Curve pull off thriller
AKRON, Ohio — The Curve lost their best pitcher, James Marvel, to Triple-A on Monday, but several recent additions to the club helped produce a thrilling victory later in the evening.
Marvel’s call-up to Indianapolis came as no surprise, as he was enjoying a strong season with the Curve. The right-hander became the first Double-A pitcher to reach nine wins Sunday night, and the Eastern League All-Star departs with a 9-5 record and 3.16 ERA in 16 starts.
This resilient Curve club continues to impress, though, even after losing some key players. Altoona rallied for three runs in the eighth inning Monday to take the lead against Akron, then held off a bases-loaded jam in the ninth for a 5-4 win at Canal Park.
The Curve are now a season-high six games above .500 at 43-37. They have the second-best record in the Western Division over the course of the full season, trailing only first-half division champ Harrisburg (46-36) by two games.
The trouble, however, is that Altoona’s overall record wasn’t good enough to win the first half, and the team’s 8-5 mark this half is 2¢ games behind Erie (10-2). So while the team is having a strong season, it has some work to do to get into the playoffs for a fifth straight year.
The Curve trailed Akron 4-2 entering the eighth Monday, then got a couple of baserunners on as Gift Ngoepe reached on an error and Mitchell Tolman was hit by a pitch.
Chris Sharpe has been in the middle of numerous offensive rallies since coming up from high-A Bradenton, and he delivered again with a two-run double to tie the game.
That brought up Robbie Glendinning, who has been scorching the ball since arriving from Bradenton two weeks ago. Glendinning came through in the clutch with a double that scored Sharpe for a 5-4 lead.
Matt Eckelman came on in the ninth looking for his 14th save in as many chances. The RubberDucks loaded the bases with one out off the closer, but Eckelman was able to work out of the jam to preserve the victory.
Ernie Clement grounded to third baseman Glendinning, who threw home for the second out in the ninth. Eckelman then went to 3-2 on Ka’ai Tom, one of the league’s best hitters, before striking him out swinging to end the game.
Beau Sulser (7-0) remained unbeaten pitching out of the bullpen and racked up another win with three scoreless innings.
Starter Cody Bolton, a promising pitching prospect just up from Bradenton, had a tough night, giving up four runs on six hits over five innings with three strikeouts and two walks. He departed trailing, 4-2.
The Curve rallied against reliever Kyle Nelson (1-2), who took the loss.
Key player: LF Chris Sharpe went 2-for-4 with three RBIs for the Curve.
Key plays: Altoona scored three runs in the eighth to take the lead, with Sharpe doubling home a pair to tie it before 3B Robbie Glendinning singled home the go-ahead run. RHP Matt Eckelman then stranded the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth to close it out.
Key stat: The Curve are six games over .500 for the first time this season.
How they scored
Bottom 2nd: Longo walked, scored on Pantoja sacrifice fly (0-1).
Top 3rd: Ngoepe walked, scored on Tolman triple (1-1); Sharpe single scored Tolman (2-1).
Bottom 4th: Longo singled, scored on Smith two-run homer (2-3).
Bottom 5th: Tom solo homer (2-4).
Top 8th: Ngoepe reached on Pantoja error, Tolman hit by pitch, both scored on Sharpe double (4-4); Glendinning double scored Sharpe (5-4).