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Portland Sea Dogs rocks Curve to sleep early in 7-3 victory

Curve pitcher Mike Connolly was all set to celebrate his 21st birthday at the expense of the Portland Sea Dogs. Instead the Boston Red Sox Double-A afilliate put the Curve left hander away early in a 7-3 win that stretched the latest Altoona losing streak to four games in a row and five of their last six.
Connolly was his own worst enemy, failing to get into any kind of rhythm. Connolly, who had been pitching under some bad luck, had been shackled with an 0-4 mark at Balir County Ballpark, despite a very respectable 2.67 ERA. His Curve teammates hadn’t been much help, scoring just a total of five runs in Connolly’s six starts at home.
In Monday’s birthday celebration, only the Sea Dogs got to take part in any celebrating.
Connolly began the first inning by walking the first three hitters he faced and after he did get one out, hit a batter to force in one run and allowed a single, the first ball put into play on Connolly’s first 37 pitches, that scored two more tallies. and a fielder’s choice that plated another.
That 4-0 lead quickly changed the complextion of the contest for the rest of the game. After Connolly had retired the first two batters in the second, a pair of singles and a double by Kelly Shoppach added another two runs for a quick 6-0 Portland lead,
“Obviously Mike just couldn’t throw strikes,” explained Altoona manager Dale Sveum. “He wasn’t close to the strike zone, didn’t know where the ball was going. it led to a big inning that was the difference in the ballgame. It will happen to every pitcher. Mike is a big strong-headed kid. I don’t think it will bother him. Everybody goes through it.”
Clint Chrysler, just off the disabled list, took over on the mound for the Curve to begin the third inning. Chrysler did yeoman duty, holding Portland to just one more run over the next five innings in his longest outing in a Curve uniform. Chrysler gave up one run on two hits, striking out two and walking one. Jeff Bennett tossed the final two frames allowing no runs on one hit with three Ks and no walks.
“It was fun being able to go out there and pitch,” said Chrysler. “It’s been a while since I did. I try to get myself in a rhythm, it was enjoyable. Tonight I felt pretty good. I don’t know if I’m where I’m supposed to be or not. Tonight made me feel that I was pretty close at least. In the situation i am in right now, I will do whatever they ask me to do.”
The Curve cut into the lead in the second, eighth and ninth, but for the most part the offense consisted of first-pitch swings, high easy to catch fly outs and getting two quick outs before they were able to get anything started.
Portland starter Josh Stevens, who has been one of the better Eastern League pitchers over the first third of the season, won his fifth straight game to become the first Eastern league pitcher to log seven wins (7-1) scattering eight hits over seven complete innings, striking out three without walking a batter.
Shawn Garrett singled left with one out in the second, moved to second on a single by Josh Bonifay and scored on another base hit by Shawn Skrehot.
With two out in the eighth inning, Garrett doubled for his third hit of the game and scored on a grounder that was misplayed by Portland first baseman Dustin Brisson. In the ninth down 7-2, Ronnie Paulino opened the frame with a single to center, advanced to second on a wild pitch and third on a groundout by Chris Duffey. Kevin Nicholson scored Paulino with an RBI groundout to first, but that was all the Curve was able to score.
“Our pitching has been carrying us through the first 50 games,” said Sveum. “In the last five, it hasn’t been doing very well. Our pen did a good job. Chrysler did a fantastic job and so did Bennett. It was nice to see Chrysler pitch really well and give him a lift. He’s the guy who has to suck up those innings and he does it without complaining and does a great job.”
Connolly’s younger brother Jon , a left-hander like his older brother, pitches for low “A” West Michigan in the Tigers chain where he is 9-0 with a 0.79 ERA with two complete games in 10 starts.
Game two of the three game series with Portland at Blair County Ballpark is set for today at 7:05 p.m. Lefty Tom Fordham, recently added to the Curve roster from Nashville to help out while Ben Shaffar is on the disabled list with a sore right knee, will start for Altoona. he will face right-hander Junior Herndon (2-3, 5,56 ERA) for the Sea Dogs.