It should be no surprise the Altoona Curve stayed at or near the top of the Eastern League Western division throughout the first half of season as they boasted a roster with six players who earned invites to the Eastern League All-Star Game played Wednesday night.
Of the six players selected, only four were able to take part in the game, which took place Wednesday evening, at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium in Manchester, NH. Outfielder Jordan Luplow was unable to participate due to recently being called up to Indianapolis while infielder Kevin Kramer was unable to participate due to a hand injury.
It was standard fare for Altoona pitchers Montana DuRapau and Alex McRae when they appeared on the mound for the Western division all-stars in their lopsided 7-1 loss to the Eastern division all-stars. DuRapau recorded the final out of the eighth inning as he recorded the eighth strikeout of the inning for the Western squad.
McRae appeared in the 5th inning giving up two hits in his lone outing of work.
The duo of position players appearing for the Western division as members of the Curve were infielders Edwin Espinal and Wyatt Mathisen. Mathisen started the game at third base for the Western division while Espinal came off the bench later in the game.
DuRapau called up to Indianapolis
Following Thursday night’s loss to Bowie, Curve manager Michael Ryan announced he gave DuRapau some news he’d been waiting to hear since getting to Double-A, he was getting called up.
After a record setting stint in Altoona, it is Indianapolis where the right-handed reliever will be taking his talents. DuRapau set the team record for saves at 36 between 2016 and 2017 for the Curve. In 2017, DuRapau allowed only six earned runs over 36 1/3 innings of work good for an impressive 1.49 ERA.
“I don’t think that I’ll send another guy to Triple-A who deserves or has earned it more,” Ryan said to Sean McCool of Pirates’ Prospects following the game. “When I called him in today, the look on his face said it all– how proud he was. All the hard work that he’s put in. I’m sure he’s been waiting for that call for a long time. For it finally to come, he was so happy.”
Players to watch in the second half
To remain in first place and make the Eastern League playoffs will be a total team effort for Altoona as the dog days of summer begin to hit the Altoona Curve.
Some players to look for as the summer heats up for Altoona and the playoff race gets tighter will be both familiar and unfamiliar to Curve fans. Kevin Kramer is a player, familiar to most fans, who looks to rebound from a broken hand that has kept him out of action the last few months. Whether Kramer can continue the hot bat he had prior to his injury is uncertain, but if there’s a player who’s able to come back stronger and have an even better second half than first, it’s Kevin Kramer.
Jerrick Suiter is another player who Altoona will be relying on to help both defensively and offensively in the second half, we profiled Suiter in our notebook last week as a guy who is the next man up to replace the recently called-up Luplow’s numbers. Can Suiter stay hot down the stretch? That remains to be seen, but the momentum he’s carried into the second half should provide a spring board as things heat up following the all-star break.
Pitching has been a strong suit for the Curve for nearly the entire first half. McRae has been solid as a starter and DuRapau has been more than solid in the bullpen, but a couple of prospects coming off injuries provide some interesting dynamics moving forward this summer.
Casey Sadler and Brandon Cumpton have both been in Altoona before albeit several years ago as they made their climb through the minor league ranks in hopes of making it to the big leagues. Both pitchers managed to make it, but injuries, Tommy John surgery more specifically, have forced their careers on a detour.
Cumpton and Sadler look to get back to the majors sooner rather than later as they attempt to get back to the form that got them the call-up in the first place. Having former big leaguers on the staff will also allow younger pitchers to learn from pitchers who have been there before. What Sadler and Cumpton can bring to the table off the field is ideal for a young Altoona Curve squad but it will be their performance on the field that determines how far their careers will advance.
The Altoona Curve returned home Thursday as they played host to the Bowie Baysox with Sadler taking the loss after giving up a run in his two innings of work. Austin Coley toes the rubber Friday night for Altoona in game-two of their four-game series against the Baysox. Following their series with Bowie, the Curve host in-state rival Harrisburg for three games before hitting the road to take on Bowie next Thursday.