Peterson putting it together with seven scoreless inning stint against Norwich

Monday night’s series opener between the Altoona Curve and Norwich Navigators at Blair County Ballpark was a beautiful pitcher’s match between Altoona’s Matt Peterson and the Navigators Chris Begg. Coming in, the stats on paper would indicate the odds were in Begg’s favor. The Norwich righty (3-2) and the Altoona right-hander (3-3) both had three wins, but there the similarities stopped. Begg had a 2.16 ERA and had struck out 22 and walked 11 in 50 innings pitched. Peterson, who just two starts ago sported the WORST ERA in minor league baseball had an ERA of 8.47 and had walked 26 and struck out 15.
Pitching what was one of his best efforts in a Curve uniform, Peterson outdueled Begg, throwing seven shutout innings and taking advantage of a couple clutch Curve base hits for a 4-1 victory. In the triumph, Peterson fanned four and didn’t walk a batter.
“Tonight, I just went out there and threw strikes, and they were swinging pretty much at everything around the plate” explained Peterson. “I struggled a little with my curveball, but I was throwing the fastball over and occasionally mixing in the curveball. We played great. I made pitches and we played defense and put up runs. That’s what we needed to win.”
Peterson scattered four hits in throwing 91 pitches, while his teammates played errorless defense behind him. New Curve right fielder Rich Thompson, who many feel is the fastest player to don an Altoona uniform made a great play to come diving in to take a hit away from Norwich left fielder Carlos Valderrama to begin the top of the fourth and Peterson retired the final eight batters he faced before giving way to Hansel Izquierdo and Justin Kaye, who finished the game. Izquierdo lasted 1/3 of an inning with one hit and one walk before Kaye came in to pitch the final one and 2/3 inning to pick up his club high eighth save of the year.
Altoona first baseman Tom Evans gave Peterson, who is now 4-0 at Blair County Ballpark, but 0-3 with an 11.12 ERA on the road, all the offense he would need crashing a two-run home run with two outs in the bottom of the third inning. Thompson singled with one down and Evans clubbed a clutch two-run shot way back in left field for the 2-0 lead. That was the only mistake Begg made. The Norwich pitcher fanned seven and walked two. Following Evans dinger, Jorge Cortes walked, but Begg then set the last 13 batters down in a row before leaving the game at the end of seven innings.
“I think tonight was a group effort,” said Evans. “We didn’t have a whole bunch of hits, but when we needed to. I just tried to swing hard and catch up with one. He left it out and over the plate and down a bit and I was able to get extended on it.”
Izquierdo struck out the first hitter he faced, to begin the eighth inning, but then walked pinch hitter Dan Trumble and Fred Lewis singled to bring in Kaye from the Curve pen. Two straight fielder’s choices scored Trumble to cut the Altoona lead to 2-1, but Kaye limited the Giants Double-AA franchise to just that one tally and the Curve got another clutch hit to put the ballgame away.
With two outs in the Curve half of the eighth, Jose Bautista singled for his second base hit of the contest, Evans singled and Cortes walked for the second time. Curve catcher Carlos Maldonaldo, who usually is behind the plate when Peterson is on the mound, singled home Josh Bonifay, running for Bautista and Evans to stretch the advantage to 4-1.
“That was huge,” said Curve manager Tony Beasley in describing the impact of Maldonaldo’s hit. ‘In a game like tonight, a 2-0 ballgame and we allow then to get a run in the eighth. A 2-1 lead is nothing in this league to go into the ninth, you don’t feel good about that. It’s always clutch when you can get a big hit and have some insurance runs going into the ninth inning. Maldo has been catching Peterson and I didn’t want to break the combo up. But also, he has been swinging the bat well. Every game he’s played in, he has gotten some hits for us, some really big hits. For the most part every game he has played, he’s gotten us one or two hits. He has gotten extra-base hits, he’s driven in runs. We really don’t skip a beat when he’s in there.”
The series continues tonight when Curve left-hander Paul Maholm (1-1, 4.43 ERA) goes against Norwich righty James Garcia (2-4, 4.94) with the first pitch set for 6:35 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, Altoona and the Navigators play back-to-back Kids Day games beginning at 10:35 a.m. both days.