Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Friday, May 4th - Monday, May 7th

The Pittsburgh Half Marathon was one we had been signed up for for quite a while. One of those that just jumped out at us, so we put a bit of planning into it and made out way to Western PA. Left on Friday mid-day, and made our way to Altoona. We stopped in Carbondale for lunch at La Tonalteca, a mainstay for us when traveling that way.

On a couple of previous trips, we had stopped to peer through the fence at the Altoona Curve's ballpark, but the schedule had never worked out to actually see a game there. This time around though, the planets aligned! The Curve were home against the Richmond Flying Squirrels, and we were finally able to mark this one off of 'the list'! A very nice ballpark, probably the nicest AA park we've been to so far, albeit a bit big for this level of baseball.

Made the drive the rest of the way into Pittsburgh after the game, making our way to the SpringHill Suites, across the street from PNC Park. Staying here our intent was twofold - one, it was relatively close to all of the marathon goings on, and the Pirates were home so we were right across the street for the game on Sunday!

On Saturday, we slept in a bit and then made our way to the marathon expo which was at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, a short walk from our hotel. We hit all of the vendors there, bought some cool Terrible Towels, and a Roo pouch as well. Afterwards, we walked downtown to see the finish line being setup, as well as the tents and vendors at the park near the confluence of the three rivers. Back to the hotel with our swag bags, and then we hit up one of the restaurants on the outside of PNC Park for some lunch. For the rest of the afternoon, we first went to a shopping area we like to visit on the West Side (which includes the Hofbrauhaus - a locale we did not get to this trip), and then hit a mall north of downtown to kill some more time (with a stop at Rita's along the way!).

Our carb up dinner was at a place called Monte Cellos. Good pasta and sauce, just what we like for our night before a race meal. After dinner we drove back to the hotel to relax and crash out for the night. We were able to watch the fireworks from the ballgame from our hotel room window which was very cool!

Up and at it on Sunday morning, we were to our start corral by 6:45ish for the 7:30 start. A beautiful course, a little hilly, with five P-Burgh bridges along the way. Great course support, and lots of fans in spots kept ya goin. A definite keeper for us, although with it being the same weekend as so many other popular races it may be a few years before we get back.

Post race, we walked back to the hotel, showered, changed, and checked out. In the afternoon, we went to the Pirates game at PNC against the Reds, with Jill grabbin' us some really good seats in the shade down the first base line. Had some Miller Lite and IC Light and Yuengling Light to toast our half marathon completion. We left after the seventh, wanting to beat the traffic and search out some dinner or lunch or whatever it was.

Primanti Brothers was our destination, just not the original one. We figured post Pirates game it would be a bit crowded there, so we found one out in the 'burbs instead. After a bite to eat, we hit the casino near Heinz Field to lose some money before finding our next hotel - the Hampton Inn near the convention center. Nice location, better rate, very nice room - this will probably be our new P-Burgh hotel. We ordered some delivery pizza for a late dinner and crashed out, very tired from a long, active day.

Monday began the long drive home, with a stop in Altoona for lunch at a Mexican place that was in a building that was previously a Ruby Tuesday's. Grabbed some yummy cookies at the Eat and Park before making the rest of the drive home. Arrived back in Binghamton early evening on Monday.

Altoona Curve 8, Richmond Flying Squirrels 7

CURVE, Pa. - With eight unanswered runs between the fourth and seventh innings, the Curve roared back from a 6-0 deficit and rolled to an 8-7 series-opening win over the Richmond Flying Squirrels Friday night at Peoples Natural Gas Field.

The first contest of four in three nights for the Curve and Squirrels looked to be heading firmly in the visitors' direction early. Richmond grabbed the game's early momentum with a run in the first and another in the second on RBI doubles by Ryan Cavan and Wendell Fairley. The Squirrels added another in the third on a run-scoring single by Tommy Joseph and then appeared to break the game open with a three-run fourth highlighted by back-to-back doubles from Johnny Monell and Ehire Adrianza all adding up to a 6-0 lead.

All six runs went charged as earned to Curve starter Mike Colla who departed in line for the loss after six innings but exited as his own offense began to come alive.

Altoona got on the board with a three-run fourth of its own, getting RBIs from Charlie Cutler and Kelson Brown in the inning, and drew one run closer in the fifth when Matt Curry drove home Robbie Grossman to cut the Squirrels' advantage to 6-4.

The Curve fifth chased Richmond starter Jason Stevenson who didn't factor into the decision and failed to make it through five innings for the fourth time in six starts.

In the bottom of the seventh, Altoona took over. Against Richmond relievers Ari Ronick (0-1) and Jake Dunning, the Curve broke out for four runs on five hits. Curry, Jeremy Farrell, Quincy Latimore, and Brown all batted in runs during the inning with Farrell extending his season-long hitting streak to six games with an RBI double to get the game tied. Latimore's single two batters later plated Farrell with the go-ahead run.

The Altoona bullpen didn't falter with the advantage. Tim Alderson and Vic Black combined to finish off the opener with three innings of work, two of them from Alderson (1-0) who earned the win. Black (S, 1) allowed an inconsequential run in the ninth for his first save of the season.

