Walks doom Curve
It looked like Logan Hill would be the hero of a really good comeback win for the Curve.
It turned out, instead, to be a really bad loss.
Hill destroyed a 420-foot home run to dead center to cap a three-run eighth inning that put Altoona on top by a run Tuesday night.
The Curve suddenly were in great shape, especially since they were 47-1 when leading after eight innings coming into the game.
Make that 47-2.
Because of walks.
They’ll kill ya.
Blake Cederlind walked back-to-back batters with one out in the ninth, and both came around to score as Hartford rallied for a 5-4 win over Altoona before 4,459 fans at Peoples Natural Gas Field.
“It’s tough,” Curve manager Michael Ryan said of the loss. “It’s a matter of you’ve got so high emotions and then so low emotions. When those things happen (losing the lead in the ninth), it’s tough to gather yourself in the ninth and try to put together something that might get us back in the game.”
It wasn’t just the two walks that hurt the Curve in the ninth. A bad defensive decision wound up letting the Yard Goats score the go-ahead run.
With the bases loaded and one out, Hartford’s Vance Vizcaino hit a sharp grounder near the bag that second baseman Adrian Valerio fielded going to his right. Instead of flipping to shortstop Oneil Cruz at second and giving him a chance to throw to first for what looked like it would have been an inning-ending double play, Valerio made a costly decision.
He took a couple of quick steps to his right to the second base bag, then tried to throw on to first to complete the double play. But that brief amount of time it took for him to get to the bag, right himself and throw wound up being the difference as Vizcaino beat the throw to first.
Carlos Herrera came home from third on the play with the eventual winning run.
Cederlind (5-1) suffered his first loss with the Curve. He’s been superb with a 1.77 ERA, but he couldn’t overcome his two walks.
The only other game the Curve have lost when leading after eight innings came on July 27, when Matt Eckelman blew a save with Altoona up 3-2 in the ninth against Richmond. The Flying Squirrels wound up winning in 11 innings, 6-5.
That blown save snapped Eckelman’s streak of 26 consecutive saves, going back to last season. He has been pretty much automatic all season, which is why the Curve had the gaudy 47-1 record when leading after eight entering Tuesday.
Eckelman got the save in Monday’s win and wasn’t available Tuesday, giving Cederlind an opportunity.
“There’s two things in the inning,” Ryan said of Cederlind giving up the two runs. “Obviously you can’t walk two guys. And as a closer, you shouldn’t get beat on your second- and third-best pitches. Those are the things that happened, and they threw together some good at-bats.”
Jordan Foley (4-4) won in relief for Hartford, while Scott Griggs closed it out in the ninth for his 14th save.
SUBHD: Game recap
Key player: RF Vince Fernandez went 3-for-4 with a double and run for Hartford.
Key play: LF Logan Hill’s two-run homer in the eighth gave Altoona a 4-3 lead, but two walks and a key defensive mistake by the Curve allowed Hartford to score two runs in the ninth to win.
Key stat: The Curve had been 47-1 when leading after eight innings before losing the game.
SUBHD: How they scored
Top 3rd: Herrera tripled, scored on Melendez triple (0-1).
Top 5th: Herrera singled, scored on Melendez double play groundout (0-2).
Top 7th: Fernandez doubled, scored on Jones sacrifice fly (0-3).
Bottom 7th: Madris singled, scored on Delay sacrifice fly (1-3).
Bottom 8th: Cruz singled, scored on Medrano double play groundout (2-3); Oliva singled, scored on Hill two-run homer (4-3).
Top 9th: Serven walked, scored on Welker single (4-4); Herrera walked, scored on Valerio fielder’s choice (4-5).
Covering the bases
LEADING OFF: OF/1B Logan Hill has been a reliable contributor all season for the Curve, and he hit a huge two-run homer in the eighth that looked liked it would give the club the win. It didn’t, thanks to Hartford’s rally in the ninth, but that shouldn’t take away from Hill’s heroic moment. Hill is hitting .259 with 11 homers — most among active members of the team — and 61 RBIs.
SAFE AT FIRST: Curve manager Michael Ryan on Hill: “This is three years now him being here, and watching him grow throughout the three years is special. … He comes through those doors, and you don’t hear one complaint. Whatever you ask him to do, he’s going to do and try to do it to the best of his ability. You just love players like that.”
STEALING SECOND: More from Ryan on Hill: “He’s a quiet guy leader-wise, but he leads by example and helps the younger guys in his own way because he had guys help him in those situations. It might be a one-on-one conversation at his locker. It could be just a one-word reminder to a player when he’s running by him to go play defense. Those are the guys you count on. When you have a guy that has played for you at some point for the last three years, those are the guys that are helpful to you as a manager because they try to relay my style — what I like, what I don’t like — and he’s one of those guys.”
ROUNDING THIRD: The Pirates released RHP Austin Coley on Tuesday. The 26-year-old was a key member of Altoona’s 2017 Eastern League championship team, going 6-4 with a 3.01 ERA in 29 games (23 starts). He was 2-2 with a 6.29 ERA in 16 games (four starts) for Altoona this year.
HEADING HOME: Coley announced his retirement on Instagram, writing: “The last 6 years have been a dream come true. From hearing my name called in the amateur draft, to winning 2 league championships, and most importantly developing incredible relationships with some very special teammates, coaches, trainers and staff, I cherished every moment. With that being said, it’s time for me to hang up my cleats. I want to thank everyone who has helped me over the last 23 years: my teammates, coaches, family and of course @chloe.coley. It’s been a wild ride, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I’m excited for the next chapter and to see what God has in store for me and Chlo!”
— Cory Giger