Getting to know you: Curve bats get it done against Faedo
Tonight: Doubleheader, Erie at Altoona, Game 1 starts at 4:30 p.m., Game 2 starts 30 min. after conclusion of Game 1
Pitchers: Game 1 — Curve RHP Cody Bolton (0-1, 5.31) vs. SeaWolves RHP Matt Manning (7-4, 2.81) Game 2 — Curve TBD vs. SeaWolves TBD
Record: 17-13 (second half); 52-45 (overall)
Familiarity in minor league baseball is a rarity. With the amount of roster changes that take place during a season, it’s hard to fully get a good idea of what to expect from your opponent.
But on Monday night, both the Curve and SeaWolves were well aware of what they were facing.
The two Eastern League Western Division rivals squared off for the 20th time this season and each pitcher was making either his third or fourth start against the opposing team.
But it was Altoona that took advantage of facing Erie starter and former first round draft pick, Alex Faedo, for the fourth time this season.
After Faedo picked up the win in his first start against Altoona on May 1, the Curve have now beaten Faedo in his last three starts against them.
“The one thing that we’re very good at is if we see a pitcher for the second time or the third time, we do very well,” Curve manager Michael Ryan said after the game. “(Faedo) has great stuff. We just have to try to get him up in the zone and that’s what we did, offensively.”
The bottom of the lineup was able to do damage against Faedo in the third inning as Chris Sharpe’s leadoff double set the tone for what would turn into a three-run inning for the Curve.
“We’ve faced this guy in the past and I sort of know the tendencies that he has,” Sharpe said. “It’s the game within the game. Just doing your homework and knowing ways that the guy could get you out. Obviously, they’re at the Double-A level so they’re good pitchers, so just understanding their strengths and places they could expose you, is huge for me.”
Those three runs were all Altoona starter Brandon Waddell needed on Monday night in a 4-1 victory.
It was the third time in Waddell’s last four outings that he faced the SeaWolves, but after he picked up his third victory of the season — all of them coming against Erie — he probably wouldn’t mind facing them again.
“He’s trusting his stuff. He can throw all three (pitches) over whenever he wants right now,” Ryan said of Waddell. “He’s changing eye levels and mixing speeds front to back. The way his stuff is playing right now, his changeup is the best I’ve ever seen. It’s a weapon for him.”
After starting the season in a reliever role in Triple-A, Waddell is back in his comfort zone as a starter for the Curve. He’s now 3-1 with a 2.23 ERA in seven Double-A starts this season and is almost fully stretched out as a starter, throwing 100 pitches on Monday night.
“It’s something I’m familiar with,” Waddell said. “It’s that routine that I can get back in and study hitters before a game, know what I want to do, create a game plan and try and execute it.”
The Curve are coming off a big, come-from-behind victory in Bowie on Sunday. They entered this four-game series against Erie five games behind the SeaWolves, who are currently in second place in the standings for the second half.
After falling dropping the first two and three games, respectively, in the last two series, getting a win to open this series was important, especially with a doubleheader on tap for Tuesday night.
“Yesterday was a bigger win than I think the team realizes,” Ryan said. “To come back from that deficit and to be able to come back and win, [we] carried the momentum into today and we played well. It was very important for us to show up.”
The Curve were able to avoid what would have been two devastating sweeps last week. Their hopes for a fifth consecutive playoff appearance are dwindling with each Bowie victory. All they can do is beat the teams in front of them and chip away in the standings. Monday’s win did exactly that.
“Starting off strong is huge, putting us in the driver’s seat for the rest of the series,” Sharpe said. “[Erie] has a lot of good arms over there so swinging the bats good early in the series really puts us in their minds the rest of the series.”
Key player: Brandon Waddell picked up his third win of the season in impressive fashion, throwing six scoreless innings as the Curve nailed down a crucial series-opening victory.
Key play: Brett Pope’s triple in the right centerfield gap plated Chris Sharpe and kickstarted the Curve’s three-run third inning.
Key stat: All three of Brandon Waddell’s Double-A wins this season have come against Erie.
How they scored
Bottom 3rd: Sharpe doubled, scored on Pope’s triple. Pope scored on Tolman’s single. Tolman scored on Hill’s single (3-0).
Bottom 4th: Sharpe singled, scored on Tolman’s double (4-0).
Top 7th: Gibson hit by pitch, scored on Numata’s double (4-1).
Covering the bases
LEADING OFF: Curve leadoff man Mitchell Tolman took advantage of his rare opportunities with runners in scoring position on Monday, going 2-for-4 in the game with a pair of key RBIs.
SAFE AT FIRST: Altoona third baseman Brett Pope registered his ninth multi-hit game of the season with his 2-for-3 performance. His RBI triple in the third inning scored the first run of the game and was one of three extra base hits for the Curve.
STEALING SECOND: First baseman Logan Hill exited the game with a full count during his at-bat in the seventh inning after feeling some discomfort in his left hand. Manager Michael Ryan said Hill would receive an X-Ray on Monday night and his status will be updated on Tuesday.
ROUNDING THIRD: Curve all-star starting pitcher Pedro Vasquez is feeling good, per Michael Ryan, after leaving his start last week due to a shoulder issue. Ryan said that the team will try to get Vasquez back on the mound for a start later this week.
HEADING HOME: The Curve improve to 13-7 on the season against Erie and are now four games behind the SeaWolves in the second half standings.