Curve manager Carlos Garcia is seeing red with his pitching staff thanks to the red and black of Richmond.
The staff entered the weekend home series with the Flying Squirrels one of the best in the Eastern League and left one of the worst, giving up 45 runs in the final three games, including a 13-2 loss Monday afternoon before 3,114 fans at Peoples Natural Gas Field.
"Pitching has been perfect all year-round," Garcia said. "And we knew at some point we are going to hit the wall. I know they are going to bounce back, but right now we have a tough stretch."
The Curve, who are now a season-worst 10 games below .500, entered the four-game series third in the Eastern League with a 3.84 ERA. That ERA has skyrocketed to 4.28, dropping the team to 10th in the EL.
Despite allowing four earned runs in the first game of the series on Friday, the Curve's pitching staff allowed 33 earned runs in the next three games - an ERA of 11.00.
"We aren't throwing strikes," pitching coach Stan Kyles said. "We did that earlier in the season. We got hitters in swing mode, but for some reason we fell behind in the strike zone a lot. Our strikes that we have thrown are up in the zone."
Covering the bases
LEADING OFF: RHP James McDonald struggled in his second start in Peoples Natural Gas Field, giving up a three-run homer in the first inning. He gave up four runs in the first inning when the Pirates played the Curve in an exhibition at PNG Field on March 30. He said he doesn't know if playing in Altoona has anything to do with his woes and said there isn't anything about the park he doesn't like.
SAFE AT FIRST: RHP David Bromberg pitched 4 1/3 innings for the Curve in relief. He allowed two earned runs and struck out three in his second-longest relief outing this year. He pitched five hitless innings relieving RHP Charlie Morton on May 16.
STEALING SECOND: CF Mel Rojas Jr. went 3-for-5 on Monday, improving his average to .247. He also was 2-for-3 with two runs in the Curve's 20-9 loss on Sunday.
ROUNDING THIRD: With LF Andrew Lambo's triple on Monday, he is now tied for second for the most triples in the Eastern League with four. Lambo is fifth in the EL with 95 total bases.
HEADING HOME: The Curve travel to Binghamton tonight for the first time this season for three games. The Curve will then go to Portland for the first meeting with the Sea Dogs.
- Darian Somers
It hasn't been pretty for the starting pitchers lately. The Flying Squirrels scored nine runs in the first inning Sunday, most off Luis Sanz, and Sunday they chased rehabbing righty James McDonald (0-1)in the first inning after scoring three runs.
The Curve pitching staff has given up 19 runs in the first three innings of the past three games.
"We've got to be better prepared," Kyles said. "We've got to be ready to pitch from the first inning on. We haven't done that the last three, four games. It's something that we will address and hopefully be ready for our next series."
Kyles added the starters must go out and establish the strike zone to help out relievers.
"Our starters are the key," he said. "I expect those guys to throw much better."
In the last three games, Richmond ripped 53 hits off the Curve - 12 percent of total hits allowed by the team this season.
Richmond's Mark Minicozzi and Jarrett Parker were the two biggest hitters in the last three games. Minicozzi, who leads the Eastern League in hitting at .347, racked up nine hits, eight runs and three RBIs in the three games. Parker tallied seven hits, six runs and 11 RBIs in the same span, plus he homered four times in the three victories and five times during weekend.
"That was ridiculous," Garcia said when asked if he had seen anything like the numbers the Flying Squirrels put up. "We hit some balls hard, and it doesn't go nowhere. They make good plays. Whatever they barreled, it drops. It dropped no matter who hit. Even if it was a jam shot, it dropped for a base hit.
The Curve's offense - which could only manage two runs as Richmond's Taylor Rogers (3-2) got the win - has struggled all season long. Throw in a pitching staff with a 4.89 ERA in May compared to 3.67 in April, and the mix is something the last-place Curve don't need.
"I can see some frustration in our guys," Garcia said. "But I mean it's the kind of thing where you have to take a deep breath and keep playing."
Garcia is happy about one thing - not seeing the red and black of Richmond for a while. The four games are the last time the two teams play until late August.
The Curve take on Binghamton and Portland for the first time as they enter a six-game road trip with the two teams beginning tonight.?"I only can hope," Garcia said of more success playing different teams. "[If the pitching staff] sees different color uniforms, then things might start turning around for us."
Key player: Richmond 1B Mark Minicozzi was 4-for-6, scored three runs and knocked in one.
Key play: 3B Adam Duvall hit a three-run homer in the first inning off rehabbing pitcher James McDonald.
Key stat: Curve pitching has allowed 45 runs 33 earned in its last three games.
How they scored
Top 1st: Parker walked, Panik walked, both scored on Duvall homer (0-3).
Bottom 1st: Ngoepe doubled, scored on Rojas single (1-3).
Top 3rd: Duvall singled, scored on Herrera sacrifice fly (1-4); Minicozzi singled, scored on Relaford single (1-5).
Top 4th: Castillo walked, scored on Minicozzi single (1-6); Panik singled, scored on Lollis single (1-7); Minicozzi singled, Lollis singled, both scored on Susac single (1-9).
Bottom 5th: Rojas singled, scored on Lambo triple (2-9).
Top 7th: Relaford reached on an error by Ngoepe, scored on Parker triple (2-10); Parker tripled on Duvall singled, scored on Lollis single (2-12); Minicozzi singled, scored on Herrer single (2-13).