TRENTON, N.J. - Behind a dominant pitching performance by Brandon Waddell, the Altoona Curve defeated the Trenton Thunder, 2-1, to take a 1-0 lead in the Eastern League Championship Series on Tuesday night at ARM & HAMMER Park.
Waddell (Win, 1-0) worked six scoreless innings, allowing five hits with no walks and six strikeouts, before handing the game to the bullpen in the seventh.
"In a bigger game, while you're actually playing it doesn't feel that way," Waddell said. "It just comes down to executing pitches."
In three career professional postseason outings, Waddell has now thrown 19 innings without allowing a single run, including last year's Eastern League Western Division Series and the 2015 New York Penn League playoffs. He also posted dominant numbers in the College World Series with the University of Virginia in 2014 and 2015.
"I enjoy having the ball in that situation and being able to go out there and compete. As an athlete, you want to be able to go out and play at the top level and play against the top competition. In the championship series, that's essentially what you're doing."
The Curve broke a scoreless tie in the top of the fifth inning. After back-to-back two-out singles by Michael Suchy and Elvis Escobar, Mitchell Tolman drove a single to right field to plate the game's first run.
In the seventh, the Curve stretched the lead to 2-0. With runners on second and third and one out, Escobar hit a line drive to right field to bring home pinch-runner Casey Hughston.
Luis Heredia worked through a 1-2-3 bottom of the seventh inning, but allowed a run in the bottom of the eighth. The Thunder opened the inning with back-to-back groundball singles. Following a sacrifice bunt, Thairo Estrada reached on an infield single to score Billy Fleming and cut the Altoona lead to 2-1.
Tanner Anderson (Save, 1) entered with one out and runners on first and third in the eighth. The first batter he faced, Ryan McBroom, grounded to third baseman Wyatt Mathisen, who threw out Jeff Hendrix at the plate. Anderson worked a groundout from Dante Bichette Jr. to end the inning and escape the threat.
In the bottom of the ninth, Abiatal Avelino hit a one-out double and advanced to third on a groundout by Rashad Crawford, but Anderson struck out Sharif Othman to end the game.
Escobar finished the game 2-for-4 with an RBI. Over his last three games, he is batting .417 (5-for-12) with four RBIs.
Trenton starting pitcher Dillon Tate (Loss, 0-1) worked around four hits, two walks and a hit batter to hold the Curve to one run over his six innings. Jose Mesa allowed one unearned run over two innings. James Reeves and Andrew Schwaab combined to pitch a scoreless top of the ninth.
Trenton put a pair of runners on base against Waddell in the first inning with two outs, but the Altoona lefty struck out Zack Zehner to strand runners on the corners.
Crawford hit a lead-off double in the fifth inning and moved to third on a sacrifice bunt, but Hendrix grounded out to first and Waddell struck out Nick Solak to escape the jam.
The Thunder hit 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position and left eight on base in the game.
Altoona holds a 1-0 lead in the best-of-five set with one more game remaining in Trenton before the series shifts to Peoples Natural Gas Field for the final three possible games beginning on Thursday night.
Dating back to the regular season, the Curve have now won six consecutive games, which is their longest winning streak of the year.
The series continues with Game 2 at ARM & HAMMER Park on Wednesday night. Altoona right-hander J.T. Brubaker (7-6, 4.44) will start on the mound. Trenton will send left-hander Justus Sheffield (7-6, 3.18), who pitched four innings in a combined no-hitter for the Thunder in Game 3 of the Eastern Division Series on Friday night. First pitch in Trenton is scheduled for 7 p.m.
The Curve return to Altoona on Thursday for Game 3 of the Eastern League Championship Series. Tickets for all home playoff games are on sale 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.