TRENTON, N.J. - The Altoona Curve continued their dominant stretch of pitching with eight strong innings by J.T. Brubaker and topped the Trenton Thunder, 4-2, on Wednesday night at ARM & HAMMER Park to take a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five Eastern League Championship Series.
With two road wins against a Trenton team that went 52-20 at home this season, the series shifts back to Peoples Natural Gas Field with the Curve needing one win to earn their second Eastern League championship in franchise history.
Brubaker (Win, 1-0) fired eight innings and allowed two runs (one earned) with one walk and six strikeouts to lead the Curve, the latest commanding pitching performance this postseason for Altoona.
"Pitching is very contagious," Brubaker said after the win. "Each time a starter goes out there, he tries to do one better than the starter before him. If you have that mentality, the pitching staff is going to be on point."
The Curve pitching staff has combined to post a 1.40 ERA in the playoffs, allowing just seven earned runs over 45 innings pitched. Curve starters have gone 5-0 with a 1.50 ERA through the first five games of the team's postseason run.
Brubaker scattered eight hits in his outing and worked through eight full innings for the first time in his professional career.
"Something felt different about today," Brubaker said. "I felt like there was nothing that they could really do. I had a gut feeling that I was going to go up there and throw strikes, pound the zone and get quick outs."
Like in Game 1, the Curve broke a scoreless tie in the fifth inning. Jordan George drove a single and a fielding error by Trenton center fielder Rashad Crawford allowed Jin-De Jhang to score the game's first run.
Elvis Escobar added a run in the inning with an RBI infield single and Kevin Kramer worked a walk with the bases loaded to bring home a third run, opening a 3-0 Curve lead.
Trenton answered with a run in the bottom of the fifth. Jeff Hendrix grounded into a force out, scoring Estevan Florial from third.
The Curve padded the lead back to three runs with a run in the top of the sixth on an RBI single up the middle by Escobar.
Thairo Estrada closed the gap to 4-2 with an RBI single in the bottom of the eighth, but Brubaker worked a 1-4-3 double-play groundout from Billy Fleming to close the inning and end his night.
Yeudy Garcia (Save, 1) entered in the ninth inning and struck out two batters to strand the tying run at the plate, including a game-ending punch-out of Florial.
Escobar went 2-for-4 with a pair of RBIs in the game. Over his last four games, Escobar is batting .438 with six RBIs.
Jhang scored two runs on a 2-for-3 night. Dating back to the regular season, he has hit safely in seven straight games.
Trenton starter Justus Sheffield (Loss, 0-1) allowed two runs on four hits in 4.1 innings, adding six strikeouts. The Curve added two runs against Taylor Widener over one inning on three hits and two walks. Cody Carroll and Colten Brewer combined to worked 3.2 scoreless innings to finish the night for the Thunder.
The Curve have won all five of their postseason games and are currently riding a season-best seven-game winning streak dating back to the last two games of the regular season.
The series continues at Peoples Natural Gas Field on Thursday night with Game 3 of the ELCS. Right-hander Mitch Keller (2-2, 3.12 regular season / 1-0, 0.00 postseason) will take the mound for the Curve after throwing a 90-pitch complete-game shutout in Game 1 of the Western Division Series last Thursday in Bowie. Trenton right-hander Will Carter (3-1, 3.26 regular season / 1-0, 1.42 postseason) will take the hill for his second start of the playoffs.
First pitch is scheduled for 6 p.m. at PNG Field. Tickets for all potential home playoff games can be purchased online at AltoonaCurve.com, by phone at 877.99.CURVE or in person at the Peoples Natural Gas Field box office.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.