By Cory Giger
It would have been a shame had David Bromberg not earned a victory for his masterful performance over eight innings, and Mel Rojas Jr. made sure that didn't happen by playing the hero for the second straight day.
Rojas ripped a two-run triple down the right field line in the eighth inning to break open a scoreless game and give the Curve a 2-0 win over Portland before 3,917 fans Thursday night at Peoples Natural Gas Field. It's been two great days for Rojas, who also delivered a walk-off single in the 12th inning Wednesday.
"It felt great, especially since I was 0-2, two outs, men in scoring position," Rojas said. "You're just trying to do your job in that situation, and when you get that ball hit down the line, it just feels great."
The hit came at a perfect time as it allowed Bromberg to pick up a much-deserved win. The right-hander allowed only two hits over eight shutout innings, struck out seven and walked one in a dominant performance.
Tonight: Altoona at Erie, 7:05 p.m.
Pitchers: Curve LHP Nate Baker (3-1, 5.86) vs. SeaWolves LHP Matt Crouse (8-9, 4.51)
Bromberg was done after eight innings and 102 pitches, and after the final out in the eighth, he excitedly ran off the mound pumping his fists. His start was one of the most impressive of the season by a Curve pitcher as he took a no-hitter into the sixth and had little trouble with the Sea Dogs' lineup.
"They needed me to come out there and pitch a good game and keep them in the game," said Bromberg, who was being counted on to go deep into the game after Wednesday's 12-inning contest taxed the bullpen. "I told the guys, 'Hey, you guys go out there and make the plays, I'll keep you guys in the game.'"
Bromberg is an intriguing pitcher in that, when he's on like he was Thursday, he looks like he can pitch in the big leagues. He has some things working against him, including being 25 and only throwing 90-91 mph, but it's tough not to be impressed looking at his overall body of work this season.
Bromberg lowered his ERA to 3.32, which ranks third in the Eastern League. He's nowhere near the kind of prospect Jameson Taillon is, but by comparison, Taillon had a 3.67 ERA in his time with the Curve.
"Today he showed that he can be a major league pitcher," Curve manager Carlos Garcia said. "Not only because of the quality of pitches he made tonight, but the situation we were involved in with a very short bullpen.
"He understood that, attacked the strike zone, made pitches, threw first pitch for strikes, mixing his pitches, throwing his breaking ball in 3-2 counts. That tells me a lot about the character of the guy."
Looking deeper into the numbers, Bromberg has 114 strikeouts in 119 1/3 innings, so even though he doesn't have a blazing fastball, he gets a lot of swings and misses. He's also allowed far fewer hits (102) than innings pitched, so he keeps hitters off balance and produces a lot of soft contact.
The opponents' batting average against him is just .234. The only knock against him is his control eludes him at times - he's walked 45 and has had games with six and four - but he had no problems with that Thursday.
Bromberg held Binghamton to one run on three hits in seven innings his last time out, so in his past two starts he has given up only five hits and one run in 15 innings with 14 strikeouts and three walks.
There's really nothing not to like about the results produced by Bromberg, who pitched the past seven years in the Twins organization and made it to Triple-A last season. He's been so good that it's hard to believe he began this season on the phantom disabled list, which means he wasn't injured but just didn't have a spot on the Curve's roster.
Asked if he thinks he can pitch in the majors, Bromberg said, "Yeah, I do."
It might not be with the Pirates - who have many pitchers ahead of him in their system - but Bromberg is the kind of pitcher who just needs to be in the right place at the right time to get a shot in the big leagues.
"The Pirates have given me an opportunity," Bromberg said. "I started off on the phantom DL and had to wait for my turn, and I was just hungry throwing my bullpens on the side. When I got my chance, I went up and talked to [farm director Larry Broadway] and said, 'Hey, I'm going to go out there and work my hardest and give you guys what you want from me.'"
There are 29 other teams in baseball, so whether the Pirates give Bromberg a shot or not, he's undoubtedly done enough this season to open up eyes and keep giving himself an opportunity.
"We have a lot of guys in front of him, and he understands that," Garcia said. "But when he gets the baseball he competes, and that's what we're looking for. And probably some people saw what we saw in the last few days and probably want to give him a shot."
Key player: Curve RHP David Bromberg gave up only two hits over eight shutout innings.
Key play: LF Mel Rojas Jr. tripled down the right field line with two outs in the eighth inning to score the game's only runs.
Key stat: Bromberg is third in the Eastern League in ERA at 3.32.
How they scored
Bottom 8th: Dickerson doubled, Howard singled, both scored on Rojas Jr. triple (2-0).