Curve pitcher Kyle McPherson endured a painful night, getting hit not once but twice by comebackers, as the club lost for just the second time in 10 games Saturday.
"Bruised," Curve manager P.J. Forbes said about how McPherson was doing after a 5-1 loss to New Hampshire before 6,029 fans at Peoples Natural Gas Field.
The loss dropped the Curve back to .500 after they had gone one game above for the first time since they were 4-3 on April 13.
McPherson lasted four innings and continued to struggle with getting the ball up in the zone. He was hit in the left calf in the second inning and on the right triceps in the fourth.
"It's pretty sore," he said of the calf. "It's tightening up pretty good right now sitting in the clubhouse here."
Asked about the triceps, he said, "The same."
Tonight: New Hampshire at Altoona, 6 p.m.
Pitching matchups: Curve LHP Kris Johnson (0-0, 2.35) vs. Fisher Cats RHP Chad Jenkins (5-9, 5.21)
McPherson allowed three runs - two earned - on eight hits with two strikeouts and no walks in his four innings. The right-hander said his stuff was good, but control has been his biggest issue.
Asked what McPherson was thinking after getting hit twice, Forbes said, "I better make better pitches."
A pitcher getting hit with a comebacker is in many ways just bad luck, but there's more to it than that. McPherson was hit twice, and Forbes said one reason was "a lot of balls up in the zone."
"Balls up and away tend to either go to right field hard or guys are on it, will shoot it back up the middle," the manager said.
McPherson remained in the game and finished out the fourth inning after taking a liner off his triceps. To his credit, he was able to battle through getting hit twice and stay in the game as long as possible.
"Being the landing leg with the calf muscle, it's pretty painful to try to pitch through," he said. "But it's something I knew that I could do, and I still tried to do the best I could to get the team deeper in the ballgame."
New Hampshire, which has the Eastern League's worst record at 42-66, scored twice in the second inning and once in the fourth off McPherson.
An error by Curve second baseman Jarek Cunningham on leadoff hitter Kevin Howard in the second inning proved costly. McPherson gave up a single to Brian Van Kirk, then a two-run double to Brad Glenn.
Ryan Goins' RBI double in the fourth off McPherson made it 3-0.
Fisher Cats starter Deck McGuire came in with a 6.16 ERA but had no trouble with the Curve offense, pitching seven shutout innings. McGuire (5-11) allowed just four hits while striking out three with three walks.
McPherson (3-5) was coming off his best outing as he allowed one run on three hits in five innings Monday at Reading. He's still trying to regain the form that helped him go 12-6 with a 2.96 ERA between the Curve and high-A Bradenton to earn the Pirates' minor league pitcher of the year honor last year.
"I feel stuff is there right now," he said. "Overall, depending on one or two runs here an outing dictated by one pitch, I still feel the stuff is there."
The stuff is good enough to succeed, but not if he elevates his pitches.
"From day one his one thing is always about angle on his fastball, and when he's got it he's good and when it's not it's flat and up and gets hit," said Pirates assistant general manager Kyle Stark, who was in attendance Saturday night. "So it's not a recent thing, it's something that he continues to tackle. But that's his one focus."
Key player: New Hampshire RHP Deck McGuire pitched seven shutout innings.
Key play: RF Brad Glenn's two-run double in the second inning gave the Fisher Cats the early advantage.
Key stat: The Curve are back at .500 after getting to spend one day above that mark for the first time since the opening week of the season.
How they scored
Top 2nd: Howard reached on Cunningham error, Van Kirk singled, both scored on Glenn double (0-2).
Top 4th: Ochinko singled, scored on Goins triple (0-3).
Top 6th: Glenn singled, scored on Tolisano triple (0-4); Ochinko single scored Tolisano (0-5).
Bottom 9th: Santos walked, scored on Latimore double (1-5).