Saturday, the Squirrels and Curve hook up for a doubleheader in Curve, Pa. with first pitch scheduled for 5:00 p.m. Altoona will send lefty Nathan Baker (2-3, 6.94) in game one against Richmond's Chris Heston (2-2, 1.21) with Baker looking to snap a personal three-game skid. Former big leaguer Shairon Martis (0-0, 0.00) takes the hill for Altoona in the nightcap. The Peoples Natural Gas Field gates open at 4 p.m., and airtime on ESPN 1430 in Altoona and the Curve Radio Network is scheduled for 4:30.

Postgame fireworks presented by US. Foods & WTAJ-TV are in store on a Curve, Pa. Blue Out Saturday with Altoona wearing special blue jerseys as they will on Saturdays all season long in support of child abuse awareness and Prevent Child Abuse Pennsylvania. For tickets and more information, call 877.99.CURVE, visit AltoonaCurve.com or stop by the box office at Peoples Natural Gas Field.

Cincinnati Reds 5, Pittsburgh Pirates 0

PITTSBURGH -- Charlie Morton had difficulty getting the ball low. Nate McLouth had trouble getting the low call. And Mat Latos had no trouble with anything at all.

As a consequence, the Pirates were laid low, 5-0, by the Reds in Sunday's rubber game at PNC Park.

A crowd of 20,042 had the buzz taken out of it by Latos, the Cincinnati right-hander who notched a career-high 11 strikeouts while blanking the Bucs on two hits through six innings.

That was just the start of the Bucs' contribution to Pittsburgh's Marathon Weekend: The 17K walk-back-to-the-bench. Reds relievers J.J. Hoover (2), Aroldis Chapman (2) and Alfredo Simon (2) forced the Pirates to match their club record for most strikeouts in a nine-inning game. The Bucs also went down on strikes 17 times on June 14, 1995, against the Dodgers and on July 21, 1997, against Philadelphia.

The whiffs clearly displeased Pirates manager Clint Hurdle, to the point he declined to emphatically take the side of one of his guys who took a questionable called third strike.

"I saw some big swings up there," Hurdle said. "[The Reds] have a club that can take some big swings and do some damage. We don't have that type of club. When we start swinging big, we're working to the other team's advantage."

Cincinnati's big swings damaged Morton, who normally is better at keeping things in the park than a vigilant forest ranger. Todd Frazier hit a solo homer and Drew Stubbs a two-run shot in consecutive innings to account for most of Cincinnati's scoring.

Including his final frame in St. Louis on Tuesday, Morton has served up three homers in his last four innings.

"That's a red flag for a sinker-ball pitcher," Hurdle said. A year ago, Morton surrendered the fewest home runs of any pitcher to work more than 110 innings -- six in 171 2/3 -- only one of them by a right-handed batter. All four in 27 1/3 innings this season have come from the right side.

"It's surprising and bizarre," said the right-hander. "I know I can keep the ball in the park, and on the ground. That's where I need to be. I have to look at it objectively and do something -- mental or physical -- to get the breaking ball back. The sinker is all I am."

Morton had not allowed two homers since doing so in back-to-back 2010 starts, on May 22 versus the Braves and May 27 in Cincinnati.

Uncharacteristically, Morton also posted seven of his 18 putouts on outfield flies.

His mound opponent, conversely, appeared to throw a key first-inning pitch too low, but had it work to his advantage.

The Bucs' early opportunity to strike died below McLouth's knees. Seemingly considerably below: Cincinnati catcher Ryan Hanigan nearly had to dig out of the dirt the 3-and-2 pitch that was called a strike. Since that pitch, which drew McLouth's briefly-heated reaction, had come with the bases loaded and two out, it was fairly significant.

Particularly since the Bucs would get only four more baserunners during the rest of Latos' six-inning outing.

Hurdle didn't seem very interested in discussing the borderline location of that pitch.

"When you start talking about an inch here or there ... you're talking about the wrong thing with the bases loaded," the manager said. "Two strikes ... you'd like to see a swing get off, and I realize sometimes that's easier said than done. The point also being: We have a tendency to run down what happened on strike three; we need to pay better attention to what happened on strike one and strike two."

That sermon may have already been delivered in Sunday's postgame clubhouse, for all McLouth said about the key take was, "It was a tough pitch, but we had him on the ropes, and unfortunately I wasn't able to deliver in that situation."

Not like Latos was getting the benefit of otherwise pinpoint accuracy during that first inning, either. He had loaded the bases for the Pirates by plunking Jose Tabata, then walking Neil Walker and Pedro Alvarez.

First up with the bases loaded was Casey McGehee, who almost burned off Frazier's glove with his hot smash to third. But Frazier held on, to both the glove and to the line drive.

"McGehee couldn't hit a ball any harder," Hurdle said.

"That's just reaction right there," Frazier said, "a hard hit ball you just try to knock down, anything you can do to save the runners. Luckily it got in the glove, it almost snuck out there at the end."

That helped Latos over his only hurdle. Whatever uniform he is wearing, the 24-year-old Virginian enjoys Sundays at PNC Park, where nearly exactly a year ago he pitched a similar game (striking out seven in seven innings while allowing four hits) for San Diego.

"We had a chance to take the game in a different reaction in the first inning," Hurdle noted. "Once Mat got out of the corner and put his foot down, he found his rhythm and all his pitches."

Trip Notes:

Our seats for the Pirates game were Section 108UP, Row S, Seats 22-23.