(ALTOONA, PA) - For the second straight game, the Fightin Phils outhit their opponent, but couldn't cash in with runners in scoring position. In Friday night's roadtrip opener in Altoona, Spencer Howard shined in his third Double-A start, striking out eight over six scoreless innings to lower his earned run average to 1.93. All night long, the Fightins had runners on base, but were unable to score and stranded 10 while finishing 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position. In the bottom of the eighth, the Curve broke through for the game's only run, with former Phillie Darnell Sweeney doubling home Mitchell Tolman with two outs to give the Curve their first win against Reading after a sweep in Baseballtown last weekend.
Howard was smooth all night long, and in his second start against the Curve in a week, featured a high-octane fastball that got him a pair of strikeouts in the first inning. With the lineup facing lefthander Domingo Robles , Josh Stephen cranked a leadoff double into the right field corner in the second inning. He never advanced, and a similar situation happened in the third when Howard singled into right to start the inning but was stranded at second base.
In the fourth, Jose Gomez singled with two outs before Robles picked up his first strikeout to retire the side. A short time later, Luke Williams doubled with two outs in the fifth but never got a chance to run once Robles induced a flyout to escape again.
Howard's only trouble came in the fourth, when he hit Jared Oliva with a 1-2 pitch and O'Neil Cruz blooped a single to left to put runners at the corners with just one out. The righthander went to 2-2 on Jared Hill, and returned to the dugout when he got a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning and keep the game scoreless. In the fifth, Howard stranded Chris Sharpe at third base following a one-out double and a tag to third base. He struck out Robles, then ended his night with a perfect sixth that featured his eighth and final strikeout.
Jakob Hernandez struck out Sharpe to end the seventh following a two-out double by Bligh Madris . The problems persisted against Robles, who stranded runners at the corners in the sixth after Stephen reached on an error and Gomez rolled an infield single. During the lefty's final inning in the seventh, Williams was left at second again after a single and a stolen base. In the eighth, reliever Blake Cederlind got a double play to end the inning with two runners on base after Darick Hall singled and Stephen reached again on a fielder's choice and another error.
The Curve went to work in the bottom of the eighth with Garrett Cleavinger one strike away from getting out of the inning. Tolman then snuck a single through the left side on an 0-2 offering, and raced around from first on Sweeney's double off the wall in right-center. The relay from Mickey Moniak to Arquimedes Gamboa was spot on, but the throw to the plate was just a tad late and Tolman slid in feet first for the game's only run.
Down to their last three outs, newcomer Nick Maton singled with two outs in his first Double-A at-bat to put the tying run at first against Curve closer Matt Eckelman . The big righthander earned his 21st save after a lengthy battle with Williams, closing it out with a strikeout to hand the Fightin Phils their second straight loss.
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