After losing the first three games in a four game series against the Richmond Flying Squirrels, the Altoona Curve capitalized on every mistake, taking the final game of the series 6-2, despite being out-hit 15-9. Altoona took advantage of three errors by Richmond, scoring two runs in the second, two more in the fourth, and one in the fifth. The Curve also helped themselves with five stolen bases, and stranded 13 Flying Squirrels runners on the bases.
Miles Durham started things off in the second, reaching on a fielding error by shortstop Ryan Lormand. Durham stole second, advanced to third on a ground out to second, and scored on a sacrifice fly by Jose de los Santos to right field. The sac fly would have been the third out without the error. Bryan Morris came up to the plate next and helped himself out. With the outfield playing in, Morris belted a line drive double to the left field gap, bringing in de los Santos from first base, and reaching second standing.
Altoona’s luck continued in the fourth inning. With Yung Chi Chen on first, Jose de los Santos hit a ground ball to short. Lormand flipped the ball to second, but the throw was off the mark, putting runners at first and second with one out. Bryan Morris followed that up with a strikeout, which would have been the final out of the inning. Chase d’Arnaud capitalized on the mistake, hitting a two RBI single down the left field line, putting Altoona up 4-1 at the time.
Altoona got their fifth run in the fifth inning. Hector Gimenez led off with a single, stole second, and advanced to third on a throwing error by catcher Tyler La Torre. Gimenez scored on a sacrifice fly by Matt Hague. Gimenez wouldn’t have scored without the throwing error, as the next two batters recorded outs.
Not only did Altoona capitalize on Richmond’s mistakes, they limited their own damage. Bryan Morris didn’t have the best control tonight, going five innings, and allowing two runs, one earned, on nine hits, with three walks, and five strikeouts. Morris threw 92 pitches, with 54 going for strikes.
Morris didn’t have a single easy inning. After striking out the first batter he faced, Morris allowed a single to Nick Noonan. Noonan stole second base, and advanced to third on a throwing error by catcher Hector Gimenez. I’ve only seen Gimenez attempt to throw two batters out, but both cases he threw far to the first base side, with the second baseman ending up having to reach behind the sliding runner. This time, the ball hit off Noonan and rolled in to left field, allowing Noonan to go to third easily.
Morris struck out the next batter, issued a walk on four pitches to Brandon Belt, who is Richmond’s best hitter, and got Conor Gillaspie to ground out to second to get out of the jam.
Morris ran in to trouble in the second with two outs. After a groundout and a strikeout, Morris allowed a single to Lormand, bringing up pitcher Clayton Tanner. Morris worked Tanner to a 3-2 count, and walked him on a very close call which looked like it could have easily been strike three. A wild pitch to the next batter put runners at second and third, but Morris got a fly out to end the inning without any harm.
Nick Noonan led off the third inning with a single, followed by a single by Thomas Neal, who reached first on a sacrifice bunt attempt. Morris got a 4-6-3 double play on the next batter, but followed that up with an RBI double given up to Gillaspie. Sharlon Schoop hit a hard grounder to short in the next at-bat, hitting Gillaspie with the ball for the third out.
The fourth was another troublesome inning for Morris. Morris allowed a leadoff walk to Tyler La Torre, and La Torre advanced to second on a passed ball. Two batters later, Clayton Tanner hit an RBI single. Morris got out of the inning with a 6-4-3 double play, making the run unearned.
In his final inning, Morris allowed two singles to the first two batters, and followed that up with two strikeouts. Another single loaded the bases, then Chase d’Arnaud came up huge, leaping to catch a line drive, and saving at least two runs from scoring.
Ramon Aguero and Tom Boleska each pitched an inning, and both pitchers ran in to a similar jam, allowing two singles, but both pitchers recorded two strikeouts and got a ground out to prevent any damage. Anthony Claggett pitched a shutout inning, allowing two singles as well, but getting out of it with a 6-4-3 double play.
Altoona got an insurance run in the ninth, with Matt Hague knocking in Hector Gimenez with a two out double, making the score 6-2. Michael Dubee came on to close out the game for Altoona, and recorded the first 1-2-3 inning of the game, striking out two in the process. Bryan Morris got the win, improving to 5-4 in his AA campaign. Clayton Tanner took the loss, dropping to 7-7 on the season.
I talked to Chase d’Arnaud after the game, and this is what he had to say:
On Winning Tonight After Losing Three In a Row to Richmond: If we lost tonight they would have swept us, and I think we’ve only been swept one time. We’re not used to losing, and we’re definitely not content with our performance lately. We’re just being positive and taking it day to day.
On capitalizing on the errors, including his 2 RBI single: It’s crucial. That’s a great time to do something special, to capitalize and to change the stakes. It makes them realize that you can’t screw up, and you just get more attention, and they’re more likely to make mistakes because they’ll press. Everything seemed to work our way tonight, and we got those timely hits when we needed them.
On his catch in the fifth, which plays a bigger role: timing the jump or positioning: With the line drive it’s definitely timing. You have to be in the right spot too, with a line drive you can’t run a couple steps to your right, you have to be in the right spot, but you can’t jump too early or too late.
I had a good talk with Chase on his season so far, including the struggles at the plate, his turnaround in June, and his defense this year. I’ll have the rest of the interview up on the site early next week.