Curve slips past Akron 5-3

Altoona has had a lot of trouble when they get behind this season, but the rejuvenated Curve (58-51) came from behind twice on Tuesday night to take their second straight game from the Akron Aeros 5-3.
The Curve hitters have been on a hot streak over the past couple of series, but for the second straight night, Altoona received a good pitching performance as well as timely hitting to defeat Akron, which has the best record in the Eastern League (72-38), despite losses to the Curve the last two nights.
John Grabow (6-10) tossed the first six and 2/3 innings scattering nine hits, allowing three runs, striking out seven and walking none. Grabow has turned his season and perhaps his career around over the past two months, going 5-3 since June 8, with 38 strikeouts and just two walks. After the 2001 season, it seemed that Grabow’s unexplained wildness would threaten to prematurely end a promising career. Brad Guy relieved Grabow to get the final out in the seventh and tossed a scoreless eighth, before Chris Spurling struck out the side in the ninth to earn his Curve record 15th save.
Tony Alvarez opened the Altoona first by doubling to the opposite field down the right field line. Alvarez stole third base and scored on an error by Akron pitcher, Fernando Cabrera, who tried to pick Kevin Sefcik off first base after a base on balls.
The Aeros scored a pair in the top of the fifth to take a 2-1 lead. Victor Martinez, who raised his Eastern League leading batting average to .344 belted his 17th home run to tie the game. With one out, Luis Gonzalez doubled and a batter later, scored on Nate Crozier’s infield single.
The Curve rallied for the first time, with the help of some shoddy fielding in the bottom of the fifth. Victor Rodriquez and Joe Caruso walked to open the frame. Curve catcher John Pachot was safe on an error by the Akron second baseman to load the bases with no outs. Alvarez lined a sharp single to left to score Rodriquez to tie the count at 2-2, but Altoona couldn’t manage any further scoring when Shawn Skrehot struck out and Sefcik hit into a double play.
“The club has obviously played good ball the past couple of nights,” said Curve manager Dale Sveum. “We had some chances tonight to blow the game wide open, Akron did too. We made the pitches when we had to. Brad Guy came on and got some big outs, Spurling did a great job. Obviously a couple errors helped us. The guys were aggressive on the bases.
In the Akron sixth, Maicer Izturis singled and moved to second on a ground out, advanced to third on an infield hit by Luis Garcia and scored on a basehit up the middle by Martinez, who most agree is the best player in the Eastern League in 2002.
Altoona took the lead for good with three runs in the home half of the sixth. Carlos Rivera singled to begin the inning. J. J. Davis rapped a one-out single before Rodriquez delivered a shot to right for a basehit to score Rivera. Caruso singled to score Davis and with Caruso running, Pachot grounded out to second to get Rodriquez home.
“I think the guys realize every game we play right now is a playoff game,” said Sveum. “The way we battled, that at bat Johnny Pachot had was phenomenal. He fouled off eight pitches with a full count, just the fact he was fouling off 94-95 mile per hour fastballs with the runner going is huge in itself. He wore the pitcher down and with the runner going, all he had to do was hit a groundball and we score a run. That was probably the at bat of the night, it made a lot of things a lot different.”
Caruso, a Lock Haven High School product has reached base safely six times in his eight trips to the plate in the Akron series, including being hit by a pitch, a walk and an RBI single on Tuesday as well as making some super defensive plays at third base.
“It just seems like the bottom of the order is getting quality at bats,” explained Caruso. “You get a guy like J. J. (Davis) who has been so hot for so long, they’re going to start pitching around him. It’s our job to protect him and get some big base hits. Victor (Rodriquez) did that tonight, I did that tonight, Pachot has been doing it for the past couple days. It’s nice to know if they walk Davis, we can pick up the team with some big hits.”
Altoona completes the three-game series with Akron tonight at 7:05. Pirate rehab Ryan Vogelsong will start for the Curve, while fellow right hander Jamie Brown (6-3, 2.88 ERA) will start for the Akron Aeros.
Ben Feller of Tyrone was the Olive Garden junior PA announcer during the second inning of Tuesday’s game.