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.
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…
After their losing skid hit 12 straight games last Thursday, the Akron RubberDucks got back into the win column with a three-game sweep of New Hampshire over the weekend. They took the first game of a road series in Reading before dropping a pair to lose the series on Wednesday and Thursday.
Akron remains in first place in the Eastern League’s Western Division with a 42-31 record. They are 23-12 at home, but 19-19 on the road. Despite the even mark on the road, only four teams in the 12-team Eastern League have performed better away from home this year.
The RubberDucks return home to host the Trenton Thunder this weekend, with four games scheduled in the next three days. They will close out the month of June with three games at Richmond before starting a four-game series in Erie against the SeaWolves next Thursday.
In other RubberDucks news and notes…
It can be seen time and time again with players trying to find their place on a team. Sometimes you’re moved around the diamond until you find your home; for others it’s moving around in your spot in the lineup to find out where you’re the most comfortable.
Sometimes, you get a little of both. For Todd Hankins, he’s experienced both position changes and lineup mix ups during his time at Akron. It looks like now though that he’s finally found his home, and some comfort, at the plate.
Hankins has been a member of the Cleveland organization for quite some time now. After being drafted by the Tribe in 2011, Hankins is now in his sixth season for the Indians. He began his pro career at the age of 20 where he played 65 games with the Mahoning Valley Scrappers. During that span, he hit .246/.318/.354 with four home runs, ten doubles, three triples, and drove in 43 runs. He also swiped 14 bags.
The Akron RubberDucks continue to play some of the best baseball across all minor league levels after completing a three-game sweep at home over Binghamton last weekend. A loss on Monday in Altoona was followed by consecutive wins over the Curve as the RubberDucks have put up 26 runs in the first three games of the four-game road set.
They will go for the series win on Thursday morning in a 10:30 AM start. Following that game, they will return home to Canal Park for four against Harrisburg and three more against Altoona.
In other RubberDucks news and notes…
With the All Star break over and gone, the Akron RubberDucks are looking forward to September. While this team may not have looked exciting on paper, they’ve managed to put together a solid season thus far through 2015. Through the first half of 2015, the RubberDucks stood at a record of 47-43 and as of July 20, they’re sitting in third place of the Eastern League Western division with a record of 50-44. Going into the second half, and beyond, they’re sporting a higher than .500 record, and have real chances of seeing playing time once September rolls around.
Looking back at the first half, the RubberDucks have a lot they should be proud of, but there are definite parts of their game that need to be improved on.
As a new member of the Akron RubberDucks, Todd Hankins is making an early impression on his new teammates and coaches. With the ability to play all over the field, Hankins is always finding a way into manager David Wallace’s lineup.
Hankins, 24, was drafted by the Cleveland Indians in the fifteenth round of the 2011 draft. He made his minor league debut with short season Mahonning Valley in 2011. In 65 games with the Scrappers, Hankins hit .246/.318/.672 with 10 doubles, 2 triples, and 4 home runs along with 14 stolen bases. Hankins is a well-rounded player who can bring plenty of tools to the table.
The Carolina Mudcats have seen several of Cleveland’s top prospects pass through Zebulon, N.C. since linking with the Tribe in 2012. Five County Stadium has been a popular place for players that the Indians have invested heavily in. The lineups, along with the coaching staffs, of the Triple-A Columbus Clippers and Double-A Akron RubberDucks are littered with former Carolina talent.
As the already-blossoming relationship between Cleveland and Carolina grows, there is certain to be much more top-tier baseball players on the diamond for the Mudcats. To have a Minor League system that rates among the best it takes not only success from the young players that were deemed worthy of a top selection but also growth from prospects that fall under the radar. The Mudcats have several players who, despite not being selected in the first few rounds of the Major League Draft, could have an impact at Progressive Field in the coming years.
Akron RubberDucks second baseman was some kind of hot this past week. Joe Wendle went 11-21 for an obscene .524 average with three runs scored, three doubles, one triple, eight runs batted in and added a stolen base. Wendle got off to a slow start to the season having multiple hot and cold streaks. Over his last 26 games, however, Wendle has been consistently hot hitting .333 with eight extra base hits and 24 runs batted in during the time frame. Wendle leads the team with 41 runs batted in, one more than fellow prospect shortstop Francisco Lindor. Wendle has his batting average up to .264 with his recent surge but is still well below his career .307 minor league average coming into the season.
Wendle a sixth round pick in 2012 out of West Chester University has some uncanny similarities to a current Indians star Jason Kipnis. Both Kipnis and Wendle are listed at 5’11 190lbs, both bat left-handed and throw with their right hand. Take a look at the stats for both players in their first two years in the minor leagues.
Lake County Captains right handed pitcher Robbie Aviles continued his impressive season to date as he made two starts this past week earning one win while throwing 13 innings, allowing just six hits, three runs, zero walks and striking out seven. Aviles—originally projected to be a first or second round pick out of Suffern High School in Suffern, New York—partially tore the elbow ligament in his right arm a week before the draft, undergoing Tommy John Surgery. The Indians took a chance on Aviles by drafting him in the seventh round of the 2010 Draft, not knowing if he would come back as the first or second round pick he was projected to be. Aviles was able to make his professional debut near the end of the 2011 season after a long rehab. It had to be wondered if Aviles would ever return to pre-Tommy John form that the Indians had gambled on, as he would struggle sporting a 5.22 ERA in the two and a half years after making his professional debut. Still only 22 years of age, Aviles seems to finally be back, as his 2014 season has been nothing less than spectacular ranking second in the Midwest League in both ERA 1.65 and WHIP 0.85 along with only allowing 32 hits and five walks in 43.2 innings of work. Indians fans are hoping that Aviles has regained the form that had him so highly touted before his injury.
The Carolina Mudcats entered Tuesday’s contest at Wilmington with .500 winning percentage after 40 games. Often when teams have an even split of wins and losses, there is a consistency at the statistics within. The Muddies have some interesting contrasts so far in 2014.
Carolina is a better team away from Five County Stadium so far. The Mudcats prior to Tuesday are 11-7 on its travels away from Zebulon. A 9-13 home record is not the only thing negating the advantage however, as six teams in the Carolina League has winning records on the road and two clubs actually have won more games than it has lost at home. Not coincidentally, the two teams are Myrtle Beach and Potomac. Both have leads in its division.