Fighting an uphill battle all night, the never say die Senators threatened in the top of the ninth inning before coming up short, 5-4, to the Altoona Curve on their opening night.
Altoona closer Luis Angel Sanz entered the game with a two-run lead and promptly struck Steven Souza out to lead off the inning. The big righthander ran into trouble though when he walked Destin Hood and Sandy Leon singled down the first base line. The next batter, Ricky Hague, poked an offering through the right side to cut the lead in half and Leon moved up to third base with some aggressive baserunning. The Senators now had the tying run 90 feet from scoring and the pitcher’s spot in the order due up.
Manager Matt LeCroy called on switch-hitter Jose Lozada to face Sanz with the game on the line. Lozada watched two low and away pitches to gain a 2-0 pitch advantage before he hit a sharp grounder right at Curve shortstop Gift Ngoepe who started the game-ending 6-4-3 double play.
Player of the Game:Ricky Hague (3-4, 1 R, 1 RBI)
From the Windup
• Nationals top-rated prospect, Anthony Rendon, hit his first home run of the season as he turned on a 0-2 pitch from Altoona starter Casey Sadler.
• The Curve have now scored first in all seven of the games they’ve played so far in the young season.
• Steven Souza generated a run pretty much all by himself in the top of the fourth inning as he beat out an infield single, stole second and third base on the next two pitches, and scored on a slow Destin Hood chopper to the third baseman.
• In the eighth inning the Senators did a masterful job of cutting down the Curve running game. After speedy outfielder Mel Rojas singled to leadoff the inning, Trevor Holder made three pickoff attempts before he caught Rojas straying too far off the bag. The next batter, Jarek Cunningham, singled but was similarly cut down when Sandy Leon threw him out trying to steal second base. Leon gets the credit in the boxscore, but Josh Johnson made a heck of a play to snag the low throw on the third base side of the bag and still make the tag.
• For the second straight outing, Trevor Holder did nothing but put more goose eggs up on the board as the righty threw two scoreless innings in relief.
• In the New Britain series, I thought the Senators’ pitching staff was tagged with two wild pitches that were really passed balls. Well I guess the Altoona scorekeeper is trying to level the playing field as Sandy Leon was charged with a passed ball (his third of the season) that really should have been a wild pitch.