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Curve pitching staff gets Altoona out of trouble in 3-2 victory over Harrisburg

The Altoona Curve returned to Blair County Ballpark on Monday night fresh from sweeping the Akron Aeros. With the help of pitchers Ian Snell and Blake Stein, Altoona won their fourth straight ballgame edging the Harrisburg Senators 3-2.
Harrisburg, the Montreal Expos Double-A franchise, was dead last in hitting in the Eastern League with a .218 batting average coming into the game. However the Senators took three of four from the Curve in Harrisburg in their only previous meeting in early April and as Altoona manager Tony Beasley explained.
“This one was a little hairy. Harrisburg battled, it didn’t come easy,” said Beasley. “Definitely, this team believes they can beat us, no matter what their record.”
Starters Ian Snell of Altoona and Rich Rundles of Harrisburg matched goose eggs on the scoreboard for the first four innings of this game, before the Senators got on the scoreboard first. Larry Broadway doubled to begin the top of the fifth, and scored on two sacrifices. First, Seth Taylor laid down a bunt to get him to third, then Jeremy Ware lofted a fly ball deep enough to left to score Broadway.
Altoona tied the game in the home half of the inning. Ray Sadler singled and would have scored on Urendell DeCaster double. Unfortunately, the ball bounced over the right field wall for a ground rule double that advanced Sadler only to third. Rundles struckout his pitching adversary, Snell for the first out of the inning, but Chris Duffy grounded to second base to score Sadler with the tying run.
The sixth inning was extremely crucial to determining the outcome of the ballgame.
First, Harrisburg loaded the bases with just one out on singles by Melvin Dorta, who led the Senators with three hits, Juan Camilo and Rich Lane. Snell reached back and induced the dangerous Broadway to ground into a third-to second to first double play to get out of the inning without a run being scored.
In the bottom of the sixth, Nate McLouth opened the inning with his second home run in three games to give Altoona the 2-1 lead. The Curve right fielder, who dyed his hair blond last week and has since hit his first two home runs at the Double-A level said jokingly, “It has to be the hair.”
Although there was no doubt about distance, nearly everybody thought the ball was going to hook foul. It never did and the Curve took their first lead of the game. “With all the time we will be on the road, its good for us to come home, get some wins and get the momentum going for the road,” said McLouth.
Not content with just one, Altoona put another tally on the scoreboard to jump their advantage to 3-1. Ronnie Paulino lined a shot off shortstop Alejandro Machado’s outstretched glove for a single, moved to third on a double by Kevin Nicholson and scored when Sadler bounced out to second.
After Snell went the first six innings, Mike Crudale pitched an easy seventh, before running into trouble in the eighth. Machado and Dorta singled to start the frame and with one out Lane singled home Machado and Crudale had trouble intentionally walking Broadway to load the bases with just one out. When the second ball nearly got away from Paulino behind the plate, Beasley brought in Blake Stein.
The veteran righty, with major league experience (1997-2002), struck out all six batters he faced in his last appearance against Akron on Friday night. Against the Senators, Stein fanned both Taylor and Ware to give him eight straight strikeouts to end the inning and the threat.
“I hope I can ride this streak a little longer,” said Stein, who once struck out eight straight Milwaukee Brewers as a pitcher for Kansas City in the big leagues. “It’s nice to be able to throw the ball and it goes where you want it to. I think it has a lot to do with working with Andy (Curve pitching coach Jeff Andrews) on the side where we’ve been working with some things. We are going to continue that, stay consistent with that and hope that it will carry on.”
Stein got himself into a bit of a jam in the Harrisburg ninth allowing a single to Drew McMillan and hitting Dorta to put two baserunners on with two down. Stein got himself out of trouble by striking out pinch hitter Dom Ambrosini with none out and Camilo to end the game for his sixth save. Stein has inherited eight runners this season and stranded all eight.
The Curve, now 31-25, will play Harrisburg (18-38) tonight at 7:05. Brady Borner (2-3, 5.29 ERA will pitch for Altoona, while the Senators will send Jason Stevenson (4-4, 3.00) to the mound.