The Altoona Curve (48-66) eased past the Richmond Flying Squirrels (66-47), 7-3, on Friday night at Peoples Natural Gas Field. The Curve have taken the first two games of the four-game series. Despite the loss, the Squirrels’ lead in the Western Division remains 6 ½ games as the Akron RubberDucks also lost on Friday night.
The Curve struck first against lefty Ty Blach in the third inning. Willy Garcia led off with a double blistered off the fence in center field. Two outs later, Kelson Brown knocked in Garcia with a single to right field to put Altoona in front, 1-0.
Altoona scored three more runs off Blach to take control of the ballgame in the fourth. Elias Diaz opened the inning with a double to the right-field corner. Blach recorded the first two outs, but with Diaz at third, the Squirrels elected to walk Jarek Cunningham to get to the Curve hurler, Pat Ludwig. He made them pay with a two-run double shot to right-center field. Ludwig’s first professional hit made it 3-0 Curve. Gift Ngoepe capped the inning with an RBI single to left field for a 4-0 advantage.
Ludwig lived on the edge through the first four innings, but kept the Squirrels off the scoreboard. His fortunes changed in the fifth when he walked Stromsmoe to start the inning and then hit Blach to put two aboard. Kelby Tomlinson then reached on an error charged to Ludwig and the bases were loaded. Mario Lisson made it a one-run game when he followed and drilled a bases-clearing double into the left-field corner.
The Curve stretched their lead back out with another pair of runs off Blach in the fifth inning. Stetson Allie and Diaz were aboard courtesy of back-to-back one-out singles when Garcia whacked his second double of the night to center field. Both runners scored for a 6-3 Altoona lead.
Blach (7-6) endured his roughest outing of the season and took the loss over five innings. He surrendered a season-high six earned runs on a season-high 10 hits. He walked two and struck out two as he suffered his sixth defeat.
Ludwig (3-4) earned the win, working six innings. He allowed three runs – two earned – on six hits. He walked three and struck out none.
Right-handers Collin Balester, Ryan Beckman and Kenn Kasparek each handled an inning of relief with no issue to finish the win for the Curve.
Garcia polished off a monster night and finished the scoring when he launched a solo-home run off of right-hander Carlos Alvarado in the eighth inning. His 16th of the season, and second of the series, made it 7-3. Garcia notched three extra-base hits on the night. He knocked in three runs and scored two others.
Game three of the four-game series is scheduled for 6 p.m. on Saturday night at Peoples Natural Gas Field. Richmond LHP Jack Snodgrass (9-4, 3.14) will make the start against Altoona RHP Adrian Sampson (9-5, 2.69). The Flying Squirrels Pregame Warmup begins at 6:30 p.m. on Sports Radio 910 and SportsRadio910.com.