The Akron RubberDucks are the 2016 Eastern League champions after sweeping the Trenton Thunder for a third straight game on Friday, claiming a 2-1 victory on the road to bring home the title.
The RubberDucks had one-out walks in the first two innings off of Sheffield, but could not score. A third walk on the night, this one leading off by Ivan Castillo, had much better results for Akron. Greg Allen bunted him over to second on a sacrifice and Castillo moved to third on a single by Eric Stamets. Jordan Smith put the ‘Ducks on the board with an RBI grounder to short, scoring Castillo to make it 1-0. With another runner standing at third and two outs, Nellie Rodriguez struck out looking to end the threat.
Home field was advantageous one last time for the RubberDucks on Wednesday as Akron used a three-run third inning to defeat the Trenton Thunder 4-2 in Game 2 of the Eastern League Championship Series.
Rob Kaminsky started for the ‘Ducks and retired eight straight to start the night before two-out singles from Sebastian Valle and Tyler Wade. Kaminsky buckled down, striking out his fourth batter of the night as the scoreless game moved to the bottom of the third.
Four straight hits from Akron in the bottom half off of Will Carter opened up the game for the ‘Ducks. Singles from Greg Allen and Yan Gomes to start the frame set up a run-scoring opportunity for Jordan Smith, who got his second hit of the game with a double to right, scoring Allen for the early lead. Nellie Rodriguez followed with the game-changing hit, scoring a pair with a single to center to give Akron a 3-0 lead.
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…
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.
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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…
The Indians and their minor league affiliates have put together some losing streaks of late, with some much longer than the others. The Triple-A Columbus Clippers ended one such stretch of L’s on Friday night with an 8-3 win in Syracuse to close out a seven-game losing skid. On Saturday, backed by a strong pitching performance, they made it two wins in a row for the good guys as they knocked off the Chiefs by a 4-2 final.
The two wins pulled the Clippers’ June record to 8-10 and their record for the season to 37-32. The rough stretch in the standings, coupled with a hot streak from the Indianapolis Indians, has knocked Columbus out of first. They trail the Indians by a half game in the International League’s West Division heading into play on Sunday.
In other Clippers news from Columbus:
After winning 17 straight games at their Canal Park home, the Akron RubberDucks have suddenly come back down to earth at home after splitting a series last weekend with the Harrisburg Senators. Akron won the first two, but the club dropped the last two before taking its series opener against Altoona to end the month of May on a positive note. The RubberDucks lost their third game in four days with a 2-0 shutout on Wednesday in the middle game of their three-game set with the Curve.
The RubberDucks (36-16) will play 30 games over the next 30 days, with off days on June 6 and June 20, but a pair of doubleheaders on June 5 and June 25. Their schedule is split perfectly, with 15 games in Akron and 15 on the road. They remain the top club in the Eastern League’s Western Division, six and a half games in front of Altoona in the division prior to Thursday’s action and have a 20-5 record at home this season.
In other RubberDucks news and notes…
The 2016 baseball season is off to a hot start on all levels for the Cleveland Indians and their minor league affiliates, despite the early weather-related interferences provided by the environment. This week was a much different week than the first week of play, as the Tribe and all of their active farm clubs got in a full slate of work and looked good in the process.
The week was highlighted by several impressive individual pitching performances, hitting streaks at the plate and winning streaks in the standings, and even a player of the week award.
With so many games and names to know, here’s a breakdown of some of the things you may have missed.
Baseball makes its return to Akron on Thursday as the last of the full season minor league affiliates of the Cleveland Indians finally opens the home portion of its schedule.
The RubberDucks will host the Bowie BaySox, the Double-A affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles, for four games beginning Thursday night at 6:35 PM ET. Gates open at 5 PM.
The RubberDucks are off to a quick start after sweeping the BaySox in their home opening series before taking two of three versus the Altoona Curve, dropping a 9-5 decision on Wednesday. The young lineup for the 5-1 club features several notable top prospect names, including pitcher Rob Kaminsky and position players Bradley Zimmer, Clint Frazier, and Nellie Rodriguez, and turned a triple play in Tuesday night’s win over the Curve.
If that isn’t enough to get you out to the ballpark, Indians one-time All-Star Michael Brantley will continue his rehab assignment with the RubberDucks on Thursday night.
In order for someone to improve, they need to see their low points and find a way to improve from that. In 2014, Double-A Akron outfielder Jordan Smith discovered first-hand what it felt like to be overcome by the competition. After hitting .293/.370/.402 with High-A Carolina, he followed up in his first season with the Rubberducks hitting .248/.300/.331.
Smith, 24, was drafted by the Indians in the ninth round of the 2011 June Amateur Draft by the Cleveland Indians. Smith is a 6’4” and 235 pound outfielder who’s been primarily playing right field for the RubberDucks. Usually this position is reserved for a player who can smack a ton of home runs, or at least hit for decent power. While Smith has never really panned out to be the power hitter that everyone though he would be, he’s been consistent of keeping his ISO over .100. At High-A Carolina in 2013, he hit 29 doubles, 6 triples, and 5 home runs. Granted, the home run count is bound to be lower due to the Carolina league not being a high home run league, but then comparing those numbers to his first season in Akron, it doesn’t look so great. He hit 2 home runs, 24 doubles, and 4 triples.
Last season, we saw a lot of changes come to Canal Park. A rebranding of the team name, renovations throughout the park, and haul of new prospects ready to give their all in effort to someday make their way to The Show. After a hot start to the season, the RubberDucks hit some bumps along the way due to injuries to key players, player promotions, and some end of the season fatigue. They still worked their way into the Eastern League playoffs, but were eventually eliminated in the first round, despite their best efforts. Now in their second season as the RubberDucks, returning manager David Wallace looks to continue to compete with a lineup that seems just as deep as it has been in years past.
To start off the season in 2014, there were plenty of household named prospects like Francisco Lindor, Giovanny Urshela, Joey Wendle, and Tyler Naquin. While Naquin is returning this year, starting on the disabled list, the rest of the players listed have either been promoted, or traded to another team. The squad coming into this season is full of guys that many casual baseball fans may not have ever heard of before. Players like Todd Hankins, Bryson Myles, Erik Gonzalez, or Anthony Gallas.
“They might not be as well known outside the organization, but to us they’re right up there…When I’m making out the lineup, and it’s laughable who I’m putting down in the 7-8-9 hole. We’ve got [Tony] Wolters, Myles and [Alex] Lavisky tonight who could be middle of the order guys. It’s a real balanced lineup, but we feel like we could be a threat to score in any inning, with any outs.” Wallace said following Thursday night’s victory against the Binghamton Mets.
It all starts with confidence.
It begins the moment you leave the dugout and head to the batter’s box. Believing in yourself and knowing what you can do and how you can accomplish this at the plate. This type of mentality can be hard to achieve, even for the most experienced players in baseball. For Jordan Smith, he’s finally starting to feel comfortable and confident with the RubberDucks.
“The confidence of walking up to the plate and being ready to do some damage. I think I’ve just trying to be a little more confident in everything I do. I think it’s starting to translate into the box,” Smith says.