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Trenton salvages final game of series with late-inning score

Trenton used a ninth inning run to slip past the Altoona Curve 3-2 at Blair County Ballpark on Thursday. The win evens the season series between the two interdivisional opponents. Both clubs won three of four games at their own ballpark and lost three of four on the road. Altoona won the first three games of the series at BCB, before the Thunder managed to get a win in the Curve’s final regular season home game of the year.
Kevin Thompson, who led off each of the four games in this series with a base hit doubled and scored on a double play in the first, then homered for the second night in a row with two down in the fifth to lead the Thunder offense.
“I thought we played a decent ballgame,” said Curve manager Tony Beasley. “Their starter did a good job. He used his change-up well and moved his fastball to both sides of the plate. He had a lot of guys off-balance at the plate.”
Jorge Cortes provided the offensive punch for Altoona. After going four-for-four on Wednesday night, Cortes tied the game at 1-1 with a two-out home run in the third, doubled to lead off the sixth and walked to lead off the eighth. Cortes has strung together six straight multi-hit games in a row and is hitting .700 (14-for-20) during that streak.
“I have been feeling pretty comfortable (at the plate),” said Cortes. “Things are happening right now, like everything I hit is a base hit, or a double. I’m trying to help the team and waiting for the playoffs.”
After Trenton went ahead 2-1 on Thompson’s dinger, the Curve came back to tie the game in the seventh. Designated hitter Kevin Nicholson singled with one out and scored on a double to the wall in left field by Donaldo Mendez.
“We battled. I thought Bullington did a good job,” said Beasley. “Hartsy (Harts) came in and we were just seeing what we could get out of him. We kind of pushed him a little tonight, but he threw the ball well. For the most part he threw strikes. We had our chances.”
Mitch Jones walked to begin the top of the ninth, advanced to second on a wild pitch and third on a ground out before Jason Grove singled him home with two outs for what proved to be the game winner. Jones was very quiet during the four-game series. Co-Eastern League home run leader with 37 homers, Jones was a combined 0-for-10 in the four games at Altoona, but did walk four times and was on base to score the winning run on Thursday night via one of those bases on balls.
Nate McLouth opened the Curve first with a single, stole second base for his 32nd of the year and got as far as third base on a wild pitch, but was stranded. McLouth needs two more hits to match the franchise record of 161 hits in a season set by Tony Alvarez in 2002.
Ronny Paulino lined a single to right to open the second, but Thunder starter Ramon Ramirez got the next three batters. It was Paulino’s 31st straight game that he has reached base, one short of the franchise record twice matched by McLouth.
Bryan Bullington started for Altoona, throwing five and 2/3 innings, giving up two runs on six hits, with four strikeouts and two walks. With the exception of the two hits by Thompson, Bullington pitched well.
“I was a couple pitches away from a real effective performance,” said Bullington, who was the Pirates’ fourth highest prospect according to Baseball America and was the top overall pick in the 2002 draft. Bullington missed his sixth straight win, but pitched well enough to get a win had he had a bit of run support. “I kept us in the ballgame and we were able to tie it up. It was a tough ballgame to lose 3-2. That’s the way baseball is.”
Lefty reliever Jeremy Harts (0-2) pitched the final three and 1/3 innings, giving up one run on just one hit, getting in trouble when he walked Jones in the ninth and then yielded Grove’s two-out base hit.
Altoona travels to New Britain four a four-game series today through Labor Day, gets a day off on Tuesday and then begins the Southern Division playoffs Wednesday and Thursday at BCB. The best of five series then switches to Erie for games four and five before heading back to Altoona for game five, if needed.
“I’ve told the guys, I am going to put our best nine out there,” said Beasley, talking about the upcoming playoffs. “Maybe a match-up may dictate something, but for the most part, I’m going to go with the guys that are going strong. That is an incentive that the guys have for these last five games not to just roll over. My lineup is going to be determined by how we finish the season and who’s playing well.”
Curve notes: In the closest voting in Curve history, Chris Duffy received the Ron Fiochetta award symbolizing the Curv MVP. Duffy, who has missed much of the past month due to a wrist injury, edged out fellow outfielder Nate McLouth. McLouth, who in his first Double-A season leads the league in both hits and runs, was awarded the inaugural Curve Teammate of the Year award.
Reliever Jeff Miller received the Curve Fireman of the Year award for leading the team with 18 saves.