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Curve’s pitching shines

The Curve completed their first home shutout on Sunday night at Peoples Natural Gas Field.

Starting pitcher Jeffrey Passantino was dominant in six scoreless innings of work and the bullpen tossed three frames to give Altoona the 3-0 victory over Akron. With the result, the Curve win the series against the RubberDucks, taking four of the six matchups.

“It was a great series for us,” Altoona manager Miguel Perez said. “This is a tough division and (Akron) is one of the teams that had been winning some games, so we were aware of how important (this) series was for us.”

The Curve opened the scoring in the first, as shortstop Oneil Cruz singled and later came around to score on a sacrifice fly from second baseman Rodolfo Castro. The hit was Cruz’s only base knock of the contest.

Altoona added a pair of insurance runs in the eighth, as catcher Arden Pabst blasted an RBI double down the left field line. Pabst came around to score on an RBI single from left fielder Canaan Smith-Njigba.

Players of the game

Passantino utilized the cutter and strong command of all his pitches to earn the victory, his first of the season. The right-hander was superb, allowing just four hits and one walk while striking out six.

“He’s a very smart guy,” Perez said about Passantino. “He’s very intentional on what he wants to do (on) the mound.”

The outing was Passantino’s longest of the season, and his second shutout performance of at least five innings. The 25-year-old leads all Curve starting pitchers with a 2.15 ERA this season.

“He’s fun to watch,” Perez said. “He has intention behind every pitch.”

The Pirates organization acquired Passantino in the Triple-A phase of the Rule V draft in December 2020. He was previously a member of the Chicago Cubs organization, and pitched in Triple-A and for three other Cubs’ affiliates in 2019.

Akron starter Alex Royalty also pitched well, tossing six innings. The right-hander allowed just one run on two hits but was ultimately tabbed with the loss.

Bullpen protects the lead

The Curve utilized three relievers to toss the final three innings. Southpaw Oddy Nunez and right-handers Shea Murray and Hunter Stratton each hurled one frame, allowing just two combined hits.

“They did a great job tonight,” Perez said about his bullpen. “It was good to see (Stratton) pitching with that conviction on the mound.”

Nunez led the way with two strikeouts and no walks. Stratton was credited with the save, his third of the season.

Saturday recap

Cruz’s second home run in as many nights, the Curve split their doubleheader with Akron on Saturday at Peoples Natural Gas Field.

The RubberDucks took the first matchup 4-3 before Cruz hit the game-winning homer in the fifth inning of the second leg of the twin bill, giving Altoona the 3-2 victory. Cruz finished the day 4-for-6 with an RBI and two runs scored.

Johnstown native Trey McGough made his first-ever start at PNG Field for the Curve and tossed five innings. He allowed four earned runs on four hits and was tabbed with the loss.

On the other side, Akron lefty Juan Hillman threw five frames and earned the win, allowing three runs and seven hits. Southpaw Francisco Perez completed the two-inning save, his first of the season.

In game two, Curve righty Osvaldo Bido threw five innings and allowed two runs on six hits in a winning performance. Righty Cristofer Melendez completed the save, his second of the year.

RubberDucks lefty Tanner Tully was the losing pitcher, hurling 5• innings. Tully allowed three runs, two of which were earned, and seven hits.

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