Bligh is the right guy for Curve
Tonight: Idle for EL All-Star break
Next game: Thursday at Erie, 7:05 p.m.
Record: 12-6 (second half); 47-38 (overall)
Sunday was a pretty miserable day for many Curve hitters, but not for one guy.
That Bligh guy.
The Curve finished with only two hits and struck out 17 times, but Bligh Madris bailed out the team in a big way. He delivered the two hits, both driving in runs, including a go-ahead two-run double in the sixth inning for a 3-2 victory over Erie before 4,189 fans at Peoples Natural Gas Field.
“It was nice coming out here today and just getting a win going into the (All-Star) break,” Madris said. “It lets us relax and go out on a good note, lets us have no worries on the break and reset and refocus.”
The Curve now head into the Eastern League All-Star break winners of four in a row and seven out of eight. They’re nine games over .500 for the first time, have the best overall record in the Western Division for the season (47-38) and have been fantastic of late.
They weren’t fantastic Sunday, but they were good enough in an ugly game.
“It’s weird because those are the type of games that seem to show up the day before an All-Star break or last game of the season,” Curve manager Michael Ryan said.
“I think there’s some guys that are looking forward to the three days off, and I think that showed with both teams today. Someone’s got go come out on top when those things happen, and luckily today it was us.”
Madris, whose Twitter handle is Bligh–Guy, made sure he and his teammates could go into the break on a good note. He singled home a run in the fourth to tie things at 1-1, then came up to the plate in the sixth with Altoona trailing, 2-1.
Batting left-handed, Madris lifted an outside pitch the opposite way to left in front of a sliding defensive attempt by Cam Gibson. Jared Oliva and Logan Hill, who both had walked, scored on the double for a 3-2 lead.
“Their pitchers are good,” Madris said of the SeaWolves. “I just happened to put two good swings on a couple baseballs today, and that’s just the way it works sometimes.”
Erie’s Tarik Skubal made his Double-A debut Sunday and was terrific, striking out 11 over five innings while giving up one run on one hit and two walks.
“The kid had a good Double-A debut today, and he was tough,” Madris said of Skubal.
Reliever Anthony Castro (3-2) took the loss for Erie, allowing the double to Madris after walking a pair. The Curve scored all three of their runs thanks to walks.
The free passes were about the only thing that could get the offense going, as Altoona’s hitters whiffed and whiffed and whiffed all day. The 17 strikeouts were an eyesore, and even two of the club’s biggest offensive contributors of late had trouble as Chris Sharp fanned four times and Robbie Glendinning three.
The fact that the offensive struggles came in a victory as opposed to a loss provides a learning experience with a positive spin.
“I’ve been part of plenty of games where we didn’t necessarily deserve to win,” Ryan said. “Not saying you treat it almost like an awful game where you just put it behind you, but I think the lessons in those type of games — because you’re on top in the scoreboard — you can bring up without a huge sour taste in your mouth. That’s what we’re going to do.”
The Curve offense struggled, but the pitching staff did its job to keep the team in the game.
Domingo Robles allowed just one unearned run and five hits over five innings, striking out four with one walk. Blake Cederlind (3-0) got the win in relief, and Matt Eckelman closed it out in the ninth for his 16th save.
SUBHD: Game recap
Key player: RF Bligh Madris went 2-for-4, had both Curve hits and drove in all three runs.
Key play: Madris’ two-run double in the sixth erased a 2-1 deficit and put Altoona on top to stay.
Key stat: The Curve have won four in a row and seven of eight to reach a season-high nine games over .500 entering the All-Star break.?SUBHD: How they scored
Top 1st: Burch singled, scored on Ngoepe error (0-1).
Bottom 4th: Oliva walked, scored on Madris single (1-1).
Top 6th: Pinero walked, scored on Gibson double (1-2).
Bottom 6th: Oliva walked, Hill walked, both scored on Madris double (3-2).
Covering the bases
LEADING OFF: RHP Matt Eckelman has been sensational in the closer role for the Curve, converting his 16th save in as many opportunities on Sunday. Furthermore, he’s converted 24 consecutive saves going back to last season, and he’s now third in franchise history with 27 saves.
SAFE AT FIRST: The Curve enter the EL All-Star break with a 12-6 record in the second half, trailing Bowie by 1 1/2 games and Erie by 2 1/2. On the attendance front, the Curve averaged 4,371 fans per game during the first half.
STEALING SECOND: Altoona finished off a three-game sweep of the SeaWolves on Sunday. The teams will play four more games Thursday through Sunday in Erie after the All-Star break.
ROUNDING THIRD: Former Curve 1B Will Craig took part in the MLB All-Star Futures Game on Sunday at Progressive Field in Cleveland. He started at first and batted sixth for the National League team.
HEADING HOME: C Jason Delay, RHP Pedro Vasquez and RHP Beau Sulser will take part in EL All-Star festivities the next few days at Richmond. The All-Star Game is Wednesday at The Diamond.
— Cory Giger