Keller, Curve blank Fightin Phils


 Four runs in the first inning held up for the Altoona Curve as Mitch Keller , Bret Helton  and Geoff Hartlieb  teamed up to shutout the Reading Fightin Phils, 4-0, on Wednesday at Peoples Natural Gas Field.
The blanking by the Curve (27-27) pitching staff is the third of the season and the first shutout since April 23 vs. Erie. Hartlieb (Save, 5) has finished all three Curve shutouts this season while Keller (Win, 6-2) has started two of those contests. 
After a first-inning single, Keller walked Zach Green to start the second and then sat down ten Fightin Phils (25-32) batters in a row. Six of Keller’s ten outs between the second frame and the first out of the fifth were recorded via strikeout. The right-hander walked three batters, allowed two hits, both to Malquin Canelo, and matched a season-high with eight strikeouts through six scoreless innings.
Altoona gave Keller a 4-0 lead and sent eight batters to the plate in the first inning. Three one-out singles by Ke’Bryan Hayes , Jason Martin  and Will Craig  created the first run of the game. A double steal by Martin and Craig manufactured the second run after a throwing error by Reading catcher Deivi Grullon got away from Green at third allowed Martin to scamper home. After Tyler Gaffney  walked in his first Double-A plate appearance,Christian Kelley  banged a double up the right field line to bring in two more Curve runs.
The Curve had an opportunity to expand their lead in the fourth with a pair of runners in scoring position and one out. Kelley started the inning with a walk, Stephen Alemais  singled and Keller dropped a two-strike, sacrifice bunt to move the runners up before Elniery Garcia worked out of danger for Reading.
Bret Helton issued three walks and allowed one hit over 1.1 innings of relief of Keller. Helton worked around two baserunners in the seventh and left two on the aboard with one out for Hartlieb in the eighth. On his second pitch of the night, Hartlieb induced a double-play ball to end the Reading threat. Hartlieb gave up back-to-back singles to Green and Jan Hernandez to start the Reading ninth but nailed down two strikeouts and a groundout to complete the shutout.
Martin went 2-for-4 and stole three bases, including third base twice, for the most by a Curve player in a single game this season. Craig recorded his 35th RBI of the year in the first inning, the most on the team and sits sixth in the Eastern League.
The Curve will complete their three-game series against the Fightins on Thursday with a 7 p.m. first pitch. Left-hander Taylor Hearn  (1-4, 4.14) will pitch for Altoona against Reading lefty Ranger Suarez (2-2, 3.75).
The Game of Hope will be Thursday night at PNG Field, presented by the American Cancer Society and Relay for Life of Central Blair. The Curve will wear Relay for Life hats that will be auctioned off. After the game, there will be Fireworks presented by Stuckey Subaru.

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