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Top of Altoona batting order leads Curve to three-game sweep over Harrisburg

Chris Duffy, Jeff Keppinger and Nate McLouth bat one-two-three in the Altoona Curve batting order. On Wednesday night the three reached base a total of nine times, scored four runs and drove in two to key a 6-3 Altoona triumph over Harrisburg that enabled the Curve to sweep the three game set of the Senators. Altoona has now won six straight overall. a new high for the 2004 season. The Curve’s 33-25 record matches the 2002 Altoona club for best franchise start.
“Duffy had some bunt hits and a big double, Keppinger swung the bat well again to set things up,” said Curve manager Tony Beasley. “I can’t complain. We were able to get some guys to do some big things. DeCaster had a big two-out hit, I was surprised they pitched to him with the pitcher behind him. Then Jake got one of his own to help his own cause. A lot of things went our way tonight.”
Landon Jacobsen got off to a rough start in the first inning, before a big crowd of 6,432, giving up a single, one of four hits by Senators’ leadoff hitter Alejandro Machado, who stole second base, moved to third on a tapper back to the mound and scored when Rich Lane ripped a shot into center for an RBI single. Jacobsen retired the next two batters on a grounder to short and a strikeout to get out of trouble without any further damage.
Jacobsen (3-2) scattered 10 hits, but pitched six strong innings, giving up just one more run, a leadoff home run by Larry Broadway in the sixth, striking out two and walking one to pick up the win. In the process, Jacobsen, who picked up his second straight win after getting hammered early in the season, reduced his ERA by nearly a half-run from 6.41 to 6.02.
“I have to give the credit to Blake Stein,” Jacobsen playfully explained. “About a month ago, when I was pitching in Bowie, I accidentally stole his coat and ended up getting the win there. In Akron, I didn’t have my undershirt, so I wore one of his there and got my second win. We decided we better try something different, so he gave me a belt tonight. Things have been going pretty good since I’ve been wearing his gear.”
Tongue in check when asked what Stein would lend Jacobsen next, Blake replied “That is between Jake and I, a gameday decision.” to the laughter of teammates and media.
“It is always nice to feel you are starting to get back into a rhythm,” explained Jacobsen. “I struggled my first 10 starts and now to come back and get a couple wins back-to-back always helps.”
Altoona came right back to tie the score in the home half of the first. Chris Duffy bunted to the third base side of the mound and beat it out when left-handed Harrisburg starter Luke Lockwood couldn’t make the play. Jeff Keppinger singed to center with Duffy moving around to third, where he scored when Nate McLouth hit into a double play.
In the third inning, the Curve added a pair of scores to take a 2-1 advantage. Duffy was hit be a pitch and Keppinger and McLouth hit back to back singles to score Duffy. With the base hit, McLouth now has hit in 15 straight games, third longest in Curve history.
“Any time you can get on base and give yourself the opportunity to score,” was Duffy’s explanation for the two bunt base hits. “Against this team, we have been facing a lot of lefties and I figured maybe that (bunting) would break me out against lefties.” Duffy is hitting .302 against right-handed pitching, but before Wednesday’s ballgame was only hitting .207 against lefties.
The Curve stretched their lead to 3-1 in the fourth. Duffy dragged a bunt down the first base line and beat it out for his second infield hit nobody could make the play. Keppinger lined his third straight single to right center and Duffy, running on the play and going through a stop sign by Curve third base coach John Wehner scored all the way from first base. McLouth added a bunt single of his own, but was stranded at first when Harrisburg leftfielder Donnie Bridges leaped to rob Josh Bonifay of what would have been a three-run dinger.
“I get no respect,” said Wehner as he popped his head into manager Tony Beasley’s office. Beasley, serious for a moment noted that Duffy had been chastised for the failure to stop.
In the fifth, Altoona put two insurance runs on the board. Ronnie Paulino, who had two hits on the night to reach base for the 14th straight game, singled, stole second and moved to third on a ground out by Kevin Nicholson. Urendell DeCaster ripped a triple to right to score Paulino and Jacobsen helped himself out by driving in DeCaster with a single to center. That was Jacobsen’s second professional hit and first RBI.
Harrisburg’s final two runs came on solo home runs. Broadway belted his second round-tripper of the series and 10th of the season off Jacobsen in the sixth and Machado hit his first of the year with two outs in the ninth off Curve reliever Brandon Agamennone.
Neal McDade pitched a scoreless seventh inning in his first outing May 15, due to a bout with tendinitis, allowing a hit and a walk and Agamennone finished up the final two innings allowing one hit, the Machado home run, striking out five and walking one.
Altoona opens a four-game series at Reading against the R-Phils tonight starting at 7:05 p.m. Mike Connolly (5-4, %.23 ERA) will be on the mound for the Curve and Reading will pitch Kevin Dougherty (0-1, 6.75).