Nunez walk-off homer lifts Curve
In a seesaw game that featured five lead changes, Malcom Nunez delivered a walk-off home run in the ninth to cap Altoona’s 8-5 win over the Harrisburg Senators.
Jared Triolo and Matt Fraizer set the tone early for Altoona, launching solo home runs in the first and second innings, respectively, off Harrisburg starter Jake Irvin.
Curve starter Cristofer Melendez tossed two scoreless innings before giving way to Carmen Mlodzinski, who received a rude welcome in the third.
Robert Hassell, the centerpiece of the Nationals’ Juan Soto trade, drove in Harrisburg’s first run with a groundout. The Senators then took the lead with a two-out rally, punctuated by an RBI single by Israel Pineda that put Harrisburg up, 3-2.
The Curve responded in the bottom of the inning. With the bases loaded and no one out, Aaron Shackelford’s pop fly plunked into shallow left field untouched, scoring two. Although Malcom Nunez was thrown out trying to go from first to third, Altoona was back in front, 4-3.
Pineda slapped a second RBI single in the fifth to tie the score at four all, and Jackson Cluff’s RBI double in the sixth put Harrisburg ahead.
Altoona catcher Endy Rodriguez, recently promoted from High-A Greensboro, evened the score yet again with a single to left in the bottom of the seventh.
The Senators loaded the bases in the top of the ninth, only for Colin Selby to work out of the jam with a pop-up and a strikeout.
Unlike Harrisburg, Altoona would not waste their shot in the bottom of the inning. With two on and two out, designated hitter Malcom Nunez blasted a home run deep into the night to send the crowd of 3,811 home happy and the Curve players streaming out of the dugout in jubilation.
“I was just trying to see the ball and put a good swing on it,” he said through a translator. “As soon as I hit it, I knew that I hit it well.”
Nunez was the headliner in the Jose Quintana trade earlier this month and has paid immediate dividends. The burly third baseman has reached base 14 times in eight games with Altoona. Tonight, he logged his first signature moment in the Pirates organization.
Curve manager Kieran Mattison said that Nunez has been a hit with the rest of the team.
“The guys love him,” he said. “He’s fit into our clubhouse really well. It’s good to see him get the job done there.”
Walking it off
Mattison said that the Curve are “building momentum” down the stretch after consecutive walk-off wins.
“I remember last year when things started rolling for us. You get those walk offs, guys start finding a way to win, and now we’re expecting to win, instead of hoping to win,” he said.
PNG Field festivities
The Curve celebrated “Cambria County Night” on Thursday, benefiting the John B. Guner Community Leadership Initiative. The indie band Silver Linings performed on the Budweiser Party Deck before the game.
Altoona reprised their role as the “Mountain Cities,” once again paying homage to an independent league team that played in the area in the 19th century.