Madson pitches Reading over Curve

Reading pitcher Ryan Madson showed the 6,740 fans who were at Blair County Ballpark on Wednesday night, why he is the Phillies minor league Pitcher of the Year and league leader in wins.
Madson (15-4) pitched eight strong innings before tiring with one out in the ninth, struck out four and walked two, scattering six hits.
The fourth place Curve has now lost eight of their last 10 games and are four games back of Harrisburg in third place and six out of the second playoff spot held by Reading. Akron clinched one playoff position last night.
Madson retired the first 10 Altoona batters he faced, moving the ball around while firing a 90 plus mile per hour fastball that reached 94 MPH at times.
Kevin Sefcik took a pitch to the opposite field for a double down the right field line with one gone in the fourth inning for the Curve’s first hit of the ballgame and scored when Shawn Garrett dropped a two-out single in front of Reading center fielder Jay Sitzman. J. J. Davis also singled in the inning, but both Garrett and Davis were stranded on base.
“He was tough out there tonight,” described Sefcik. “He was throwing strikes and using his fastball on both sides of the plate, not really giving the guys too much to hit. He was throwing 92-93 miles per hour, he’s got one of the better arms in this league. He was really on his game tonight.”
Madson got some help from his teammates who worked three double plays.
Shawn Skrehot singled to open the fifth but was erased when pinch hitter Victor Rodriquez hit into a third-to-short-to-first DP for the first two outs of the frame. In the sixth, Altoona put a pair of runners on base without the benefit of a hit. J. R. House walked and Sefcik was hit by a pitch to begin the inning. Carlos Rivera fouled out and Garrett bounced into a short-to-second-to-first double play to end the inning. Finally with one out in the eighth, Tony Alvarez looped a basehit into short right, but was eliminated when House bounced into a second-to-short-to-first twin killing that ended the frame.
Altoona pulled off a double play of their own to end the seventh inning. Andy Machado walked for the third straight time to open the at bat. Travis Chapman, who led the Phils with a four-for-five outing that included a triple and two doubles, drilled a ground-rule two bagger that bounced over the left field wall to send Machado to third. In most other Eastern League ballparks, that shot would have been a home run. Altoona intentionally walked Nate Espy to load the bases with nobody out and brought in reliever Rick Palma. The left-handed Palma struck out Troy McNaughton, then got a fly ball to right off the bat of Buzz Hannihan. J.J. Davis gloved the fly ball and fired a bullet home to catcher House who put the tag on Machado, who tried to knock the ball loose, in plenty of time for the third out of the inning.
In the ninth, with one out, Rivera beat out an infield hit to deep short. That brought reliever Jimmy Hamilton into the game. Garrett singled to center to put runners at first and second and both runners advanced a base on a groundout by Davis, Pinch hitter Joe Caruso blooped a single to right to score both Rivera and Garrett to close the Curve deficit to 4-3. Hamilton earned his fourth save however, by striking out Skrehot, who represented the winning run, for the final out of the ballgame.
Reading scored a run in each of the first three innings and another in the fifth, to give Madson pretty much all he needed.
The Altoona bullpen held Reading close for the offense to try to get back into the game, but Madson and Hamilton made sure the scores would be enough for their second win in the three-game series and 14th win over the Curve this year against just six Altoona wins over the Phils.
“No doubt, we have had a lot of trouble against Akron and Reading this year,” said Curve manager Dale Sveum. “We can’t stay with them. They beat us up. We just can’t pitch with them or play with them. We just can’t seem to get those huge hits at the right time to put games away. Madson did a good job tonight. That’s obviously the elite of the league. The bullpen did a great job for us. Once again we got the tying and winning runs to the plate, which we’ve done all year. Unfortunately we couldn’t finish it off. That would have been a huge comeback.”
Matt Montgomery came on in the fifth with one on and a run already in, striking out two and getting a come-backer to the mound for the third out. Neil McDade went an inning yielding a leadoff double before getting three straight outs in the sixth. McDade started the seventh, loading the bases before Rick Palma got out of the frame without a score thanks to the inning ending double play started by Davis with his catch and throw. After Palma threw a scoreless eighth as well, Chris Spurling took the mound for the Curve in the ninth, giving up a single before retiring the side on a pair of Ks and a groundout.
John Grabow, who had won seven of his last 11 games, dropped to 8-12 to set a Curve record for most losses in a season passing the 11 losses by Brian O’Connor during the 1999 season.
Altoona has an off day Thursday before going to Harrisburg for four games and Erie for three more before coming home to finish the season with four games with Bowie over the Labor Day weekend.