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Eight losses in last nine games has Curve at .500

Next stop

Tonight: Erie at Altoona, 6 p.m.

Pitchers: Curve LHP Omar Cruz (2-4, 3.41) vs. Wolves RHP Garrett Hill (2-0)

Record: 53-53

By Cory Giger

cgiger@altoonamirror.com

This Curve season has gone south in a hurry, with the club that’s taking the field for this week’s final homestand merely trying to finish out a long summer on some kind of positive note.

There haven’t been many positives of late for the Curve, who are in the midst of one of the more disappointing stretches in franchise history.

There are still a lot of good, young prospects on the team, prospects the Pirates are counting on to be part of their rebuild in the coming years. So, expectations are high for these prospects to produce in the minor leagues, to provide hope for the future in Pittsburgh.

But lately, this Curve team has looked alarmingly bad offensively, as collectively the offense is limping toward the finish line of the season.

The Curve’s late-season collapse continued Tuesday in a 4-2 loss to Erie at Peoples Natural Gas Field, the club’s eighth loss in nine games.

There was a seven-run explosion in a victory Sunday at Akron, but in the eight losses, the Curve have scored a total of 15 runs and been shut out three times.

“Hitting’s been slow,” Curve manager Miguel Perez said after Tuesday’s loss. “Guys have been going through adversities at the plate. Sometimes it seems like they’re not committed to one pitch.”

The Curve have been on the road a lot lately, so it’s been tough to get a good feel for this. But it seems clear that the players on the team are dealing with the fatigue of not only a long season nearing its end, but coupling that with the added fatigue that comes with not playing a minor league season at all last year because of COVID.

Whether it’s an excuse or not, one reality is the way the schedule has worked out in all of this makes it tougher for the minor leaguers to be sharp at this time of year.

“The majority of our guys went to big league spring training, then they stayed there for minor league spring training or went to taxi squad,” Perez said.

“We have another two weeks to go. You can tell they’re going through some adversity. Some of the guys are thinking too much.”

It’s been such a long time

The Double-A regular season also is usually over by now, with the only teams still playing being those that have made the playoffs.

Furthermore, as Perez noted, some players on the team had never played a full minor league season until this year, because they were in short-season ball in 2019, then didn’t have a season in 2020.

There are still two weeks left in the Curve’s season, but for some of these players, things will continue after that. The Triple-A season was extended until early October, so some of these Curve prospects will be going up to that level to finish out.

That’s a lot of baseball left to be played for some of these guys, so they can’t be giving in to the fatigue of all this just yet.

“We’re still talking about the game,” Perez said, “but we always stay positive and encourage to what’s next — what’s tomorrow, what’s the next pitch. It requires more focus now.”

What’s next?

The Curve are now back to .500 at 53-53, and there is still the goal of finishing with a winning record. Perez said that will provide motivation down the stretch.

The Curve had a 2-1 lead after one inning Tuesday, but they didn’t score again and managed just five hits on the night. Erie broke up a tie game in the sixth inning with a run, then added an insurance run in the ninth.

Roansy Contreras made his second start back from a forearm issue and gave up just one unearned run and one hit in three innings. He struck out four and didn’t walk a batter.

Osvaldo Bido (4-7) took the loss in relief, while Erie’s Henry Martinez (4-3) won in relief.

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