Never mind that tonight was the opening game of the Eastern League championship series against the Trenton Thunder. The Altoona Curve had extra pressure tonight, as they went up against Andy Pettitte, who was making a rehab start for the AA affiliate of the New York Yankees. Despite going up against a guy who could be a future Hall of Fame pitcher, Altoona managed to stay competitive.
Chase d’Arnaud led off with a home run, giving Altoona a 1-0 lead. D’Arnaud had the best outing against Pettitte, going 2-for-2 with a walk and his solo homer. Altoona managed another run in the bottom of the third inning thanks to a wild pitch from Pettitte and a passed ball, allowing Yung-Chi Chen to move from first to third after getting on with a single. Chen scored on a Josh Harrison RBI single, putting Altoona up 2-1 at the time.
Perhaps the most impressive performance tonight came from Altoona ace Rudy Owens, who arguably out pitched Pettitte. Owens pitched five innings, allowing two runs on seven hits, with two walks and seven strikeouts. Most of the damage came in the third, as Owens allowed three singles and one run to score. Owens then allowed two doubles in the fifth inning, bringing in the second run to tie the score at 2-2. Miles Durham came up big for the final out, nailing Austin Krum at the plate as Krum tried to score from second on a two out single by Austin Romine.
Pettitte finished with a similar line to Owens, with five innings pitched, two runs on six hits, one walk, and four strikeouts. He only needed 67 pitches, wih 45 of those going for strikes. Altoona threatened in the fifth inning, loading the bases with no outs and the score tied at 2-2. Jordy Mercer came up to the plate, and hit a chopper back to Pettitte, who started a 1-2-3 double play. Pettitte then got Matt Hague to strike out swinging on a 3-2 pitch to get out of the inning.
That wasn’t the only opportunity Altoona had to take a lead which would have won the game. Mercer led off the eighth with an infield pop up to third. Third baseman Justin Snyder dropped the ball, allowing Mercer to reach second. Matt Hague was hit with the next pitch, putting runners at first and second with no outs. Andrew Lambo bunted both runners over, leading to an intentional walk to Hector Gimenez to load the bases. Yankees prospect Andrew Brackman got Miles Durham to ground in to a double play to shortstop on the first pitch, escaping the jam.
Altoona got great performances from Jared Hughes and Daniel Moskos in relief. Hughes pitched three shutout innings, allowing just one hit, no walks, and striking out four. Hughes needed just 44 pitches, with 33 of those going for strikes. Moskos came on to pitch the ninth, throwing a perfect inning with one strikeout, thanks to a good pick at third by Josh Harrison, and a good running catch by Andrew Lambo on a liner hit behind him to right center field.
Bryan Morris came on to pitch the tenth inning, and ran in to trouble. Morris led off the frame with a walk. Austin Krum tried to advance the runner with a bunt, but Hague fielded the hard grounder down the first base line and got the out at second. Morris allowed a single to center, putting runners at first and second with one out. After striking out Daniel Brewer, Morris allowed a two out, RBI single to Austin Romine, making the score 3-2. Morris followed with his second strikeout of the inning to get out of the inning.
Trenton got a great pitching performance from top Yankees prospect Andrew Brackman. Brackman pitched five shutout innings, allowing one hit, walking one, and striking out four. He had an easy tenth inning to close out the game, getting Jordy Mercer to strike out, and Matt Hague to ground out to short on the first pitch. Altoona almost tied it on a long fly ball by Andrew Lambo to deep center field, but Austin Krum made the catch at the warning track to end the game.
Altoona will try to even the series up tomorrow in game two of this best of five series against Trenton. The Curve will send Jeff Locke to the mound to take on Dellin Betances, who was the number 28 prospect for the Yankees coming in to the season. The game starts at 6:30 PM, and I will be providing coverage starting about two hours prior to game time.