Deja vu for Curve, Marvel
Friday: Altoona at Hartford, 7:05 p.m.
Pitchers: Curve LHP Domingo Robles (1-1, 2.78) vs. Yard Goats TBD
Record: 36-32 (1-0, 2nd half)
On Opening Day, Curve manager Michael Ryan handed the ball to James Marvel, hoping to start the season on the right note.
Marvel delivered six scoreless innings, allowing just one hit as Altoona topped Akron by a final of 5-0.
On Wednesday, to start the second half of the season, Ryan once again handed the ball to Marvel in search of a series victory against the team that won the Eastern League’s Western Division during the first half, the Harrisburg Senators.
On cue, Marvel delivered.
The 25-year-old right hander pitched into the eighth inning and allowed just one run as the Curve topped the Senators by a final of 3-1 at Peoples Natural Gas Field.
“We had the right guy on the mound,” Ryan said. “The way he attacked and set the tone for us — he was able to allow us to keep the momentum going.”
The Curve are now 13-4 in the month of June.
“It’s great,” Marvel said of the win. “It feels weird to say happy to start off the second half 1-0. But we’ve been playing really good baseball the last couple weeks. It honestly just feels like a continuation of playing good ball. If we can keep playing like we are, I know we’ll be in it down the hunt of the second half.”
Marvel’s outing was his longest of the season, and he’s now picked up a win in each of his last three starts.
“(Arden) Pabst and I, we’ve been on a roll,” Marvel said. “He’s been calling great games and we just talk a lot during the week about how to attack guys in the strike zone. He’s helped me make some adjustments and become a better pitcher over the last month or so. For me, I think it’s just being aggressive. Getting ahead, staying ahead. As soon as I can get my guys off the field and ready to hit, that’s the goal.”
Marvel’s offense certainly provided him with a confidence boost early in the game, scoring one run in the bottom of the first and another pair in the bottom half of the third inning.
“Whenever your team puts a couple (runs) across early, it puts pressure on the other team,” Marvel said. “It allows me to go out and just use my defense. I just try to fill up the strike zone and let my defense work behind me. If I can have a quick inning when my guys are swinging it well, that’s how you get momentum.”
Second baseman Mitchell Tolman was the catalyst in each of the innings that the Curve were able to get on the board. Back in the leadoff spot on Wednesday night, he was 3-for-4 with a pair of runs scored and is now hitting .306 in nine games as the leadoff hitter this season.
“Excellent,” Ryan said of Tolman’s performance. “That’s the guy who sets the tone offensively. Tolman to be able to get a base hit right away, it got us going. It’s something we’ve not done lately or this season. He’s a little spark plug for us, man. He does everything the right way. Three big [hits] tonight.”
Whether it’s his defense, speed or glove, Tolman’s been a key member in Altoona’s June surge and likely will play a role in how successful the team is in the second half.
“It’s nice to start the half of with a win,” Tolman said. “It’s kinda funky how it starts with the third game of a series, but it’s nice to start it off like that. We beat a good team and played a couple good games against them and took the series, which is what you want to do.”
“It’s the same [situation] as before we went to Binghamton,” Ryan added. “We had a really good series before we got on the bus and we had another one [this week] against a team that won the first half. We’re going to get on the bus feeling good going into Hartford.”
Key player: Tolman, Hunter Owen and Robbie Glendinning combined to go 7-for-10 in the game.
Key play: Hunter Owen’s double in the bottom of the third inning plated Tolman for the second run of the game and kickstarted the crucial inning for the Curve.
Key stat: Marvel picked up his seventh victory of the season, which moves him into a tie for second place in the Eastern League in that category.
How they scored
Bottom 1st: Tolman singled, scored on Glendinning’s single (1-0).
Bottom 3rd: Tolman singled, scored on Owen’s double. Owen scored on Glendinning’s single (3-0).
Top 5th: Taylor doubled, scored on Wiseman’s single (3-1).
Covering the bases
LEADING OFF: The Curve once again used small ball to score their three runs on Wednesday night. Two of the team’s 11 hits were for extra bases and six different players recorded a hit.
SAFE AT FIRST: “It really hasn’t been one guy here, one guy there,” Tolman said. “I feel like it’s what we’ve been doing. It’s been a good mix of a lot of guys coming through.”
STEALING SECOND: It was once again Blake Cederlind and Matt Eckelman who closed the door at the end of the game. Cederlind faced just one batter, but got Harrisburg’s Tyler Goeddel looking on strikes to end the top of the eighth inning and then turned the ball over to Eckelman, who picked up his 10th save of the season.
ROUNDING THIRD: It still wasn’t a perfect game for the Curve offense, however, as the team was just 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position and left nine runners on base.
HEADING HOME: The win gives the Curve an above .500 record at home this season, 18-17.