Robbie Grossman kept the Curve's tie with Richmond intact in the 10th inning, and one inning later, he broke it.
Grossman stepped to the plate with the bases loaded and one out in the 11th and ripped a single to right field, which lifted the Curve, 5-4, over Richmond before 2,795 fans at Peoples Natural Gas Field on Thursday.
"I was just trying to get the job done," Grossman said of his walk-off hit. "I knew I had one out, and I was trying to hit the ball somewhere instead of the infield so they can't double us up."
Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec
The Curve’s Miles Durham collects some high fives from his teammates after scoring on a Kelson Brown single.
The heroics from Grossman wouldn't have been possible without some clutch defense, as the Curve made two run-saving plays in extra innings - one from Grossman in the 10th and one by catcher Tony Sanchez in the 11th.
With the game tied, 4-4, and two runners on and two outs in the 10th, Richmond's Joel Weeks sent a sinking line drive to center field that appeared to be falling for a run-scoring single. But Grossman took a few steps in and made a diving catch to end the inning.
The Flying Squirrels again threatened in the 11th, this time with one out and runners on second and third. Ryan Cavan hit a chopper back to pitcher Mike Colla, with Richmond's Wendell Fairley breaking for the plate. Colla fielded the ball and rushed a throw to Sanchez, who picked it up on one hop, blocked the plate and made the tag, all while absorbing a blow from Fairley to cut him down at home.
It was a close play, and the call led to the ejection and helmet slamming of Richmond manager Dave Machemer. Colla (2-4), who pitched a scoreless 11th to earn a win, then got Daniel Mayora to fly out to end the inning.
"That's what you have to have if you're going to win games like that. Plays present themselves, and you make them," Curve manager P.J. Forbes said. "What can you say about them, they were great plays."
In addition to flashing some leather, Sanchez had a good night at the plate, going 3-for-5 with two RBIs. Sanchez now has seven hits in his last 15 at-bats with four RBIs in that span, and Forbes said Sanchez is playing as well as he's ever seen him play.
The walk-off win was the first for the Curve since Sept 4., 2011. Miles Durham, who was 2-for-5, scored the game-winning run, which came off Richmond reliever Austin Fleet (0-2).
Grossman has hit in six of his last seven games, and Forbes said he's hoping the center fielder can feed off the momentum of a walk-off single.
"Hopefully it locks [Grossman] in," Forbes said. "He's hit a lot of balls hard lately, and hopefully it catapults him to what he was last year and what he was at times this year. Those hits are season-changers, and hopefully that's what it is for him."
Key player: CF Robbie Grossman was 2-for-6 and had the game-winning single in the 11th.
Key play: C Tony Sanchez dug out a bad throw from RHP Mike Colla, while blocking the plate and making a tag in the top of the 11th to keep the game tied, 4-4.
Key stat: Sanchez has seven hits in his last 15 at-bats.
How they scored
Bottom 1st: Cunningham doubled, scored on Sanchez single (1-0).
Top 2nd: Monell singled, scored on Alderson wild pitch (1-1).
Bottom 2nd: Cutler solo homer (2-1).
Top 3rd: Joseph singled, scored on Farrell error (2-2).
Bottom 4th: Durham singled, scored on Brown single (3-2).
Top 5th: Brown solo homer (3-3).
Bottom 5th: Cunningham singled, scored on Sanchez double (4-3).
Top 8th: Mayora singled, scored on Monell sacrifice fly (4-4).
Bottom 11th: Durham singled, scored on Grossman single (5-4).