Altoona didn't play for long Tuesday night at Peoples Natural Gas Field, but the sparse crowd that witnessed the three-plus innings before the skies opened up saw something that will likely encourage Pittsburgh Pirate fans across the state.
With the Curve trailing, 4-1, in the bottom of the third inning, the bases loaded and one out against the Bowie Baysox, top catching prospect Tony Sanchez laid off a first-pitch slider out of the zone. His patience paid off when he got a fastball on the 1-0 pitch and didn't miss it, crushing a double into the gap that cleared the bases and tied the game.
"When I got up there with the bases loaded and one out, my first thought was to get something to the outfield and get us back into the game," Sanchez said. "Once I was able to lay off that slider, I really committed to a fastball that second pitch, and he threw one that I could drive."
Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec
Curve left fielder Anthony Norman tosses a foul ball to some fans on Tuesday night.
In the next half inning, the steady sprinkle of rain that had been falling for most of the game turned into a torrential downpour. The grounds crew could not get the tarp on before most of the second base and shortstop area resembled a water slide at Lakemont Park. Following a delay of less than an hour, the game was suspended.
The teams will pick up the game today at 10:30 a.m. in the top of the fourth inning. The first game will be a regular nine-inning game. The second game, set for seven innings, will begin 30 minutes following the completion of the first.
Altoona will be in a jam right away.
Today: Bowie Baysox at Altoona Curve, 10:30 a.m. (completion of 4-4 game suspended in the top of the 4th inning); Bowie Baysox at Altoona Curve, (7 innings), 30 minutes following nine-inning first game)
Pitching matchup: First game: Relief pitchers TBD. Second game: Baysox RHP Bobby Bundy (1-5) vs. Curve RHP Mike Colla (0-3)
Following Sanchez's game-tying double, Curve starter Kris Johnson got two quick outs in the fourth inning before allowing a Jonathan Schoop single and walks to Zelous Wheeler and L.J. Hoes.
Curve manager P.J. Forbes called on reliever Matt McSwain, but just as he finished his warm-up tosses, the game was suspended.
"We're still trying to figure out who we're going to go with [to begin the first game]," Forbes said. "After talking to the umpires, McSwain does not have to stay in the game since he never threw a pitch, and he'll still be available.
"So if we want to go a different route, we can. We're going to talk to Scott Mitchell, our pitching coordinator, and see what he wants to do, and we'll implement that."
For the second time on the current homestand, Altoona found itself behind by a large margin early. Last Friday, the Curve rallied from a 6-0 deficit to win, 8-7. Tuesday, Bowie took a 4-0 lead off Johnson.
Caleb Johnson and Manny Machado each had RBI doubles for the Baysox.
Bowie starter Tim Bascom retired Altoona in order the first two innings before Anthony Norman singled to lead off the third. Quincy Latimore followed with a single that moved Norman to third, and Kelson Brown put Altoona on the scoreboard with a sacrifice fly.
Robbie Grossman and Elevys Gonzalez walked to set up Sanchez's double.
"The key for us was the guys in front of Tony having good at bats," Forbes said. "They gave us a good opportunity to get back in the game.
"Tony got a good pitch to hit, and he didn't miss it. That's big. He was ready, on time, and gave himself a chance to see the ball, and he put a good swing on it."
Sanchez's double gave him 10 RBIs on the season. He had compiled just seven runs batted in during the 21 previous games.
"We're trying to go into our at bats really maturely," Sanchez said. "We take every at bat like it's our last, and we have been doing a really good job of setting the guys up behind us to be in a good position to succeed. Elevys Gonzalez had a great at bat and really set me up."
Altoona will turn to Mike Colla to start today's second game. Colla is 0-3 with a 4.99 ERA this season but will be counted on to give Altoona a solid outing with the bullpen short a man.
"You don't put any extra pressure on yourself to have a long outing," Colla said. "Putting any extra pressure on yourself is just asking for problems. You just go out, throw your pitches and execute."
How they scored
Top 1st: Jonathan Shoop doubled, scored on wild pitch. Brandon Waring doubled. Manny Machado walked. Both scored on Caleb Joseph double. (0-3).
Top 3rd: L.J. Hoes walked, scored on Machado's double. (0-4).
Bottom 3rd: Anthony Norman and Quincy Latimore singled. Norman scored on Kelson Brown sacrifice fly. Robbie Grossman and Elevys Gonzalez walked. Latimore, Grossman and Gonzalez scored on Tony Sanchez double. (4-4).