The Akron RubberDucks continued to push for the number one seed in the AA Northeastern League last week with a critical road series at Somerset. The ‘Ducks and Patriots split the six game set with three wins apiece, keeping the top contender from the northeast division at bay. Akron holds a record of 62-39 with 18 games to play. The Bowie Baysox sit in second with a 59-41 record, 2.5-games out of the top spot.
In a series involving the top seeds from each division in the league, tensions were high from the start on Tuesday. The RubberDucks scored two first-inning runs in the series opener, but it was countered by a four-run bottom half for the Patriots in an eventual 6-2 victory for the home squad. Despite the high scoring first frame in game one, the rest of the series was not very heavy offensively. Akron bounced back for a 5-3 game two win in 10 innings, but dropped the next game 7-3 on just four hits. Back-to-back victories followed with phenomenal ‘Ducks pitching before closing the road trip with a loss.
8/24: L 6-2 @ Somerset; W: Michael Gomez (4-2) L: Juan Hillman (10-4)
8/25: W 5-3 @ Somerset (F/10): W: Nick Mikolajchak (2-4) L: Zach Greene (2-4)
8/26: L 7-3 @ Somerset; W: Jefry Valdez (3-1) L: Ben Krauth (1-1)
8/27: W 4-2 @ Somerset (F/10); W: Thomas Ponticelli (6-4) L: Nick Ernst (0-1) S: Manuel Alvarez (3)
8/28: W 6-1 @ Somerset; W: Konnor Pilkington (2-0) L: Randy Vasquez (0-1)
8/29: L 7-4 @ Somerset; W: Addison Russ (3-2) L: Nick Mikolajchak (2-5) S: Zach Greene (1)
Player of the Week
CF Steven Kwan: 7-19 (.368), 6 R, 2 2Bs, 1 HR, 5 RBIs, 1 BB, 1.086 OPS
The RubberDucks only combined for seven extra base hits in the Somerset series, and three of them belonged to Steven Kwan. The month of August has shown that Kwan has a little bit of pop in his bat, something we haven’t seen in his young career thus far. Kwan hit a homerun to lead off Friday’s game, his seventh of the year. Returning to the leadoff spot, Kwan led the team in runs scored and runs batted in, while striking out the fewest times out of anyone in the lineup. Look for Kwan to continue to showcase what he can bring to the future Guardians organization as the season draws to a close in AA this year.
RF George Valera: 7-22 (.318), 1 R, 4 RBIs, 4 BBs
The 20-year-old left-handed hitting George Valera needed more of a challenge that what Advanced-A pitching was giving him: so in turn he gets to Akron and continues to rake in his first series. No extra base hits for Valera, but he tied Kwan for most hits in the set with seven. He showed a veteran presence in the box by drawing four walks in his first six games. Valera recorded multiple hits on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday, with an RBI coming in each game as well. The New York native produced eight August homeruns for the Captains, and with recent call-ups, the ‘Ducks desperately need someone to fill that void.
LHP Konnor Pilkington: 1-0, 1 GS, 5.0 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 2 BBs, 6 Ks
Pilkington made his fifth consecutive start with five innings pitched, and has surrendered three or fewer hits in four of the five. After a 1-2-3 first, Pilkington had to deal with a runner in scoring position to start the second. The former Mississippi State Bulldog was able to get out of it with three consecutive outs, including two of his six punchouts. An unearned run came around to score in the third with the help of a passed ball, but twirled a perfect fifth inning as he exited the game in a position to get the win. The six runs of Akron offense was enough for Pilkington to secure his second win as a RubberDuck.
RHP Manuel Alvarez: 3 G, 1 SV, 3.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 3 BBs, 8 Ks
Alvarez was called on for three appearances this week, and was a stable right-handed arm in a somewhat strangely unreliable bullpen this week. The longest outing was the first, with Alvarez going two full shutout innings with five strikeouts, working around one hit and one walk. Alvarez converted a save opportunity on Friday after keeping the extra runner in the 10th from scoring. His number was called upon in the series finale as well to get the final out following the third blown save of the week.
LHP Adam Scott: 1 GS, 6.0 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 7 Ks
Scott retired his first seven hitters with three strikeouts before a fielding error allowed an unearned run to come across. Scott settled in once again and got through six clean innings. The lefty returned to the hill for the seventh, but surrendered a walk and double before turning the ball over to Thomas Ponticelli. Scott has now exited three straight starts in a position for the win and is doing his job nicely.
SS Jose Fermin: 2-21 (.095), 1 R, 1 HR, 2 RBIs
Jose Fermin only got two base knocks in the Somerset series, but one of them was a solo homerun. Not all bad news for Fermin this week, but five strikeouts and three hitless games put a damper on things. For the month of August, Fermin is batting just .209, and the RubberDucks need a boost from him if they want to make a big playoff run.
RHP Nick Mikolajchak: 2 G, 1-1, 2 BS, 2.2 IP, 5 H, 5 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 3 Ks
Mikolajchak has two opportunities to close games with a save, but was unable to capitalize on either. The biggest issue at hand is the frequency at which the ball left the ballpark. Mikolajchak allowed four homeruns in his 2.2 innings of work, which is pretty concerning considering the level of untouchable he was at earlier this season. Three of the four occurred in the 7-4 series closing loss, so maybe he just didn’t have his stuff that day, but he has not been on the right side of good recently.
8/31 vs Altoona (6:35 pm)
9/1 vs Altoona (6:35 pm)
9/2 vs Altoona (6:35 pm)
9/3 vs Altoona (7:05 pm)
9/4 vs Altoona (7:05 pm)
9/5 vs Altoona (6:05 pm)
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