Photo credit: David Monsuer/Accent Images/MiLB/Courtesy Akron RubberDucks

Bark-at-the-park night at Canal Park in Akron had more than the canine patrons saying, “woof,” as the Rubber Ducks dropped the second game to the Harrisburg Senators 7-1, committing a crucial error and struggling to hit with runners in scoring position.

Juan Hillman came into the game as a 10-game winner, and he looked typically solid with a sharp curve through three. He ran into trouble in the fourth, hitting Senators’ DH Rhett Wiseman for the second time in the game to lead off the inning and then allowing a squib base hit, and two bloops to tie the game up at one. After a fielder’s choice gave Harrisburg a 2-1 lead, Hillman got the second out via strikeout, but the inning and the game then turned on an error by Marcos Gonzalez. Playing third for the Ducks, Gonzalez’s throw was off-line and got away from Jonathan Engelmann at first, resulting in two more runs for the Senators.

Hillman exited the game down 5-1, the victim of some bad luck and a poorly-timed defensive lapse.

The Ducks’ lineup was able to get runners on base but couldn’t seem to get a hit when it would make the most difference, going 1-7 with runners-in-scoring-position for the evening, with only right-fielder Steven Kwan’s first inning, opposite field single finding the grass. Overall, Akron left ten runners on base. Senator’s pitcher Jackson Tetreault allowed four walks but also struck out six, dancing around traffic in all but one of his five innings. Engelmann had a single and a double, as the only notable offensive performer for the Ducks this evening.

Reliever Aaron Pinto had an uncharacteristically poor outing, giving up a single and then a home run to left-fielder Jacob Rhinesmith in the eighth. Marcos Gonzalez’s horrible, awful, no good, very bad night continued with another error in the penultimate frame.

On the bright side, the Ducks bullpen saw Thomas Ponticelli put up zeros for three innings. Bo Naylor also worked a first inning walk to force in a run, showing an encouraging ability to lay off some close pitches in the zone. Aside from the aforementioned opposite field single, Steven Kwan also added a walk, continuing a strong offensive season for the outfielder.

The Ducks will look to rebound from a disappointing two-game slide to start this six game series against a 37-54 Harrisburg team on Thursday night behind Logan T. Allen. The Ducks will go up against Senators left-handed pitcher, Tim Cate, ranked as the team’s 17th best prospect by FanGraphs.

Additional notes:

  • Always worth checking in on the two top catching prospects in the Indians’ system when you go to a Rubber Ducks’ game. Tonight was not a great night at the plate for either Bryan Lavastida or Bo Naylor, but each player worked a walk, Naylor’s forcing in the only run of the game for the Ducks in the first. I can report with certainty that after watching Lavastida try to leg-out a groundball in the eighth, he definitely runs like a catcher.
  • Shortstop Brayan Rocchio made a difficult groundball in the seventh look easy, and showed off a strong arm on a couple plays, especially on a high chopper in the ninth. It’s easy to see why the defensive abilities of the highly-touted Indians’ prospect are lauded with even a limited viewing.
  • I was fascinated to see center-fielder Will Brennan bunt for a base-hit and then Engelmann poke a double down the line on a hit-and-run play in the sixth. Some old-school baseball strategy showing up, but all for naught with Marcos Gonzalez striking out and left-fielder Will Benson grounding out immediately afterwards.
  • 25 year-old relief pitcher Manuel Alvarez showed a 100 mph fastball in a scoreless ninth… but also showed the lack of control that has him walking over a batter an inning, walking three and crossing up Naylor on a wild pitch. Just goes to show that throwing triple digits doesn’t help much if you can’t tell where it’s going. 
  • The Ducks wore their bright-yellow Los Perros Calientes jerseys, providing a disappointing visual contrast with their lackluster play. But, it’s been an exciting season for the Ducks/Los Perros Calientes, they are 56-35, and still providing plenty of reason for fans to show up to the park and for Cleveland baseball fans to be hopeful for the future of the franchise.

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