Image: Davis Monseur/Accent Images/Courtesy Akron RubberDucks
RubberDucks vault themselves into a first-place tie, taking 3 of 5 from the Altoona Curve
The Akron RubberDucks finished their series against the Altoona Curve, taking two close games to finish their series and secure a first-place tie with the Erie SeaWolves. On the season, Altoona now leads the season series 6-5, but Akron has outscored the Curve 58-57. The teams have now played five one-run games, with Akron winning the last one on July 10th. Akron was able to take advantage of strong starting pitching throughout the weekend, as their starters outside of Zach Draper, who gave up seven runs in five innings, combined for 17.1 IP giving up just 4 ER. This allowed the bullpen to keep the team in games and give the offense a change to take or extend leads. Despite losing slugger Oscar Gonzalez, and players like Alex Call and Trenton Brooks, the offense has not really missed a beat, rapping out 39 hits in five games and scoring 26 runs, scoring nine and eight runs in the first two games of the series. The bullpen also remained generally strong as Juan Mota picked up another save and Nic Enright picked up his first with Akron.
Up next, the RubberDucks will head to Harrisburg for a six-game set. The Senators are currently in last place in the Double-A Northeast-Southwest Division, in which Akron is now on top of. They are currently the only team in the Southwest Division that possess a losing record, presenting a prime opportunity for the Canal Park residents to extend their first-place lead while Erie and Bowie face off against each other.
7/6: L 9-12 @ Altoona; W: Vieaux (3-1); L: Draper (0-2); SV: Melendez (3)
7/7: PPD @ Altoona (7/7)
7/8: W 8-1 @ Altoona; W: Arias (3-0); L: MacGregor (2-2)
7/9: L 2-6 @ Altoona (7 inn.); W: Murray (2-0); L: Clemmer (1-2)
W 4-1 @ Altoona (7 inn.); W: Ponticelli (3-2); L: Bido (2-2); SV: Enright (1)
7/10: W 3-2 @ Altoona; W: Arias (4-0); L: Case (2-1): SV: Mota (4)
7/11: PPD @ Altoona (TBD)
Player of the Week:
OF Will Benson: 6-15, 7 R, 3 2B, HR, 2 RBI, 5 BB, .400 BA, 1.371 OPS
Since his move to the leadoff role Will Benson has been one of the best hitters in the Double-A Northeast. In his last 18 games, when he moved to the first position in the lineup, Benson has 7 2B, 2 3B, 3 HR, 11 RBI, 12 BB, .375 BA, .486 OBP, .732 SLG. The numbers have been off the charts for Benson, who seems to finally be cutting the swing and miss down enough to rap out some hits. The strong week was encompassed by his monster HR in Altoona that sent a ball over the roller coaster in deep RCF. The athletic center fielder has always had scouts excited with his frame and physical tools, so it is very encouraging to see the left-handed batter start to figure out how to effectively hit the baseball, while also maintaining his high walk rate which is now at an absurd 19.6 percent. In 52 games this season, Benson is now slashing .259/.422/.525 with his .422 OBP leading the Double-A Northeast.
OF Steven Kwan: 7-18, 4 R, 2 2B, 3B, HR, 5 RBIs, .389 AVG, 1.167 OPS
Steven Kwan returned to the lineup at the end of June and has steadily seen his playing time turn back to normal. He played three games in a row to end the series, indicating he will be back to everyday play from here on out. The outfielder began the series with a near cycle, coming up just a double short. He smacked his first homer of the year in the game, scoring three times and driving in three runs. Kwan slotted in at the third spot in the order for each of his starts and will be counted on heavily for offense moving forwards as the RubberDucks have lost three bats with an OPS higher than .890 already this season to Columbus.
IF Andruw Monasterio: 7-20, 5 R, 2 2B, 5 RBIs, 2 BB, .350 BA, .859 OPS
Andruw Monasterio was a welcome addition to the top of the order, batting second, as he was able to provide a formidable 1-2-3 punch with Benson and Kwan. Monasterio helped to jumpstart the offense, as he recorded three consecutive multi-hit games to begin the series. He recorded an RBI in four of the five games he played in, playing a factor in each game’s decision. The infielder’s biggest hit of the week came in the second game of the doubleheader on July 9th as his two-run double gave the RubberDucks a lead they would not relinquish. With the injuries to both Tyler Freeman and Jose Fermin, the Venezuelan will be looked upon to anchor the infield with Richie Palacios and be a reliable right-handed bat.
SP Thomas Ponticelli: W, 6 IP, 2 H, ER, 0 BB, 5 SO
Thomas Ponticelli continued his excellent stretch of starts as he allowed just one earned run and two hits in his outing on July 9th. The right-hander has now given up two earned runs or less in 11 of his 13 outings and six of his eight starts. The outing lowered his season ERA to 2.87 and his ERA with Akron to 3.10. Ponticelli has been relying on his changeup and slider heavily this year and has found success with each pitch. After a tough 2019, where he held an ERA over five, this is a welcome sight for the Akron pitching staff that had lacked consistency throughout the 2021 season.
SP Cody Morris: 4 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 SO
Cody Morris was welcomed back to the Indians minor leagues with his start on Thursday, as his scoreless effort set up the Akron offense for an easy run at their first win of the series. The right-hander had been rehabbing in Arizona up to this point and finally returned to the field there last week striking out 12 batters in 4.1 IP. He was just as effective for the RubberDucks in his Double-A debut, working up to 96 MPH and working in his big 12-6 breaking ball. He will help to bring stability to this Akron staff ravaged by injuries along with the additions of Logan T. Allen and Adam Scott.
IF Ike Freeman: 1-14, R, 2B, 2 RBI, BB, 4 SO, .071 BA, .276 OPS
In his first stint with Double-A Akron, Ike Freeman struggled heavily, recording just one hit in four starts. With Tyler Freeman, Jose Fermin, and Marcos Gonzalez injured, the Akron infield was desperate for help and Freeman was the choice from Lake County. The move was aggressive for the infielder who had only recorded 76 at-bats at the Low-A level of baseball, and it proved to be a tough one. The infielder was able to put the ball in play a decent amount, with only four strikeouts, but the quality of contact seems low with the results being so poor. It will be interesting to see if Freeman sticks around until the health of the prior mentioned infielders improves, going back to Lynchburg, or if he will stay on the team for infield depth for the rest of the season
SP Zach Draper: L, 5 IP, 8 H, 7 R, 4 ER, BB, 4 SO
Zach Draper was the only Akron starter to struggle in his outing versus Altoona this week, as he allowed eight hits in five innings of work, allowing seven runs. Only four of those seven runs were earned, but the constant traffic proved to be too much to overcome. After a three-run first, Draper surrendered a three-run and a two-run homerun that pushed the game seemingly out of reach for the RubberDucks. Akron nearly came back later in the game, but the damage was too large from Draper’s outing and the bullpen could not stymie the Altoona offense. The performance raised the lefties’ season ERA to 6.14 and his ERA with the ‘Ducks to 5.60. Moving forward, Draper may not be starting much more often, as three starters were added to the RubberDuck offense and Shane McCarthy and Eric Mock are likely better options moving forward, once healthy.
7/13: @ Harrisburg, 6:30 p.m.
7/14: @ Harrisburg, 6:30 p.m.
7/15: @ Harrisburg, 6:30 p.m.
7/16: @ Harrisburg, 7:00 p.m.
7/17: @ Harrisburg, 6:00 p.m.
7/18: @ Harrisburg, 1:00 p.m.
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