Justin Howard launched the game winning home run in the bottom of the 8th inning that sent the Altoona Curve home victorious over the Harrisburg Senators. Howard’s blast was one of many key hits that helped the Curve even the weekend series.
In the first inning the potentially lethal combination of Alen Hanson and Gregory Polanco combined to give the Curve a 1-0 lead. Hanson walked and drew the attention of Senators pitcher Matt Swynenberg. After an Adalberto Santos strike out, Polanco torched a Swynenberg offering to right center field for an RBI double.
The Curve sent swingman Nate Baker to the mound. Baker, who has spent most of the season pitching out of the bullpen, made his third start of the year all coming since July 26th. The left hander struggled with command early on and saw his pitch count near 50 by the end of the second inning. A combination of walks and a Jason Martinson triple gave the Senators an early lead but the Curve responded back to take the lead in the third inning.
Once again Alen Hanson started things off with a single, Gregory Polanco and Justin Howard each walked with one out to load the bases and then Jarek Cunningham delivered a sharply hit single to put the Curve back on top 4-3.
After his early struggles, Baker settled in and held the Senators in check over the course of six innings. While he only allowed four hits, Baker allowed six free passes during his outing before he gave way to Jhonathan Ramos. The Senators took advantage of Ramos with two outs and tied the game at 4 before Jason Townsend entered the game and got out of a jam.
That set the stage for Howard. His home run sent Senators right fielder Destin Hood back to the wall, but all he could do is watch Howard’s blast sail over the fence and toward the Skyliner Coaster in right field. Luis Sanz worked the ninth for his 15th save and Jason Townsend picked up the win for the Curve.
These two teams play the rubber match of the series tomorrow. The Curve will send LHP Eliecer Navarro to the mound to square off against one of the Nationals top pitching prospects A.J. Cole (2-0, 0.90 ERA), who has been un-hittable since his recent promotion to AA.
Game Notes And Observations:
**Alen Hanson drew the attention of Senators pitchers both times he reached base. In the third inning Hanson appeared to jam his hand sliding back to the base and had to be looked at by the Curve trainers. He remained in the game and later scored in the inning. Hanson had trouble with a transition from glove to hand in the first inning on a ball hit towards his right which was ruled a hit. Other than that minor mishap he showed an aggressive approach in the field and a strong-arm.
**While tonight’s home run was just the 5th of the season for Justin Howard he continued his torrid stretch hitting .406 with an OPS of 1.160 over his past ten games.
**Gregory Polanco was 2-3 with both hits being hard hit doubles. Polanco also reached base via the walk and scored two runs in the game. After contact Polanco immediately shows his impressive speed tool. At 6′ 4″ Polanco launches his frame towards his desired base and reaches it in a hurry.
**Jarek Cunningham had a patient approach at the plate tonight and it paid off as he not only had two hits but also two RBIs, During the previous two series Cunningham went hitless going 0-19 but has rebounded to go 3-8 in this series.
**On the mound, Nate Baker struggled with walks and his pitch count early on but then found a groove. Baker ended up throwing 101 pitches with only 53 of them being for strikes. It was surprising to see Baker throw so many pitches as he just pitched an inning out of the bullpen two days ago.