Erie Seawolves cool off Curve for second straight night

Erie jumped on Curve starting pitcher Brian O’Connor for five second-inning runs and cruised to a 6-2 triumph over Altoona on Thursday night at Blair County Ballpark before 4,716 fans.
O’Connor allowed a one-out basehit to Kurt Airoso in the first inning, but breezed through the remainder of the frame with a pair of easy ground outs. In the second at bat for the Seawolves, who sport 43-73 mark the worst record in the Eastern League, even with two straight wins over the Curve, O’Connor suddenly couldn’t get an out.
“I didn’t notice any problems with effort. I’ve been saying this for two years,” remarked Curve manager Dale Sveum. “Everything is dictated by what happens in the first couple innings. I don’t know what the odds are, but I’ll bet you don’t win 10 percent of your games when you are down 5-0 after the second inning. it just snowballs. I think the efforts the last two days by our pitchers leaves a bad taste in the mouths of the hitters. They get up there and feel they have to take some pitches. Then it gets you kind of out of your mood. You get frustrated because a lot of times the first pitch is a fastball right down the middle. It snowballs and leads to some bad nights at the plate.”
Charlie Carter singled to begin the assault. Max St. Pierre walked and Raynor Bautista ripped a single to score Carter. Jim Hannihan cracked a double to plate St. Pierre and send Bautista to third base. Rod Lindsey, who had three hits on Wednesday night from his leadoff spot, rapped a two-run triple to make it 4-0 Erie at that point. Lindsey scored on a wild pitch to complete the five-spot.
“It was a number of things,” explained O’Connor. “I couldn’t throw strikes obviously. I started getting behind everybody, that’s about it. There’s not much else I can say. You want to win every game, especially in the pennant race. It makes things a lot tougher. Hopefully next time, I’m going to go out there and do good and see what happens.”
Brad Guy came on in relief for Altoona with one out in the second, picked Airoso, who had walked, off first base and got Cody Ross to fly out to end the inning. Guy performed a very important function, despite the loss by pitching six and 2/3 innings up innings to save the rest of the bullpen. Guy scattered eight hits, allowing only one run to keep the Curve close, striking out five and walking one.
“Going out there so early in the game,” said Guy, “I was starting from zero and trying to keep the team in the game and get us a chance to score some runs and come back. Also, that early in the game, you want to eat up some innings and try to save the bullpen as well.“
For the second straight night, Erie received a super pitching performance form a pitcher who didn’t have great stats coming into the game. This time, it was Clint Smith (4-9, 6.01 ERA) who tossed seven and 1/3 innings, giving up one run on five hits, striking out four and walking two to pick up his fifth win of the year. Chris Peters, who pitched on Monday night against the Curve and couldn’t even get anybody out, came back on Thursday to retire the only two hitters he faced to finish out the eighth inning. The Curve had cut the Seawolves lead to 6-1 on a single by Tony Alvarez, a walk to Shawn Skrehot and an RBI single by Kevin Sefcik all, with one out.
Altoona added a line-drive lead-off home run by J. J. Davis in the ninth, off reliever Kevin Lidle, but couldn’t produce anything else to fall to 62-55. Gone once it left the bat, with no doubt, Erie leftfielder Cody Ross never moved on the home run ball hit by Davis.
“We are not worrying about numbers right now,” said Davis. “We still have the confidence and homefield advantage. We know we have the team that can be in second place and if we don’t do it, it’s our own fault. We have to go out there and make the plays and hit the ball. Being down as many runs as we were today, we’re not going to come back every time.”
Altoona opens a three-game series at Blair County Ballpark today at 7:05 p.m. with Harrisburg, the club two and a half games in front of the Curve in third place, the goes to Reading, the team currently in second place for a three-game set Monday through Wednesday.
“The playoffs for us really start tomorrow,” confided Sveum. “We’ve luckily put ourselves in the situation to go out and take care of business for the next 20 days. It’s all up to us. Obviously we have to win about 15 of those 20 to put ourselves in any situation during the last week of the season “