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Curve fall two games out of playoffs with four to play

If the Altoona Curve fail to qualify for the 2005 postseason playoffs, they can probably point to Thursday night as a prime cause. Altoona built up a 5-1 advantage after three complete innings. Then however, the offense fell asleep while the defense committed five errors and misplayed a couple more Portland swings into hits before dropping a 7-6 decision to Portland.
With the win, the Sea Dogs claimed first place in the Northern Division and force the Curve to win at least three of Altoona’s season-ending four-game set at Bowie beginning tonight.
Eddie Candelario was his own worst enemy on the mound for the Curve in the top of the first inning. Candelario walked Portland leadoff hitter Matt Van Der Bosch and then threw the ball away trying to pick him off, enabling Van Der Bosch to get to third base. With one down, David Murphy scored Van Der Bosch with an RBI groundout to second base.
Altoona came right back to take the lead in their half of the first inning. Rich Thompson hustled a base hit into a double and went to third base on a sacrifice bunt by Craig Stansberry. Designated hitter Howie Clark got the tying run home with a grounder to second. Tom Evans beat out an infield hit, moved to second on a single by Josh Bonifay and scored the go-ahead run on another base hit to right, by right fielder Adam Boeve.
The Curve continued their onslaught in the second when Thompson singled and stole second base with two outs. Stansberry fouled off three straight 3-2 counts, until he got what he wanted and drilled a two-run homer to left to increase the Curve lead to 4-1.
Evans led off the third with his second straight infield base hit, lining the ball off third baseman Jared Sandberg’s outstretched glove to begin the frame. Evans advanced to second on a wild pitch and scored on another single by Boeve.
Portland starter Chris Smith and relievers Jim Mann and Kyle Jackson held Altoona scoreless over the next four innings however while the Portland offense, with the help of errors and misplayed hits, tied the score against Candelario and then took the lead against the Curve’s weak bullpen, a season-long problem.
Against Candelario, Portland tied the score with a pair of unearned runs in the sixth on a walk and two errors. With James Johnson pitching in relief to begin the seventh, Portland struck for the go-ahead run on a double and two singles, all with two outs.
In the top of the eighth, the Sea Dogs scored what would prove to be the winning run when a one-out error, walk and infield hit loaded the bases with Justin Kaye pitching for Altoona. Curve manager Tony Beasley brought in Jeremy Harts with the sacks full. Harts, who throws in the mid 90s, but had walked 52 batters in 38 innings prior to the game, walked his first batter to force in the seventh run. Harts then recovered to get a strikeout and groundout, but the damage was done.
Altoona got one run back in the bottom of the inning, when Jorge Cortes lined his sixth home run of the season on the first pitch of the inning, to cut the deficit to 7-6. Jackson retired the next three batters in order however, and Randy Beam got three straight outs in the ninth to secure the Portland victory.
Josh Bonifay, who walked away with both the Budwiser Select King of Swing Award, voted by the fans and the Curve Teammate of the Year Award for the most Player of the Game selections by the radio announcers, collected three hits in four trips to the plate to lead the Curve. Rich Thompson, Tom Evans and Adam Boeve each had two hits and Stansberry and Boeve each drove in two runs.
Van Der Bosch, Chris Durbin and Brandon Moss each had two hits for Portland.
Altoona reliever Brady Borner, the one sure thing coming out of the bullpen this season, was chosen the Curve Pitcher of the Year and Jose Bautista was selected as the Curve Ron Fiochetta Most Valuable Player in ceremonies before the game.