Mon. Feb 26th, 2024

Chris Duffy led the offense and Bryan Bullington tossed five strong innings backed by a perfect relief effort from Jeff Miller as the Altoona Curve doubled up the Reading Phils 6-3.
The decision gives the Curve a 2-1 series win and is Altoona’s eighth win, at Blair County Ballpark, in nine games heading into a four-game Memorial Day weekend set with the New Britain Rock Cats. There were a total of 103 buses in the parking lot on the final Kids Day Game of the season with multiple school districts among the 7,200 fans in attendance.
Duffy waited no longer than the first pitch thrown by Reading starter Robinson Tejeda to belt his second home run of the season at BCB and third overall after getting just one all last year. Nate McLouth then lined the second pitch into right for a single-two pitches, two hits and a 1-0 Curve lead. Jeff Keppinger, the number two hitter in the Eastern League (.368) continued his slump (1-for his last 21 before the game would conclude) by rapping into a double play and Tejeda got out of the first without further damage.
Altoona was back in business in the third inning, getting after Tejeda for two more runs and again Duffy was involved. Bullington, who pitched five and2¼3 innings allowing three runs on seven hits with three strikeouts and two walks to pick up the victory, singled to open the bottom of the inning. Duffy singled to right and both runners moved up a base on a groundout by McLouth. Keppinger was able to get Bullington home with a sacrifice fly and Josh Bonifay, who saw his 12-game hit streak stopped Tuesday when his only at bat was a pinch hitting appearance, started another streak with a single to right that scored Duffy for a 3-0 Altoona lead.
Altoona also had two runners on in the fourth when Urendell DeCaster singled and Kevin Nicholson reached base on a rarely-seen catcher’s interference, but Tejeda got out of the inning scoreless.
The Curve increased their advantage to 4-0 in the fifth when Bonifay drilled a two-out solo shot over the right field wall for his fifth home run of the year, tying Ryan Doumit for the team lead. Bonifay now has a team-best 23 RBI.
Bullington, the Pirates number four prospect according to Baseball America, who had retired 13 of 14 from the last out of the first to the end of the fifth inning, with the help of a double play to end the second inning began to tire. Miquel Quintana doubled to lead off the frame and with one out, scored on an RBI groundout by Jim Deshaine. With two outs, Bullington walked Eastern League leading home run hitter (13) Ryan Howard and Kurt Keene followed with a two-run blast of his own, into the grass beyond the left field bleachers to cut the Curve lead to 4-3. Jeff Phelps and Ryan Fleming hit back-to-back singles to give Reading’s four straight base hits and end the day for Bullington.
“He got into a little trouble late,” Curve manager Tony Beasley said of Beasley. “He left a slider out over the plate in the last inning, but he hung in there. He’s improving with every outing.”
Jeff Miller came on to get a groundout for the final out of the inning, then pitched a pair of one-two-three innings in the seventh and eighth before giving way to Curve closer Elio Serrano to pitch the ninth. Miller has now pitched 14 and 2/3 straight scoreless innings for the Curve, dating back to May 5.
Altoona added some insurance in the sixth with a clutch two-out two-run double by Duffy, who set a personal best with three RBI. DeCaster singled with one out and Nicholson doubled him to third. Duffy slammed the ball into the left-center field gap to score both runners.
“When I hit it, I knew I hit it well,” said Duffy. “I don’t put too many charges in balls like that, and that was a big hit, more than the home run, and I was glad I could use the whole field today.”
Serrano picked up his Eastern league high 11th save, but as has often been the case had to bail himself out of a bases-loaded situation to accomplish it. Serrano fanned the first hitter of the ninth, but then walked Fleming, who enjoyed a perfect day at the plate with three singles and a walk in four trips. Russ Jacobsen, batting just .132 at game time singled up the middle and Danny Gonzalez caught DeCaster napping by popping a bunt that the Curve third baseman couldn’t field to load the bases with just one out. Serrano induced Quintana to fly out to short left and got Scott Younbauer to fly out to Duffy in center for the final out of the game.
Altoona (25-21) opens a four-game series with New Britain tonight at 6:35 p.m. Ian Snell (3-3, 2.66 ERA will be on the hill for the Curve, while Scott Baker (2-0, 0.60) will start for the Rock Cats.

By Rick