A six-run onslaught in the seventh inning, plus three more for good measure in the eighth, pushed the visiting Akron RubberDucks past the Altoona Curve, 12-8, in Game 1 of the Eastern League Western Division Series on Wednesday night.
Akron started fast as shortstop Eric Stamets homered with one out in the first off of right-hander Alex McRae to give the ‘Ducks the early 1-0 lead. It would not last for long, however, as Akron starter Julian Merryweather quickly loaded the bases, giving up back-to-back singles and a walk to start the bottom half of the frame. A wild pitch allowed one run to score before he locked in and struck out Edwin Espinal and Anderson Feliz swinging, but Jin-De Jhang (older brother of Merryweather’s former teammate in Lynchburg, Yu-Cheng Chang) doubled to left, scoring both base runners to give Altoona a 3-1 lead.
It’s playoff time in the minor leagues and three Indians affiliates will begin their chases for postseason crowns on Wednesday night.
The Triple-A Columbus Clippers, Double-A Akron RubberDucks, and High-A Lynchburg Hillcats all punched tickets in their respective leagues behind solid 2016 seasons. The Clippers won the International League’s West Division with an eleven-game lead at year’s end. The RubberDucks clinched a playoff berth on Sunday and won the Western Division title outright on Monday. The Hillcats won the Carolina League Northern Division first-half crown and tied the Potomac Nationals for the division’s second-half title with a 39-31 finish.
With a win on Sunday, the Akron RubberDucks clinched a playoff berth in the Eastern League playoffs and became the third Cleveland Indians’ minor league affiliate to guarantee bonus baseball this season after previous efforts from the Triple-A Columbus Clippers and the High-A Lynchburg Hillcats.
The RubberDucks took a page out of their parent club’s book on Labor Day, as Akron decided on a bullpen game with the Eastern League Western Division title on the line. With their ticket already punched for postseason play, they opted to rest their starting rotation, but instead, they stole the crown as Daniel Salters’ first Double-A home run, a two-run shot in the sixth, broke a five-all tie as the ‘Ducks held on for an 8-6 win to clinch the top spot in the division.
The magic number is one for the Akron RubberDucks with two games to go in the 2016 regular season as the club hopes to clinch an Eastern League Western Division crown as the season comes to a close.
The up and down season for the ‘Ducks, full of massive and frequent roster shuffles throughout the year, will be decided with a pair of games against the Bowie Baysox on Sunday and Monday. Akron (75-64), winner of three in a row and six of their last eight, is chasing Altoona (75-63), who have dropped two straight while the ‘Ducks have won two in a row to pull within a half-game of tying the Curve for the top spot in the division. The Harrisburg Senators (74-66) entered the day two games in back of Altoona and a game and a half behind Akron with an elimination number of two. The top two clubs to emerge from the Western Division will advance to the postseason. Reading and Trenton have already clinched postseason appearances in the Eastern Division.
In other RubberDucks news and notes…
Any chance that Bradley Zimmer breaks camp with the Cleveland Indians at the end of spring training in 2017 may come down to how well he performs in Arizona this fall.
Zimmer, the Indians’ top prospect in the farm system, was one of eight minor leaguers named by Cleveland to participate in the annual Arizona Fall League as members of the Mesa Solar Sox. Joining Zimmer in the Mesa outfield will be Double-A Akron’s Greg Allen. High-A Lynchburg’s Yu-Cheng Chang will be on the roster at short. Three relievers – Trevor Frank (Lynchburg), Cameron Hill (Akron), and David Speer (Akron) – will get additional work in the Solar Sox bullpen, while right-handed starter Michael Peoples (Akron) will also be on the roster.
Akron’s Eric Haase is also on the club as one of the taxi squad members, activated just twice a week on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
A month is not nearly enough time to analyze winners and losers of Major League trades, but after more than four weeks with him on the roster, the Cleveland Indians have to be feeling pretty good about the return that they have gotten from left-hander Andrew Miller.
Miller was not the only player moved, as the Indians had to give up four players, two of whom were top prospects in the organization, in order to acquire the services of the reliever for the rest of this season and each of the next two years.
The All-Star southpaw has been everything that the Indians could have dreamed of when they pulled the trigger on the July 31 trade that brought Miller to Cleveland.
