BAYSOX STAY AHEAD OF THE CURVE: Bowie takes 3 of 4 with 4-2 victory over Altoona

Altoona, Pa. The Bowie Baysox (Baltimore Orioles), were able to deal the Altoona Curve (Pittsburgh Pirates) their first home series loss this year after defeating them 4-2, and taking three out of four at Blair County Stadium today. Before a crowd of 4,609, the Sox were looking to regain first place, which they relinquished back to the Curve after a 7-1 loss yesterday. With the victory, Bowie leaves with a full game lead, in the western division, over the defending AA Eastern League Champions.

 The Baysox offensive attack was led by centerfielder Xavier Avery, (pictured right), who was moved to the leadoff spot prior to the series. Avery, who is riding a team high, nine game hitting streak, was a menace the entire series, and today proved no different. The first pitch of the game was a 92 mile per hour fastball by Curve pitcher Aaron Pribanic, that the speedy outfielder drilled into the right field corner for a triple. Two batters later, designated hitter Robbie Widlansky would drive him in with a Sacrifice fly to center, putting the Baysox on top 1-0.

 Bowie's ace Steve Johnson, who was scratched from yesterday's game, took the hill for the Baysox and was very sharp from the start. Behind a dazzling array of two seam fastballs and sliders, the righthander stymied the Curve's offense all day. His only mistake of the day was a hanging 2-1 slider, in the bottom of the second, that Pirates coveted catching prospect Tony Sanchez, deposited into the left field stands. That would be the only runs scored off the hurler. With the scored tied at one, Johnson, who's father Dave played for the Baltimore Orioles, and is now an analyst for the big club, toyed with Altoona's lineup. He would go on to pitch six strong innings, of five hit ball, to go along with five strikeouts.

 In the top of the third, Avery was in the mix again, as he and second basemen Greg Miclat, led off the inning with back to back singles. Miclat would be out at second on a Widlansky fielders choice, advancing Avery to third. Widlansky stole second, and Avery would score on an errant throw against the steal attempt by catcher Sanchez. Baysox catcher Steve Lerud would coax a walk, and leftfielder L.J Hoes loaded the bases up, with a flair single. Shortstop Pedro Florimond mashed a single down the rightfield line, driving in two, and increasing the lead to 3-1. Third basemen Brandon Waring ended the rally when he grounded into a double play.

 With Johnson coasting along on the bump, and embracing his 3-1 lead, The Sox would put a little Geico insurance run on the board. In the top of the fifth, after Widlansky hit a double, Lerud would drive him in with a single, thus ending the day for Curve pitcher Pribanic. He would effectively end the inning, by inducing a double play out of Hoes, and a ground out by Florimond, but the proverbial damage had been done.

 Bowie's manager Gary Kendell, sent Nick Bierbrodt out to the mound, after six solid innings by Steve Johnson. The Tall lanky righthander, who has a Kent Tekulve like sidearm delivery, kept the Altoona bats quiet. He faced seven batters in two innings, while striking out three of them. Closer Jose Diaz came in to close out the game, and did his customary Jorge Julio/Armando Benitez impression. The massive righthander, who throws a 94 MPH cutter and a bender that drops to 82, proceeded to walk the first batter Eric Fryer. The designated hitter would advance to second, after a single by third basemen Jeremy Farrell. After a Wild pitch that moved both runners up a base, Diaz struck out Sanchez, looking at a nasty slider. Light hitting shortstop Shelby Ford drove in Fryer with a sacrifice fly to Hoes in left. Finally, it seemed like the Curve had gotten his attention, and Diaz fried second baseman Miles Durham with three straight fastballs, striking him out and picking up his third save of the series. He is now the Western Division leader in saves , with 16.

 The Baysox road trip continues, as they head to Harrisburg, to take on Washington Nationals affiliate, the Senators for a five game series. The Curve, limp onto the road to begin a seven game stint against the Binghamton Mets and the Trenton Thunder. (Yankees)

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