Akron Falls to Altoona to Knot Up EL Western Division Series at One; Curve 3, ‘Ducks 1

Altoona jumped out to an early lead and used a strong pitching performance from starter Clay Holmes and three relievers to shut down Akron, 3-1, in Game 2 of the Eastern League Western Division Series on Thursday night.

The Curve had a 2-0 lead three batters into the bottom of the first inning against Akron starter Michael Peoples. Kevin Newman singled to center and scored on a double from Erich Weiss. He advanced to third on the throw to the plate, enabling him to come home himself on a sacrifice fly from Barrett Barnes to give Altoona a two-run advantage.

Holmes made quick work of the RubberDucks throughout his start, for the most part. He retired the side in order in the first, third, and fourth. Akron had a pair of hits in the second – a leadoff single by Nellie Rodriguez and a two-out double from Eric Haase – but the inning was derailed by a double play grounder by Mike Papi in between.

Akron got their run in the fifth with two down. Haase walked after Papi struck out swinging to start the inning. Haase moved to third on a single to right by Luigi Rodriguez. Mark Mathias struck out on a foul tip for strike three before Ivan Castillo grounded a single up the middle to drive home Haase and move Rodriguez to third. With a chance to tie the game, leadoff man Greg Allen struck out looking to end the threat.

The ‘Ducks got the potential tying run to second base with two outs in the sixth when Altoona went to its bullpen for reliever Josh Smith. With Jordan Smith standing at second after a one-out walk and a groundout, Altoona’s Smith got Papi to ground to second to end the inning.

Peoples continued on the mound through the sixth, but allowed a third Curve run on a two-out solo homer from Stetson Allie.

The Curve brought on former ‘Duck Trey Haley in the seventh. He struck out two in his first inning of work and left in the eighth after retiring two and walking one. With Castillo standing at second after advancing earlier in the inning on a passed ball, reliever Jared Lakind walked Smith before Rodriguez flied to right for the third out.

Lakind worked an easy ninth, striking out the side to end the ball game and earn the save.

Akron mustered just four hits on the night against Altoona pitching. Holmes allowed all of them in five and two-thirds, earning the win while walking two and striking out five. Peoples gave up three runs on nine hits with two walks and three strikeouts in six innings of work.

The series moves to Akron’s Canal Park for the next three games, if necessary, in the best-of-five series.

Akron will start 22-year-old left-hander Rob Kaminsky (11-7, 3.28 ERA), who had an impressive season after a bit of a rough start, in Game 3. Altoona will send 24-year-old right-hander Nick Kingham (3-5, 2.93) to the mound looking to take the lead in the series.

Rehabbing Cleveland Indians catcher Yan Gomes is expected to be in the RubberDucks lineup for both Game 3 Friday and Game 4 Saturday.

First pitch from Akron on Friday is scheduled for 7:05 PM ET.

Photo: David Monseur/MiLB.com

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