The Richmond Flying Squirrels (10-6) grabbed the rubber-game of a three-game series with the Altoona Curve (5-9), 7-3, on Saturday afternoon at Peoples Natural Gas Field. The win came despite 11 staff walks issued by the Squirrels and kept them unbeaten in a series this season.
The Squirrels continued their trend of plating unearned runs as they took the lead with their fourth unearned run of the series in the top of the first inning. Tyler Graham led off and reached on an errant throw from shortstop Alen Hanson. With the next batter, Skyler Stromsmoe, at the plate, Graham broke for second. Stromsmoe grounded the pitch to third base. Jarek Cunningham recorded the out at first base, but as he did Graham raced to third. First baseman Justin Howard threw back to third and threw wildly. His error allowed Graham to score for a 1-0 lead. The run came without the benefit of a Richmond hit.
The Curve responded without a hit against right-hander Kyle Crick in the bottom of the first inning. Crick struggled with his command throughout the inning and walked three batters. The Curve tied the game, 1-1, with an run-scoring ground out.
Richmond reclaimed the lead with their first earned run of the series in the second inning. With two outs, left-hander Joely Rodriguez surrendered a single to Kelby Tomlinson. Krill followed and bounced his first professional hit off the third base bag to put runners at the corners. Graham then pulled a single through the left-side of the infield to bring in Tomlinson for a 2-1 lead.
Rodriguez issued back-to-back walks to Matt Duffy and Myles Schroder in the third inning and the Squirrels later added a run to their lead. Angel Villalona knocked in that run when he singled to left field to score Duffy.
Crick allowed his first three hits of the day in the bottom of the third, and the Curve closed back within a lone run. Drew Maggi singled to start the inning, but was caught stealing. With two outs, Mel Rojas Jr. doubled into right field. Willy Garcia followed and knocked him in with a single to center field.
Crick lasted just 3 1/3 innings, throwing 83 pitches. He permitted two earned runs on three hits, walked six and struck out four. The six walks equaled a career-high established while with Augusta in 2012.
The Squirrels chased Rodriguez and took firm control of the ballgame in the fifth inning. Rodriguez got the first out but allowed a single to Duffy and was lifted. Right-hander Matt Benedict came on and the floodgates opened. He promptly walked Schroder before Villalona drilled a two-run triple into the right-field corner. It was Villalona’s first triple since 2007. Brett Krill and Tomlinson followed with back-to-back singles, each bringing home an additional run to stretch the Richmond lead to 7-2.
Rodriguez (0-2) was saddled with the loss for the Curve, working 4 1/3 innings. He allowed four runs – three earned – on six hits. He walked three and struck out one. Both of his losses have been suffered against the Squirrels.
Left-hander Jack Snodgrass (1-0) entered for Crick in the fourth and worked into the seventh inning for his first win of the season. He did not allow a hit over 3 1/3 innings, but did walk four and allowed an unearned run – the final Altoona run of the day.
Right-handers Austin Fleet and Cody Hall took it the rest of the way. Fleet recorded the final out of the seventh and worked a scoreless eighth inning. Hall had no trouble in the ninth in a non-save situation.
The Squirrels will enjoy a league-wide day off on Sunday in observance of the Easter holiday. They will resume their six-game road trip on Monday night in Reading, PA, meeting the Reading Fightin Phils (Philadelphia Phillies) in the opener of a three-game series. First pitch is scheduled for 6:35 p.m. Pregame coverage will begin on Sports Radio 910 andSportsRadio910.com at 6:05 p.m.