before 3,456 fans at Peoples Natural Gas Field.

Vieaux’s last time out at Harrisburg, the lefty tossed six shutout innings, giving up only two hits. By comparison, in the other two games in that series, the Senators destroyed Curve pitching for 25 runs, but they didn’t touch Vieaux in his start.

It’s not just that Vieaux (3-3) has thrown back-to-back gems, he’s done so after getting demoted from Triple-A Indianapolis. Furthermore, in his last start with Indy, Vieaux was impressive as he threw five shutout innings, but then he got the bad news the very next day that he was getting sent back down.

A lot of players in his spot would be ticked off, come back down to this level and sulk, which would cause them to struggle.

Not Vieaux. Not in the least.

“Very impressed,” Curve manager Michael Ryan said of the pitcher’s mentality coming back to Double-A. “He’s always been like that. He’s been a pro.

“I think that he’s looking at it a little bit different. He got an opportunity to go to Triple-A. … He’s not treating it like a demotion, I think. It’s one of those things where it’s part of the game, and he understands.”

Vieaux has been very good for the Curve this year, posting a 2.27 ERA in 11 starts. At Indy, he was 4-2 with a 5.05 ERA in 13 starts, pitching pretty well for the most part but with a couple of bad starts that inflated his ERA.

“I had a really rough July,” he said.

However, going back to his last start in Indy, Vieaux has thrown 18 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings.

The Pirates needed to make room in the Indy starting rotation when they sent Dario Agrazal down from the big leagues, so Vieaux was the odd man out and had to come back to Double-A.

“I was fortunate enough to get called up, get some experience up there, and I learned a ton,” Vieaux said. “So I’ve kind of just brought that down here and keep doing what I’ve been learning.

“It’s fun to go out and pitch. It doesn’t matter where I’m at.”

It does matter, though, that he’s once again getting to work with Curve pitching coach Joel Hanrahan.

“I love all these guys,” Vieaux said. “It stinks to come down, obviously, but I love Michael (Ryan) and love Hanrahan. It’s cool for me to hang out with everyone and pick Hanrahan’s brain. He’s one of the best pitching minds I’ve ever been around, so it’s a huge advantage for me to work with him for a month and kind of tune things up as we go into the end of the season.”

Vieaux is 25 years old, which makes coming back to Double-A even tougher, but he views all of this merely as an opportunity for him to keep developing his game.

“I’ve kind of just gotten back to establishing the fastball and having all my pitches play off of that,” he said. “I got a little predictable throughout July, and that caused some short starts, caused a lot of runs to occur. So I’ve just gotten back to my normal self.”

That’s led to success once again with the Curve.

“The thing that he’s done really good, he’s thrown inside and established the inner part of the plate, and second and third time through it opens up the outer portion,” Ryan said. “That’s when he was using all his weapons.”

Most importantly, Vieaux learned what to expect in Triple-A, so he’ll be better prepared the next time he gets called up.

“It’s definitely a big jump,” he said. “You’re facing lineups where you could be 1-9 where every guy has big league time. They’re going to know what you’re throwing in different counts, know what to expect, and if you make a mistake, they’re going to make you pay for it.”

Game recap

Key player: LHP Cam Vieaux threw seven shutout innings, allowing four hits with six strikeouts and two walks, to win for the Curve.

Key play: The Curve scored all three of their runs in the first inning, starting the frame with four consecutive hits.

Key stat: LHP Cam Vieaux has thrown 13 straight scoreless innings in his last two starts for the Curve and 18 2/3 scoreless innings including his last Triple-A start.

How they scored

Bottom 1st: Pope singled, scored on Santos wild pitch (1-0); Sharpe singled, scored on Cruz single (2-0); Oliva singled, scored on Madris groundout (3-0).

Covering the bases

LEADING OFF: Curve head groundskeeper Chris Mason was named Eastern League Field Manager of the Year on Monday. Mason has done an exceptional job keeping the playing surface immaculate at Peoples Natural Gas Field. The award is based on votes by league coaches and umpires.

SAFE AT FIRST: “It’s the best in the league,” Curve manager Michael Ryan said of the PNG field. “Watching Chris show up to work every day, it’s his field, and that’s the way he treats it. The pride that he takes in his job, the conversations that he has with me, that just shows you how great the surface is and what a great job that he does. The guys that work with him, the other field crew guys, they’re unbelievable people, and that’s a reflection on him. He’s an unbelievable man. We’re so fortunate to have him here, and it shows by what kind of surface we have.”

STEALING SECOND: Monday’s game lasted just 2 hours and 1 minute. In a statistical oddity, both starting pitchers threw 91 pitches, 62 for strikes. Antonio Santos (1-3) took the loss for Hartford, giving up three runs in seven innings. Matt Eckelman closed it out in the ninth for his 22nd save for the Curve.

ROUNDING THIRD: Curve 1B Logan Hill was named EL player of the week on Monday. He had a superb week, hitting .458 with three homers, nine RBIs, 11 hits, three doubles, a .958 slugging percentage and 1.438 OPS.

HEADING HOME: Wrestling hall of famer Mick Foley was on hand for Monday’s game to help raise money for Erin’s Ride, a fundraiser geared to help purchase a new wheelchair-accessible van for local author Erin Kelly, who has cerebral palsy.

— Cory Giger

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