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Keeping the ’Ducks on the pond: Robles shuts out Akron

In the Curve’s 21 seasons, there have only been 18 nine-inning complete-game shutouts thrown by an individual pitcher.

Two of those have occurred in the past four days.

Lefty Domingo Robles joined the list Monday night in an ultra-efficient 5-0 win over Akron before 3,333 fans at Peoples Natural Gas Field.

Robles needed just 95 pitches — 73 of them strikes for an impressive 76.8 percent — and he worked around five hits and a walk to keep the RubberDucks scoreless.

“It’s awesome,” said Robles, a 21-year-old from the Dominican Republic. “It’s something I never thought was going to happen. But it feels really good. It’s amazing.”

Lefty Sean Brady threw a nine-inning shutout for the Curve on Friday night at Bowie, tossing 110 pitches. With those two, Altoona’s pitching staff has now thrown 17 shutouts this year (including seven-inning games), which sets a franchise record for a single season.

“Two complete-game shutouts in a week by two left-hand pitchers, man, that’s special,” Curve manager Michael Ryan said.

Robles was so efficient Monday night that he found himself in uncharted territory. He was making the 87th start of his pro career, yet had never completed more than seven innings in a game.

“In the sixth inning, I looked at the (scoreboard) and it said like 60 pitches, and I said, ‘Oh my God.'” Robles said with a big smile.

Akron’s hitters were aggressive all night, swinging early in the count, and Robles just kept pumping strikes.

“I think he was at 22 pitches through three innings,” pitching coach Joel Hanrahan said, “so that’s going to put you in a good spot to go deep.”

Robles (4-6) has gone seven innings in a game seven times this year, including three of his six previous starts before Monday. He shut out Reading on seven hits over seven innings 2 ¢ weeks ago at PNG Field, and his last time out he held Hartford to one run on six hits in seven innings and struck out a career-high nine, also at home.

The young lefty certainly is finding some success late in the season that he can carry into next year, and a lot of it has to do with simply throwing the ball over the plate.

“Strike one, strike two,” Ryan said of Robles’ success Monday. “Akron came out early in the game going after the first pitch, and then he tried to go on the edges and was able to mix the offspeed.”

The Curve gave Robles an early lead with three runs in the third inning, capped by a two-run single from Logan Hill. Adrian Valerio had a two-run single in the sixth for some insurance against Akron’s Eli Morgan (6-4), who allowed all five runs.

The Pirates’ philosophy of pitching to contact and trying to get quick outs was on display with Robles. He ran into an aggressive offense, and when you put those elements together with a pitcher throwing a ton of strikes, it can lead to a strong mound performances and quick games.

Monday’s contest lasted just 2 hours and 4 minutes.

“I was using my pitches, throwing for contact,” Robles said. “They were swinging, and I was locating my fastball and breaking pitches.

“(Hanrahan) told me in the first inning they’ve been swinging hard and swinging a lot, so I said, OK, make a good pitch and get quick outs.”

Robles also struck out five and lowered his ERA to 4.13, a solid number for a 21-year-old in Double-A.

“I’ve been with Robles for three years, and for him to have a game like that today, I’ve never seen one like that where he was just in that kind of command,” Hanrahan said. “He threw three, four pitches for strikes all day. It was fun to watch.”

Game recap

Key player: LHP Domingo Robles threw a nine-inning shutout on just 95 pitches, holding Akron to five hits.

Key play: The Curve scored three runs in the third inning, with DH Logan Hill driving home two on a single.

Key stat: Two Curve pitchers — Robles and LHP Sean Brady — have thrown nine-inning shutouts in the past four days.

How they scored

Bottom 3rd: Delay hit by pitch, scored on Madris single (1-0); Valerio singled, Oliva walked, both scored on Hill single (3-0).

Bottom 6th: Suiter singled, Pope doubled, both scored on Valerio single (5-0).

Next stop

Tonight: Akron at Altoona, 6 p.m.

Pitchers: Curve RHP Pedro Vasquez (7-4, 2.97) vs. RubberDucks RHP Kyle Dowdy (0-0, 3.94)

Record: 30-35 (second half); 66-67 (second half)

Covering the bases: Page B2

Covering the bases

LEADING OFF: Cleveland Indians RHP Danny Salazar started and threw one inning in a rehab outing for Akron on Monday. Salazar is coming back from a groin injury and has made just one start for the Indians this season. He faced four batters, hit one and struck out one in his scoreless outing against the Curve.

SAFE AT FIRST: RF Bligh Madris and DH Logan Hill had two hits apiece for Altoona.

STEALING SECOND: SS Oneil Cruz had a tough night hitting in the leadoff spot, striking out all four times. Cruz has put together a number of good at-bats since coming up to the Curve and is hitting .263, but Monday was a tough learning experience. “They fed him a lot of offspeed, and he was chasing,” manager Michael Ryan said. “Akron’s history is if you don’t make an adjustment, they’re going to expose you. He kept swinging at offspeed in the dirt, and they kept giving it to him.”

ROUNDING THIRD: The Curve have had a lot of success against longtime nemesis Akron this season, going 11-4. They even have a 6-1 record at Canal Park, which has always been the toughest place for Altoona to win over the years.

HEADING HOME: Altoona has three home games remaining this season coming up the next three days against the RubberDucks.

— Cory Giger

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