Curve plasters Reading behind one-run pitching by Gonzalez

The Altoona Curve has had a lot of trouble with the Reading Phillies. The Curve had lost seven straight ballgames to Reading and when the Phils took a 1-0 lead before Altoona even had a chance to bat, it appeared to be more of the same.
The Curve however, came in with the one-run deficit staring them in the face and saw red. Joe Caruso quickly summed it up following the game with a short, but right on target comment, “The offense showed up.”
Rico Washington started a one-out rally and Carlos Rivera, Shawn Garrett J. J. Davis and Shawn Skrehot followed with RBI singles and Garrett scored on a passed ball to give Altoona a 5-1 lead they would never relinquish. The 10-3 win in front of 7,134 fans, was the Curve’s 40th win at Blair County Ballpark, setting a new franchise record for wins at home. The old mark was established during the 2000 season. With Tuesday’s crowd, attendance at Blair County Ballpark passed the 330,000 mark for the 2002 season with five more home games, including tonight’s rubber match of the three-game set against Reading.
“It seems like whoever scores first, is going to lose,” offered Curve manager Dale Sveum in a comical moment. “Kind of saying, hold that runner up, let them score first, but in the last six games the team that has scored first has lost the ballgame. It was nice to see Rico Washington get that first inning started. He did a nice job in contributing tonight. It has been a frustrating time for him lately, not playing. It was just another good effort by the whole team.”
The Curve added another tally in the second on a single by Tony Alvarez and two-out double by Rivera and Curve starter Mike Gonzalez set Reading down on one run and four hits over the first six innings to improve to 6-4 on the season. Gonzalez struck out five and walked one. For Gonzalez, it was his first win since coming off the Disabled List from a left knee injury that resulted in arthroscopic surgery.
“I was pretty amped out in the first inning,” said Gonzalez. “I was kind of worried about whether the knee was going to hold out. I wore a brace today, so it was kind of hard to get used to that. I felt good and feel I am making progress. I came in and talked to (pitching) coach Milacki a little bit. He said I was a little amped up and just to trust my stuff and don’t try to be too fine. He did it for me, he calmed me down.”
Gonzo was relieved by Adrian Burnside, one inning no hits and no runs, Matt Montgomery, one inning three hits and two runs, and Neil McDade one inning, no hits, no runs, one walk, one strikeout. Franklin Perez (3-2) allowed six runs on eight hits over four innings with one walk and three strikeouts to take the loss for Reading.
“We’ve been swinging the bats well for about two months now, except maybe for a couple of games in Akron” said Sveum, “but it was good to see Gonzo pitch a good ballgame, bouncing back after the last outing he had. His knee stayed good today, he didn’t really have any weakness in the knee. He stayed strong the whole time and pitched a real good ballgame.”
Altoona added three runs in the sixth inning on a home run by Alvarez, scoring John Pachot who had singled and Skrehot, who had reached on an error and a solo tally in the seventh when J.J. Davis doubled and Pachot singled him home.
“Talking before the game today,” explained J. J. Davis, “someone was saying when we are not under pressure, we always play good. I guess today was a no-win situation, so we all came out relaxed. See the ball, hit the ball, and we put up the runs.”
Alvarez, Rivera, Davis Pachot and Skrehot each had two hits for the Curve and Alvarez scored twice and had three RBIs to lead the Curve attack. Rivera is now hitting .405 (17-for-42) in his last 11 games.
“As far as I’m concerned,” stated Sveum, “we are still in it as much as anybody. Reading has to play Harrisburg four games Akron three. Harrisburg has to play us and Reading four more times each. As far as the schedule goes, the final seven games are in our favor if it’s real close, although Erie and Bowie aren’t the same teams they were earlier. They are playing a heck of a lot better baseball. They’re not pushovers by any means. The next five games dictate everything. If we win the next five games, I think we have a pretty good chance of winning this thing, believe it or not.”
Altoona and Reading complete their three-game set at Blair County Ballpark tonight with lefty John Grabow (8-11, 5.74 ERA) on the hill for the Curve. Reading will start righty Ryan Madson (14-4, 3.23), the Eastern League’s leader in victories.