Richmond two games out of wild-card spot in the West
The Richmond Flying Squirrels (67-64) built a big lead only to hold on for dear life as they defeated the Altoona Curve (59-72), 9-7, in front of 7,769 at The Diamond on Thursday night. With the win, the Squirrels moved back within two games of the wild-card spot in the Western Division.
The Curve got off to quick start against left-hander Jack Snodgrass in the top of the first inning. Alen Hanson led off with a single chopped over third base. Drew Maggi followed and blooped a double just inside the right-field foul line to put two in scoring position with nobody out. Gregory Polanco and Alex Dickerson followed with consecutive sacrifice flies to center field to give the Curve a 2-0 lead.
A wild pitch allowed the Curve to tack a run onto their lead in the fourth inning. Jarek Cunningham opened the frame with a single and promptly stole second base. Snodgrass delivered wildly to the plate and Cunningham raced all the way in from second base for a 3-0 advantage.
Altoona lefty Eliecer Navarro held off the Squirrels for the first three innings. However, when he hit Jarrett Parker with one out in the fourth inning, he opened the floodgates. Parker was the first of eight consecutive batters to reach safely as Richmond tallied five runs to take a 5-3 lead. Skyler Stromsmoe followed Parker and singled. Tyler LaTorre then drew a walk to load the bases with one out. Snodgrass then came to the plate and aided his own cause when he cracked a two-run single to right field. It was Snodgrass’ fourth hit of the season, all of which have come against the Curve. Navarro then walked Ryan Lollis to reload the bases. Joe Panik and Javier Herrera contributed back-to-back singles to give the Squirrels the lead for the first time. Navarro capped the inning for the Squirrels when walked Adam Duvall to force in a run. Navarro was lifted following the walk.
Navarro (4-6) was charged with five earned runs over just 3 1/3 innings as he endured his sixth loss of the year. He surrendered seven hits, walked four and struck out two.
Richmond added a run in the bottom of the sixth inning against right-hander Kenn Kasparek. Herrera sparked the inning when he rifled a one-out double into the left-field corner. Duvall brought him in with a single to right field that extended the lead to 6-3.
Snodgrass (11-4) worked into the seventh inning and earned the win over 6 1/3 innings. He allowed three earned runs on six hits in his team-leading 11th victory of the year. He walked one and struck out eight – tying his career-high.
Left-hander Phil McCormick followed Snodgrass and worked a scoreless 1 2/3 innings including finishing off the seventh inning for Snodgrass.
The Squirrels plated three insurance runs off Altoona righty Tyler Waldron across the seventh and eighth innings. Lollis knocked in a run with his second hit of the night in the seventh. In the eighth, the Squirrels collected four hits including an RBI double from Duvall and an RBI single from LaTorre that made it 9-3 Richmond.
Herrera, Duvall and Stromsmoe each finished the night with three hits. Duvall knocked in three runs over the course of the evening.
As it turned out, the Squirrels needed all the runs they got. Right-hander Jose Valdez entered in the top of the ninth out and recorded just one out. He surrendered four runs as Mel Rojas Jr. and Adalberto Santos recorded back-to-back one-out singles. Hanson then cracked a two-run triple to center field. Andy Vasquez then laced a single to make it a 9-6 ballgame. Valdez then walked Polanco to bring the tying run to the plate. Valdez was removed in favor of left-hander Ryan Bradley. Bradley entered to walk Dickerson to load the bases with one out. Cunningham lifted a sacrifice fly to make it a 9-7 Richmond lead. Bradley then walked Justin Howard to put the tying runs in scoring position. However, he grounded out Carlos Paulino to end the ballgame, earning his first save of the year.
Game two of the four-game series is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. at The Diamond on Friday night. Richmond LHP Chris Gloor (9-6, 3.86) will make the start against Altoona RHP Casey Sadler (10-7, 3.41). The Flying Squirrels Pregame Warmup will begin on Sports Radio 910, www.sportsradio910.com and IHeart Radio at 6:35 p.m.