After seven seasons in the minors, right-handed reliever Perci Garner has finally gotten his call to the Majors as the Cleveland Indians announced on Wednesday afternoon that they had purchased his contract from Triple-A Columbus.
In a pair of corresponding moves, right-hander Shawn Armstrong was optioned to Single-A Lake County to make room on the 25-man roster and catcher Yan Gomes was transferred to the 60-day disabled list to create a spot on the 40-man.
Armstrong can and will likely return to the Indians roster when the Captains’ season ends on September 5. Gomes is eligible to be activated from the disabled list on September 16.
The Akron RubberDucks are making their postseason push and have done so behind another impressive winning streak.
A ten-game winning streak came to an end on Thursday night with a 7-4 loss at Canal Park to the Richmond Flying Squirrels. Earlier in the week, they completed a pair of sweeps, knocking off Bowie twice last Friday and Saturday before Sunday’s game was preempted by rain. They outscored Reading 13-6 during the week, winning 5-2, 4-1, and 4-3 to push the streak to ten before another the loss to start the four-game set with Richmond.
Akron is now just 2.5 games out of first place, trailing the Altoona Curve (Pittsburgh Pirates affiliate), who won 5-3 on Thursday. The ‘Ducks will finish their series this weekend against the Flying Squirrels before taking their final road trip of the season to Erie for four straight. They will conclude the regular season with five against Bowie, including the completion of the suspended game.
In other RubberDucks news and notes…
After a lengthy adjustment period while losing several of the more productive contributors on the club to promotions, the Akron RubberDucks have won seven of their last eight games.
It has been a strong and needed turnaround for the Indians’ Double-A affiliate, who started the month with losses in five of their first six August contests and were 2-14 dating back to July 22 at the start of a seven-game losing streak. The self-destruction appeared as though it may have been enough to knock Akron (63-60) out of the playoff race, but their five-game winning streak and better play in the middle weeks of August have pulled the club within five games of first place Altoona in the Eastern League’s Western Division with 18 games to go. The only thing to stand in their way of late has been a pair of rainouts.
In other tales from the Rubber City…
Thursday’s loss to Hartford dropped the Akron RubberDucks to seven games in back of first place Altoona for the top spot in the Eastern League’s Western Division. At 58-60, things have not been going as well as hoped in Akron in the second half after some significant changes to the roster. With an 8-19 record since hosting the Eastern League’s Midsummer Classic, it is easy to see the time frame that the season got away from the ‘Ducks and there has been little slowing the losing skid down along the way.
August has been no better for the club. The RubberDucks dropped a three-game set in New Hampshire and followed it with losses in two of three in Portland. Returning home, they did find the win column twice in three games against the Yard Goats to win a series and will welcome in the Sea Dogs to Canal Park for three more this weekend before heading on a six-game road trip through Trenton and Bowie.
In other tales from the Rubber City:
Despite a late comeback attempt in New Hampshire on Thursday night, the Akron RubberDucks lost for the 12th time in their last 13 games in a 7-5 defeat against the Fisher Cats.
It marked a second consecutive ugly week for the ‘Ducks, who lost three of four to close out their last homestand against the Bowie Baysox. After taking Monday off, they arrived in New Hampshire, only to lose 6-4 on Tuesday and 9-6 on Wednesday before taking another L on Thursday night.
The tailspin by the RubberDucks has dropped the club below the .500 mark for the first times this season. At 55-57, they trail Altoona by six and a half games and are also chasing Harrisburg. They have fallen to 26-32 on the road this season. They are now 1-9 since the promotions of Bradley Zimmer and Clint Frazier to Triple-A Columbus.
In other ‘Duck tales this week…
It’s been a rough week to be a ‘Ducks fan.
Akron saw two of its star players promoted to Triple-A while the RubberDucks have dropped seven straight games. After winning their series opener last Thursday, 7-1, in Altoona against the Curve, Akron was tied for first place. Since then, the club has lost seven straight, including three to the Curve, three more at home against the visiting Richmond Flying Squirrels, and the first game against Bowie.
The RubberDucks will continue their seven-game homestand to close out the month with three more games against the Baysox. The ‘Ducks will take Monday off before hitting the road for New Hampshire and Portland.
In other RubberDucks news and notes…