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Reading avoids sweep with Memorial Day win over Curve

Juan Richardson hit a pair home and two singles with three RBI, and Eastern League RBI leader Randy Ruiz clubbed his 13th home run and double to drive in two, to help the Reading Phillies avoid a four-game series sweep with an 8-2 win over the Altoona Curve Memorial Day afternoon at Blair County Ballpark.
The Phillies (21-30) won for the just the third time in 11 games against the Curve this season and for just the fourth time in their last 21 meetings with Altoona at Blair County Ballpark. Despite the loss, the Curve (25-22) completed their season-long eight-game homestand with a 5-3 record. There was a constant rain through the first six innings of the game, with several interruptions to bring out more Diamond-Dry to fix up the pitching mound, home plate and several areas around the bases. Altoona pitcher Paul Stewart stopped several times to try to get the mud out of his spikes between batters.
“It basically was a layer of mud on the bottom of your spikes and so, my traction wasn’t good,” said Stewart. “It wasn’t good, I was slipping and sliding a little bit. But they were going trough the same thing and Rojas threw the ball really well for six innings.”
Richardson, who was making his first start of the series, also scored three runs to key the Phillies\’ 12-hit attack. Ruiz homered in the R-Phils four-run fifth inning that built 2-1 lead into a 6-1 advantage. Richardson’s four-baggers were both solo shots in the second and seventh innings
Stewart (3-3), who posted a 1.57 ERA over his first five starts before hitting a rough stretch, was charged with six runs–five earned–on 10 hits in five innings of work to suffer his third loss in his last three decisions.
“If I knew what was going on, I would definitely try to chance that,” said Stewart about his downspin. “I have been throwing some real good bullpen in between starts, it just hasn’t translated onto the playing field. I had a good start last time against Norwich and I was hoping that momentum would carry over. Instead, I got out of rhythm out there. I thought I made a couple good pitches, but they hit them.”
The right-hander has now yielded 22 earned runs in 25 innings of work over his last five starts (7.92 ERA).
“I’m not locating my fastball as well as I was,” explained Stewart. “The best pitch in baseball is a well located fastball. If you can’t establish that, you really don’t have much to build off of. There’s no building block there. April was really good for me, although I am basically a June, July August pitcher. I like to pitch in warm weather, if it ever gets that way here.”
Reading starter and one-time Pirates\’ farmhand Chris Rojas (5-4) allowed just two hits and two runs over six innings of work to earn his fifth win of the season. Rojas spent the 1999 season in the Pirates\’ system, pitching for short-season Class-A Williamsport.
His (Stewart’s) velocity is way down,” said Curve pitching coach Jeff Andrews. “He did have one real good start where he was up at 89 (miles per hour) consistently. That makes a difference. Basically, he is struggling to get his change-up into the game. He’s becoming a two-pitch pitcher. When you are a two-pitch pitcher, that puts a lot of pressure on your fastball. He just hasn’t been locating the fastball. He had four walks today to left-handed hitters on basically fastballs away that he couldn’t get over the plate. That’s the side that he needs help with.”
While Reading was bashing five extra-base hits, Richardson’s homers, the double and home run by Ruiz and a double by Reading first baseman Ryan Barthelemy following the Ruiz dinger in the fourth, Altoona managed just four hits in the loss,. Curve third baseman Jose Bautista continued his hot streak by going 2-for-4 with an RBI double. Bautista is hitting .417 (15-for-36) over his last 10 games and extended his team-high on-base streak to 17 games. Craig Stansberry knocked in the other Curve run with a fifth-inning RBI single.
In the bottom of the fourth down 2-0, Altoona leadoff hitter Rajai Davis walked and moved to second on a bouncer to Rojas by Rich Thompson. Bautista doubled to drive in Davis with his 18th run batted in of the season.
In the Curve fifth, Jorge Cortes was hit by a pitch and catcher Carlos Maldonaldo walked to put runners on first and second. Stansberry, who connected for his first Double-A home run in the Altoona 3-1 win over Reading on Saturday at BCB, singled in Cortes with the Curve’s second run. Brandon Chaves forced Stansberry for the first out of the inning. Pinch hitter Tom Evans walked to load the bases, but Rojas struck out Davis and got Thompson on an infield fly to Reading second baseman Brain Hitchcox to end the inning.
The Curve will travel to Harrisburg for a three-game series against the Senators beginning Tuesday night. Tuesday\’s 6:35 PM game will open a six-day, seven-game road trip to both Harrisburg and Reading.