With 33 games left for the Harrisburg Senators, none loom as large for their postseason hopes as the next three hosting the Altoona Curve at FNB Field starting Tuesday night.
Only four playoff spots exist for the five Eastern League teams currently sporting winning records. The Eastern Division is all but mathematically decided with New Hampshire and Trenton, while Akron has a firm grip on first-place in the Western Division.
So, the final playoff spot is up for grabs between two teams playing on City Island over the next three nights.
Only two games in the win column separate the two teams with Harrisburg entering this pivotal series with a 54-51 record while the Curve stands 56-47. The Senators also travel to Altoona for a two-game jaunt on August 22 and 23, but Harrisburg desperately needs to make up ground in the standings during this head-to-head matchup as the calendar flips to the final full month of the season.
“I’d like to be in it in August,” manager Matt LeCroy said earlier this season. “That’s what you hope for in the minor leagues where every game that you play in August means something like it was in 2016.”
In the last couple of weeks alone, you can point to the moments that have brought them to this point.
Zach Collier’s home run-stealing catch, scoring 7 runs in two innings to steal a victory on a getaway day in Portland, and Hunter Jones’ mad dash from first base for the walk-off win in Sunday’s nightcap have set the Senators up for the opportunity in front of them.
Sterling Sharp gets the ball for Harrisburg Tuesday night. The lither right-hander has been very promising in five of his first six AA starts flashing an impressive sinker. The Senators need Sharp to remain, um, sharp as he is matched up with Altoona’s Cam Vieaux in the series opener.
The Curve lost their scheduled Thursday starter, Taylor Hearn, to a trade with the Texas Rangers late Monday night. To say that leaves a big hole in their rotation would be an understatement. Hearn led the Eastern League in strikeouts and held opponents to a league-best .198 batting average.