CURVE, Pa. - A fifth-inning grand slam by Cole Tucker and a three-run eighth erased a five-run deficit as the Altoona Curve fought off elimination with an 8-5 win over the Akron RubberDucks on Friday at Peoples Natural Gas Field.
The Curve victory forced game four to be held on Saturday while the RubberDucks still hold the lead, 2-1, in the best-of-five series.
The Curve loaded the bases in the fifth against right-hander Nick Sandlin with an RBI single by Arden Pabst and a walk to Stephen Alemais before the RubberDucks brought in lefty R.C. Orlan to face Tucker.
The pitching change turned the switch-hitting Tucker around to bat right-handed for the first time in the game, which was his stronger side during the regular season. Tucker fell behind 0-2 in the count and fouled one off before he launched his game-tying grand slam into the left field seats.
Altoona used a second bases-loaded opportunity to take the lead in the eighth inning. Ke'Bryan Hayes hit a lead-off single and stole second base before Akron intentionally walked Will Craig and Jin-De Jhang to fill the sacks.
Akron went back to the bullpen to bring in Nick Pasquale for Argenis Angulo (Loss, 0-1) to face Logan Hill . Hill hit a high-chopper on the ground to the right of the mound but Pasquale's throw home was late as Hayes slid home to score the go-ahead run. Jordan George followed with a two-run single to left field on a 3-2 pitch from Pasquale.
The RubberDucks built their 5-0 lead in the first inning with two walks and three extra-base hits off James Marvel . Akron filled the bases with one out on walks to Ernie Clement and Nellie Rodriguez sandwiched around a double by Tyler Krieger. Three runs scored on Andrew Calica's double to right followed by an error on the right fielder Hill, who mishandled a slick baseball. A single by Jodd Carter and a triple off the bat of Mark Mathias each added single runs to the early rally.
Marvel fought back to retire 13 of his last 15 batters faced to keep the RubberDucks advantage at five. The right-hander struck out four over that stretch and allowed a pair of two-out singles beyond the five-run first.
Tate Scioneaux pitched two scoreless innings over the sixth and seventh innings with three strikeouts.
Blake Weiman (Win, 1-0) worked a perfect eighth inning with two strikeouts during his second appearance in the series.
After he allowed the walk-off homer the night before, Matt Eckelman (Save, 1) pitched a scoreless ninth inning to lock down the win for Altoona.
Tucker's grand slam was the second in the Curve's postseason history. In game one of the 2015 ELDS against Bowie, Barrett Barnes hit a grand slam in the fifth inning during an 8-7 comeback victory over the Baysox. Tucker has homered in back-to-back games in the series and equals Hayes for the most hits for Altoona during the postseason.
Jhang and Alemais reached base every time they came up to bat in the game. Jhang went 3-for-3 with a walk while Alemais went 2-for-2 with a walk.
The series continues on Saturday with game four and a 4 p.m. first pitch. Right-hander Dario Agrazal (5-6, 3.99) will start for the Curve against RubberDucks left-hander Sean Brady (7-7, 4.53). For tickets or more information, visit AltoonaCurve.com, call 877.99.CURVE or stop by the PNG Field box office.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.