Game 17: Senators 4, Curve 1
The Senators prevailed 4-1 over the Altoona Curve as starter Erik Davis was impressive in battling around a couple of walks and hits in every inning but one to throw 6 innings of shutout ball.
But for me the story of the night was baserunning. Both good and bad and it was a clear indicator of who came out with a victory and who didn't.
Runs looked scarce to come by early in the game, so the Senators looked in trouble with Quincy Latimore on first and one out in the top of the second inning when the Curve's Jose Hernandez roped a single towards the line in left field. Jesus Valdez got to the ball quickly and came up throwing to second base (instead of at the lead runner) to gun Hernandez down trying to stretch his hit into a double. Admitedly, the pitcher was on deck, but Hernandez just cost his team the chance to score a run on a sacrifice fly. Sure enough, Curve starter Aaron Thompson lofted a fly ball to right field for the third out of the inning. Would it have scored Latimore? Maybe, maybe not. But we'll never know because Hernandez didn't give him the opportunity to even find out.
On the winning end, the Senators had a number of smart, aggressive baserunning plays that translated into runs.
In the bottom of the fourth, Josh Johnson alertly tagged up to get to third with only one out on a Tyler Moore fly ball to shallow right field. Chris Rahl followed with a single that plated Johnson, but regardless it was a smart heads-up baseball play by the shortstop to move up a base.
Clearly the epitome of their style on the basepaths (and my favorite call so far this season) was the double-steal that manager Tony Beasley called for in the 5th inning with 2 outs and a 0-1 count on Johnson. Altoona catcher Tony Sanchez' throw to second base got through to centerfield and Jon Tucker scored while Steve Lombardozzi moved up to third on the throwing error. After the game, Beasley admitted the play was "risky" but "it was an opportunity to get two guys in scoring position and a base hit gets us two instead of one." That sequence appeared to rattle Thompson like Beasley said, "it kickstarted the inning and got us rolling and we capitalized on it" as the southpaw immediately gave up an RBI single to Johnson and an RBI double to Valdez.
That was all the scoring the Senators would need on this night to go home with the victory.
The Sports 'Burger Star of the Game: Erik Davis (6 IP, 5 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 6 K)
**********************• Lombardozzi had the best 0 for 3 maybe I've ever seen. All three balls he hit were right on the screws.
• Moore's 10-game hitting streak came to an end in the bottom of the 8th inning when his deep fly to dead center was caught about 5 feet in front of the warning track.
• Ryan Mattheus was workmanlike in a 1-2-3 9th inning to pick up his first save of the season.
• Thompson, the former Senator, returned to City Island for the first time since his disasterous 4-13 campaign for Harrisburg last season. It appears as though the change of scenery has done him good as tonight's four earned runs in five innings only moved his ERA on the season to 3.22.
• Second funniest sight of the night: Tim Pahuta standing on his tiptoes when the camera panned to him during the National Anthem to appear a good foot taller than everyone else in line.
• Funniest sight of the night: Dan the Organ Man pelting the back of a guy's head with a free bag of potato chips prior to tonight's rendition of Take Me Out to the Ball Game.