The Richmond Flying Squirrels (6-4) literally walked past the Altoona Curve (3-5), 4-3, in front of 8,477 at The Diamond on Saturday night. With the victory, Richmond took a 2-1 edge in the four-game series.
A night after a dramatic four-run ninth inning, the Squirrels plated the winning run in the bottom of the eighth inning. With the game tied, 3-3, the Curve brought in Ryan Beckman. The righty loaded the bases by hitting two batters and walking another before Mario Lisson plated the winning run with a sacrifice fly to center field. The walk issued in the inning was the 12th of the night for Curve pitchers – a new franchise record. Those same hurlers also hit three batters on the night.
Both starters had difficulty locating in the first inning and it led to three total runs scored. Richmond right-hander Kyle Crick needed 29 pitches in the top of the first inning and conceded a lone run. A one-out walk issued to Gift Ngoepe got Altoona started. An out later, Mel Rojas Jr. slapped a double down the left-field line. Ngoepe came around to score from first base for a 1-0 lead.
Curve right-hander Tyler Sample also labored in the bottom of the first inning. Tyler Graham led off and extended his personal hit-streak to eight games with a single to left field. He then stole both second and third base. Matt Duffy drew a walk to put two runners on and jarrett parker plated Graham with an infield-single. After a walk to Lisson, Myles Schroder gave the Squirrels the lead, 2-1, with a sacrifice fly to left field.
Altoona erased that lead with another run in the second inning. Andy Vasquez cranked a lead-off double off of the top of the wall in right-center field. He advanced to third on a single from Elias Diaz and scored to level the ballgame on a passed ball. The run was unearned against Crick, but tied the game, 2-2.
Crick struggled to work short counts, and in turn worked a short outing. He was lifted after just 2 2/3 innings due to a pitch count that ballooned to 74. He did not factor in the decision, permitting two runs – one earned – on three hits. He walked three and struck out five.
Sample found his footing and worked through the fourth inning without further damage incurred. However, his pitch count also swelled and he made an early exit. He did not record a decision, allowing two earned runs on two hits, walking six and striking out three.
Right-hander Jose Casilla entered behind Crick and was tremendous over 3 1/3 scoreless innings. He allowed just a lone hit, walked none and struck out two.
The Squirrels received three more walks in the sixth inning as they reclaimed the lead, 3-2. Right-hander Joan Montero started the frame and quickly recorded the first two outs. However, he issued a two-out walk to Angel Villalona, who came up as a pinch-hitter. Ryan Lollis then dribbled an infield-single to put two aboard. Montero walked Duffy to load the bases and the Curve went back to the bullpen for left-hander Brandon Mann. Mann then walked jarrett parker to force in the go-ahead run. The walk to Parker was the 11th issued by the Curve, establishing a new Altoona franchise record.
The Curve were able to pull even with a run against right-hander Edwin Quirarte in the top of the eighth inning. However, Quirarte (2-1) earned the victory after the Squirrels rally in the bottom of the inning.
Right-hander Derek Law overpowered the Curve in the ninth, striking out two in a perfect inning. He earned his first save of the season.
The finale of the four-game series is scheduled at The Diamond on Sunday afternoon at 1:35 p.m. Richmond LHP Kelvin Marte (0-0, 6.83) will make the start against Altoona LHP Joely Rodriguez (0-0, 3.00). Pregame coverage will begin at 1:05 p.m. onSportsRadio910.com.