The Flying Squirrels (60-78) staved off an Altoona Curve celebration, at least for one more night, winning 4-2 over the Western Division leader on Friday at The Diamond. Squirrels catcher Steve Lerud drew a bases loaded walk in the bottom of the eighth inning to snap a 2-2 tie and give Richmond the lead. Richmond reliever Preston Claiborne finished the game with a 1-2-3 ninth to earn his third save of the season. The win snapped a 13 game losing streak for Richmond against Altoona, who need at least one more win to secure a playoff spot.
Altoona arrived in Richmond on Friday night on the brink of clinching the Western Division Title. Needing a win and an Akron loss, the Curve battled Richmond tightly for most of the night with ground ball specialist Clay Holmes on the mound. Steven Duggar tried to get the Richmond offense moving with a base hit to start off the bottom of first. Holmes then induced a double play ball, his first of two twin killings in the outing.
Holmes, walked five in the outing, lost his command in the second inning leading to a 1-0 Richmond lead. C.J Hinojosa and Brandon Bednar both reached on walks and Steve Lerud lined a ball off the ankle of Holmes for an RBI single. Holmes then escaped without any further damage when he struck out Nestor Molina to end the inning.
Altoona came back with a pair of runs in the top of the third, taking a 2-0 lead. Molina picked up two quick outs to start the inning, but Eric Escobar disrupted his rhythm with a base hit to left. Erich Weiss then tied the game by stroking a double into the corner in left and Kevin Newman pushed Altoona ahead with a single. Molina walked the next hitter and then escaped the inning. He went on to retired the next eight batters faced.
Holmes was touched up for another run in the second, tying the game, 2-2. Steven Duggar again opened things up with a single and moved to third base on a Ryder Jones single to left center field. Holmes, working his sinker again, induced another double play that scored the runner Duggar from third, but quelled the inning. Holmes continued in the outing, pitching into the sixth until he encountered trouble and was removed for Jared Lakind.
With the game tied, 2-2, the Squirrels turned to Carlos Alvarado to replace Molina in the eighth. Alvarado (1-0) retired all three batters he faced and wound up earning the win in relief. Molina received a no-decision despite tossing seven solid innings in his final start of the year. Molina allowed two runs on six hits and used 84 pitches.
Richmond regained the lead in the bottom of the eighth inning, once again taking adavantage of the wild Altoona staff. Curve reliever Miguel Rosario struggled with a smaller strike zone and walked the bases loaded. With one out, Brandon Bednar grounded a ball to third base where Eric Wood threw home to record the second out. Rosario, one out away form working out of the jam, walked Steve Lerud to allow the go-ahead run to score. Pinch-hitter Angel Villalona flowed with an RBI single to right field for a 4-2 lead.
Preston Claiborne entered in the ninth and picked up the save with a scoreless inning. The win ended the Squirrels 13-game losing streak against Altoona and prevented the Curve from clinching a playoff spot and division title.