Game 11: Senators 4, Curve 3 (10) (Video Highlights)
LET OUT THE CLUTCH: No two ways about it, Matt Skole has been struggling. He knows it, manager Brian Daubach knows it, and the rest of the team knows it. But with the game in the balance, the power-hitting corner infielder delivered twice and sent the Senators to a 4-3 walk-off victory. “I think I’m finally getting more and more comfortable, but I was just frustrated. I try to not take my at-bats out in the field or let it bury the whole team. I want to be that kind of leader that the team looks up to me,” Skole said during a festive post-game, “It is a weight off my shoulders. It just feels good to get a couple of hits there and win the game.” Daubach was just as happy for the highly-rated prospect, “To see him get that hit in the eighth to tie the ballgame, then come through again in the 10th, I mean, that’s awesome. Hopefully he can relax and just go back to being the Matt Skole we know. There’s a reason he’s been hitting third every day and hasn’t left.”
TROUBLES NO MORE: Prior to facing Altoona southpaw Brandon Mann in the eighth inning, Skole was mired in a 1-for-24 skid with 14 strikeouts against left-handed pitchers. Two big hits later and no one remembers the 23 fruitless plate appearances that preceded it. When asked if he considered sitting Skole down for a breather, Daubach responded, “We all think he’s going to be a player in the big leagues, and he’s going to have to hit lefties. I know from my personal playing career, when you’re in a bad funk, the worst thing is almost a day off. You beat yourself up for nine innings, and you don’t have a chance to break out of it. You really just have to swing your way out of it, and hopefully tonight he did.”
BALK, BALK, BALK: In the tenth inning, Mann was called for a balk that advanced Sean Nicol into scoring position. However, it was a call the umpires repeatedly missed from the southpaw during the eighth inning. He comes to a set position from the stretch and picks his leg up and just hangs there for a moment before delivering the pitch. At no point can a pitcher stop his motion like that as it creates deception and can be used to pickoff baserunners. How he’s been allowed to get away with the move up until now is beyond me. And if you were listening to the game on radio, it’s entirely possible you heard me ranting about the lack of a call through the crowd noise microphone.
IT COULD HAVE WENT EITHER WAY, AND IT DID: It’s not a stretch to say that Altoona is probably not a fan of home plate umpire Jorge Teran after two close plays at the plate both went against them. In the first, Elias Diaz was called out at home trying to score from second base on a chopper fielded by Ricky Hague and thrown high to Skole at first. Diaz immediately argued the call, slammed his helmet down, and was tossed by Teran. As for the second call? Well, you can probably guess it was the final play of the game as Sean Nicol twisted and turned away from a tag. Things got so heated that the umpiring crew made their way off the field through the home dugout instead of the visitors. I can honestly say that’s the first time I’ve seen that and that it logistically makes no sense given where their locker room is located.
MAY THE SCHWARTZ BE WITH YOU: After two dismal starts, Blake Schwartz finally delivered a beauty that seemed to get stronger the deeper he went into the game. Surprising since the skipper said they weren’t even sure he was going to be able to pitch tonight because he’s been battling a flu bug that’s been going around the clubhouse. “That’s really the guy I’ve seen the last two years. He had a better feel for his curve ball, which always helps him. He mixed it up well,” Daubach said, “Hats off to him, because he was really sick coming into today. Maybe he should be sick more.”
BAD BREAK: The x-rays are back and the news is not good for outfielder Drew Vettleson as he has a broken bone in his left hand. Vettleson sustained the injury when he was beaned during an at-bat against Reading starter Jesse Biddle. Based on the location of the injury and a quick Google search, I’m going to guess it’s the pisiform bone as I’ve been reassured that it is not the notorious hamate.
FRESH MEAT: With Vettleson out at least four weeks, the Nationals are working on an agreement with veteran free agent outfielder Quincy Latimore pending a physical and the appropriate paperwork.