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Altoona completes sweep over Harrisburg on wild pitch in 15th

It took a lot of innings, but very little time for the Altoona Curve to defeat the Harrisburg Senators 2-1 on Sunday evening.
The game took just three hours and 35 minutes, just over the average time for an American League game, however the Senators and Curve managed to squeeze 15 innings into that amount of time.
There were lots of goose eggs on the scoreboard and bunches of sacrifice bunts and good defensive plays from both clubs.
None of the defensive gems was better, or more significant than a diving catch made by Altoona centerfielder Chris Duffey.
To set the stage, pinch hitter Albenis Machado, whose brother Anderson Machado hits the daylights out of the ball every time the Reading Phils come to Blair County Ballpark, opened the top of the eighth inning with a single to left. Albenis stayed in the game to play shortstop and singled again and grounded out for two hits in trips on Sunday. Anderson Machado had 18 RBIs in one four-game series against the Curve last year.
Brandon Watson followed Albenis hit with a sacrifice bunt to advance Machado to second base. With one out and third baseman Jake Thrower at bat, Thrower, a left-handed batter, ripped a shot into left-center field. Duffy raced after the ball, diving after a lone run and just barely hanging onto the ball, then righting himself in time to throw a strike to Curve second baseman Jose Castillo to double up Machado who believing the ball would fall in for a base hit had taken off and was desperately trying to get back to second base. If that ball falls in, one run would have scored for sure and who knows how many more would have followed when it was already in the eighth inning?
“I guess it was a pretty big part of the game,” said Duffy. “It kind of means more when you something like that late in the game. Right when he got two strikes, I shaded more to left-center. That’s what I kind of do for left-handed hitters, particularly at the top of the order, where they like to go the other way. And I got a good jump on the ball and was fortunate to get over there in time.”
Harrisburg hurler Ron Chiavacci had held the Curve pretty much in check tossing shutout ball over the first six and 2/3 innings yielding no runs on just two hits before leaving the game with a 1-0 lead. Senator’s reliever Chad Bentz came on in the seventh after Brett Roneberg had singled to left with two outs. Bentz got out of the inning without throwing a pitch to a batter, by picking Roneberg off first base for the third out of the inning.
In the bottom of the eighth, after making the spectacular play to end the Harrisburg half of the inning, Duffy led off for the Curve. Duffy hit a swinging bunt that Harrisburg catcher Scott Ackerman threw high to first baseman Glenn Davis, pulling him off the bag. Curve catcher Chris Heintz dropped a sacrifice bunt to move Duffy to second. Josh Bonifay lined a single up the middle, pinch hitting for Altoona starting pitcher Landon Jacobsen to put runners at the corners with one out. Kevin Nicholson hit into a fielder’s choice that scored Duffy with the tying run and was safe at first when Machado dropped the throw from second baseman Josh McKinley.
“Whenever you make a big play like that, it kind of pumps you up,” said Duffy, “especially when you lead off the next inning. I was able to do that and get on base and score a run, which is what I like to do.”
Curve starter Landon Jacobsen had been having trouble winning, going six starts and over two months since his last win after beginning the season with four wins in five decisions. While Jacobsen wasn’t around to get the decision on Sunday, the Curve righty threw eight strong innings, giving up just one run on five hits, with six strikeouts and only one walk.
“Jake (Jacobsen) was really good today,” said Altoona manager Dale Sveum. “It was nice to see him very aggressive today. He was very aggressive in the strike zone. He mixed it up a little bit, but really went after them with his fastball in the strike zone.”
The Curve tied the home record for longest game by innings, having first played a 15-inning game in their first year in the Eastern League back in 1999 and tying the mark with another 15 stanza contest earlier this year.
“I’m just trying to back in the groove,” said Jacobsen. “I wasn’t consistently throwing strikes down low, like I need to do. Last game, I had five walks. In another game, I think, I had four. So, I wasn’t throwing strikes down low in the zone like I had been doing in my career.”
Neal McDade pitched two innings in relief of Jacobsen allowing two hits and one walk. Todd Ozias tossed two scoreless innings with two Ks, to increase his consecutive scoreless inning streak to 24 and 2/3 innings, a streak that goes back to April 19. Jeff Bennett tossed a pair of scoreless frames adding three strikeouts and Clint Chrysler (1-0) earned the win with a scoreless inning in the 15th with two strikeouts.
Chris Heintz lined a shot past third base to give the Curve a leadoff runner in the 15th inning. Chrysler dropped a perfect bunt in his first plate appearance of the year to move Heintz to second. Kevin Nicholson lined a one-hopper that was actually past Harrisburg first sacker Davis, when he gloved the shot and beat Nicholson to the bag, robbing him of a hit and the game-winning RBI. Heintz was able to take third base on the play. The Senators chose to intentionally walk Shawn Garrett, who had singled in his last at bat in the 13th, to set up a possible force at second base and leave the game squarely in the hands of Harrisburg pitcher Luis Torres and Curve hitter Jose Castillo who had also singled in the 13th. The end was anti-climatic after all the good plays and pitching that were featured in the ballgame-Torres threw a pitch that rolled all the way to the backstop allowing Heintz to score the winning run.
The Curve (30-29) left after the game and fireworks display for a six-hour bus trip to New Britain, where they will begin a seven-game road trip with three games against the Rock Cats tonight at 6:35 p.m.