Merryweather Honored, Bats Come Alive, and More in This Week’s ‘Duck Tales
Bob Toth | On 05, May 2017
The Akron RubberDucks returned home from their six-game road trip Thursday with a 2-3 record and their second postponed contest of the year as rains continued to wreak havoc on professional baseball games across the country.
After dropping the final two games of their three-game series with Binghamton last week to bring an end to their five-game winning streak, Akron (11-14) hit the road for Bowie and earned a series win. The offense was big, outscoring the Baysox 22-11 in the series, as they won a 6-1 final on Friday and an 11-2 decision on Sunday as the ‘Ducks bats erupted for five home runs to pace Julian Merryweather to his second win of the week. Monday’s opener in Binghamton was rained out before the club lost two in the middle of the week, dropping a pair of tough games by 5-4 and 1-0 finals.
With Thursday’s 3-2 walk-off win over Altoona in the books, the RubberDucks will continue their seven-game homestand over the weekend with three more with the first place Curve before welcoming in the Trenton Thunder for three straight during the week.
In other news and notes from the Rubber City:
Merryweather’s impressive week on the mound was recognized by the Eastern League on Monday when he was named the league’s Pitcher of the Week.
The 25-year-old right-hander won each of his outings and has put together four strong starts in a row for Akron. He worked a combined 12 2/3 innings in victories over Binghamton and Bowie, allowing one earned run in each contest on a total of seven hits and two walks. He struck out eleven between the two games to push his season total to 27 in 26 2/3 innings of work.
The former fifth round pick by the Cleveland Indians in the 2014 draft has made three consecutive quality starts for Akron and allowed no earned runs in five innings in his previous start. The recent play has improved his record to 2-1 on the season while dropping his ERA to 3.04 and his WHIP to 0.90.
SEVER SERVES UP SECOND WALK-OFF
Thursday’s hero on Star Wars Night at Canal Park was Joe Sever, who delivered the knockout blow in the bottom of the ninth with a walk-off double to defeat Altoona, 3-2. Akron had surrendered the lead in the top half of the inning on a blown save, but in the bottom half, the first two men reached on a walk and a hit by pitch before Sever drove one out to center for the game-winning two-bagger.
Sever now is responsible for both walk-off wins this season for the RubberDucks. Incidentally enough, his other game-winner this season also came against the Curve. It came just one day after Sever grounded out with runners on first and second and two outs in the top of the ninth against Binghamton in a 1-0 final.
ALLEN HITS IN EVERY GAME OF FINAL WEEK OF APRIL
Greg Allen did his part to help Akron in the final week of April, hitting in each of the RubberDucks’ final six games of the month to boost his batting average 36 points.
He was 5-for-12 in the home series with Binghamton with five singles, a double, two stolen bases, and three RBI. He went 4-for-12 to start the road trip in Bowie with three more singles, a homer, one walk, and four RBI. His homer led off the April 30 game and was his first of the season. He went on to drive in a pair with a single and hit a sacrifice fly late to drive in all four of his runs in the series in one game.
BRADLEY BLASTS A PAIR
First base prospect Bobby Bradley has had a tough time adjusting to Eastern League pitching in his first season with the RubberDucks, but he had a productive road trip that will hopefully turn things around for the 20-year-old slugger.
Hitting just .164 at the start of the road trip through Bowie and Binghamton, he hit his third home run of the season in game one against the Baysox, ending an 0-for-15 skid at the plate over his previous four games. He doubled in the middle game and hit his fifth homer of the year in the series finale in a 1-for-5 day at the plate.
Bradley extended his hitting streak to four straight games with a single on Tuesday in the game against the Rumble Ponies before an 0-for-4 day on Wednesday brought the brief streak to an end.
‘DUCKS’ SURPRISING HOME RUN LEADER THROUGH APRIL
With a big name power bat like Bradley on the Akron roster, the presumption would be that he would be the leader in the clubhouse in home runs and RBI through the first month of the season, but that is not the case.
Instead, it is 21-year-old shortstop Yu-Cheng Chang, who entered the season with 28 homers combined over his first three minor league seasons, including a professional career-high 13 last season while with Lynchburg.
Chang hit two more last week in the opener and finale against Bowie, giving him six homers in April with 16 runs batted in. The right-handed hitter out of Taiwan has struggled to get the rest of his offensive game going in his first season at the Double-A level, hitting .182 at the close of play in April, but he has made the most out of opportunities to drive in runs.
He has started out May better, getting three hits in Tuesday’s loss to Binghamton.
HANKINS HITS IN SIX STRAIGHT
After a slow start at the plate, 26-year-old third-year ‘Duck Todd Hankins has gotten his bat going at the plate. He has hit safely in each of his last six games and has reached base safely in seven straight, going 7-for-23 during the hitting streak with his first three extra base hits of the year, including two doubles and a home run. He had just three singles in his previous ten games.
The hot stretch has boosted his batting average from .091 to .207 at the end of the day Wednesday.
PAPI PLUMPS UP AVERAGE QUICKLY
The batting average for Mike Papi has fallen short of expectations after a strong collegiate career at Virginia, but a recent string of good hitting has brought his 2017 numbers to life quickly.
He hit in five straight games from April 24 to April 30, including three straight two-hit games while going 6-for-11 against Bowie to close out the month. The series with Bowie included his first double of the campaign and two more home runs to give him three on the season. After going hitless in his first May game, he has notched singles in his last two starts and is now hitting .276 on the season with a .404 on-base percentage.
BAKER RETURNS AFTER TWO YEARS ON DL
Akron sent veteran right-hander Travis Banwart to Columbus to help fill an injury in its starting rotation on April 26.
In a corresponding roster move, right-hander Dylan Baker was activated from the 7-day disabled list after missing almost all of the past two seasons after Tommy John surgery and an ensuing setback during his recovery. He has worked twice since returning from the DL, as the former starter has come on from the bullpen while allowing just one hit in two innings of work with a pair of strikeouts.
His last outing prior to his injury was April 9, 2015, while a member of the Lynchburg Hillcats.
The RubberDucks activated second baseman Mark Mathias from the 7-day disabled list on Monday. He spent all of April on the shelf and made his first two appearances of the year on Wednesday and Thursday.
Right-hander Jordan Milbrath was reassigned to High-A Lynchburg to make room on the roster for Mathias. On the final day of April, the RubberDucks sent infielder Ivan Castillo down to Lynchburg as well.
Photo: David Monseur/Akron RubberDucks