With a 3-2 victory over the Akron RubberDucks Thursday, the Altoona Curve moved to 5-3 on the season. A key part of the five wins throughout the first week of the season has been starting pitcher Alex McRae.

Editor’s note – Pirates Breakdown is proud to announce that we will be providing credentialed coverage of the Altoona Curve for the 2017 season. Part of that is our weekly Curve notebook, which will run in this space every Friday afternoon.

McRae, the opening day starter for the Altoona Curve, went 2-0 in his two starts since the Curve opened up last Friday against the Harrisburg Senators. In his opening day appearance, the right-handed McRae set a career high for strikeouts fanning nine Senators on the evening. The 6’3″ McRae followed up his one run performance opening day with a shutout performance over six innings Wednesday night as the Curve beat the Richmond Flying Squirrels 4-0 in the last game of their series.

The second-year Curve starter is projected to see the mound next Tuesday against the Erie Seawolves.

Road Trip Recap

Mother Nature delayed the start of the 2017 season for the Altoona Curve by a day last week as the rain out last Thursday night pushed McRae’s season opening start to Friday. Altoona got in the win column right away following McRae’s brilliance with a 5-3 defeat over the Senators. The Curve then split the day-night double header against Harrisburg last Saturday falling 6-4 in seven innings before capturing a 5-1 victory in the night cap.

Sunday’s game saw Altoona’s offense struggle to muster up runs for the first time this season as the Curve fell 6-2 in the fourth and final game of the series against the Senators.

It took back-to-back extra inning games for Altoona to escape with a 2-1 series win over the Flying Squirrels earlier this week. The Curve rode a two-out go-ahead single off the bat of Pablo Reyes to beat Richmond 2-1 in 12 innings against the Flying Squirrels Monday. Tuesday, it was Richmond’s turn to come out on top of an extra innings thriller as the Flying Squirrels upended Altoona 4-3 in 10 innings.

In the third and final game, it was McRae once again on the dominant end as his right arm helped power the Curve to a 4-0 victory. Altoona finished the season opening road trip 4-3 before the return home for a six-game homestand.

Offense firing on all cylinders

While McRae and the pitching staff have had early success so far this season, the offense has been firing on all cylinders. Through eight games, the Altoona offense has averaged 3.5 runs per game

Shortstop Kevin Newman was expected to perform at a high level following a late-season call-up to join the Curve following the end of Bradenton’s season in 2016 and he has not disappointed. Newman may not boast a strong batting average quite yet (.258) the second year Altoona star leads the team in runs scored (5) as well as at-bats (31).

Along with Newman, the other members of the Curve starting infield have been on fire throughout the first eight games this season.  First baseman Edwin Espinal, who currently boasts a .429 batting average. currently leads the team in average while falling to second on the team in hits with nine thus far. Kevin Kramer, the starting second baseman, leads the team in hits, RBIs, and home runs. Not to be outdone by the other members of the infield, third baseman Wyatt Mathisen has a .400 batting average.

With 72 hits through eight games this season, Altoona is averaging seven hits per game.

Kramer doing it all for the Curve

Prior to the season, Curve manager Michael Ryan claimed Altoona would be a small-ball type team as it did not look as though there would be a player on the current Curve roster who boasted a significant power stroke. Kevin Kramer must not have gotten that memo.

Kramer, who entered Thursday nights home opener with a single home run seemingly was boosted 7,313 fans in attendance at People’s Natural Gas Field, ended the evening with three home runs, just one short of his career high, 4, which he hit in 118 games in Bradenton last season.

Whatever adjustment period Kramer needed at the Double-A level has seemingly been bypassed as the second baseman has come out of the gates on fire throughout the first week of the season. Kramer has been a source of not only singles and home runs, but doubles, runs, RBIs, and total bases for Altoona.

Up Next

The homestand continued for the Altoona Curve as they will finish up the three-gamer with Akron before welcoming in the Erie SeaWolves after a Sunday off-day. After another offday on Thursday April 20th, the Curve then hits the road against – you guessed it – Akron.

 

Jarrod Prugar

Jarrod Prugar is 5 and a half feet tall and you can’t teach that. Jarrod grew up watching future Pirates light up the Eastern League for the Altoona Curve before going off to Robert Morris for college.

Jarrod also covers Penn State for the Pittsburgh Sporting News. Ban the DH!