ALTOONA, PA (WWBT) - – In one of the most unique walk-off losses in franchise history, the Richmond Flying Squirrels (75-63) fell to the Altoona Curve (59-79), 3-2, at Peoples Natural Gas Field on Thursday night. With the loss, the Squirrels magic number to clinch the Western Division remains two. Akron beat Trenton Thursday night.
With the game tied, 2-2, entering the bottom of the ninth inning, the Squirrels brought on closer Hunter Strickland. Andy Vasquez led off and cracked Strickland's first pitch back through the middle for a single. Carlos Paulino was the next hitter and showed bunt on the first pitch. However, on the next pitch, Vasquez broke for second. Catcher Eliezer Zambrano's throw down to second deflected off the arriving Vasquez and kicked into short-center field. Vasquez popped up and bolted all the way around to score the winning run. The play was scored as a stolen base and a two-base throwing error on Zambrano. Strickland (1-1) took the loss, throwing just three pitches.
The Curve got out of the gates quickly against right-hander Chris Stratton, taking the lead in the first inning. Drew Maggi started trouble when he led off with a bunt-single. He promptly swiped second base and then scored when Dan Gamache laced a single to center field. Stratton side-stepped further trouble in inning, which the Curve exited leading 1-0.
The Squirrels turned the tables in the fourth inning, break through against rehabbing right-hander Charlie Morton. Morton opened the door with an inning-opening walk issued to Mario Lisson. Lisson swiped second base and scored an out later when Angel Villalona lofted an RBI triple off the wall in left-center field. It marked five consecutive hits for Villalona and tied the game, 1-1. Another out later, Zambrano plated Villalona with a double through the left-center field alley.
Morton worked four innings and permitted two runs on four hits. He walked one, struck out six and did not factor in the decision.
Altoona got even in the sixth inning. Gamache interrupted a string of six consecutive batters retired by Stratton with a single to left field. Broxton followed and launched a triple off the wall in center field. Gamache scored to level the ledger, 2-2.
Stratton pitched effectively across six innings, but did not record a decision. He was charged with two runs on six hits, walked one and struck out seven. It marked his longest outing and highest strikeout total since being promoted to Double-A (5 starts).
The Curve bullpen was exceptional in the win, combining on five scoreless innings. Righty Matt Benedict handled three, while fellow right-hander Collin Balester handled the eighth. Lefty Nate Baker (3-1) earned the win, having proceeded the game-winning rally with a scoreless top of the ninth inning.
The Squirrels open their final regular season series at The Diamond against the Binghamton Mets (New York Mets) on Friday night. The opener of the four-game series is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. Richmond LHP Adalberto Mejia (6-9, 4.85) will make the start against Binghamton LHP Steven Matz (6-4, 2.17).