If you want proof that the Akron RubberDucks are absolutely stacked this season, take a look at Monday's game. The offense was not necessarily at its best yesterday, but a solid 6.2 innings of work from starting pitcher Adam Plutko followed by two tremendous bullpen showings were enough to keep the Binghamton Mets at just one run over the course of the game. Not to mention a spectacular defensive play that prevented more runs from scoring.
The Lynchburg Hillcats, who were lucky enough to have most of the now-RubberDucks last season, continue to be one of the hottest teams in the Tribe farm system even with newly-minted Play of the Week Mike Papi riding the bench for a day.
And Columbus, well. It did not go so well.
Columbus Clippers 0, Louisville Bats 1
Box Score · Clippers fall to 4-6
The Columbus Clippers' 0-1 loss to the Louisville Bats seems suspiciously similar to Cleveland Indians outings we have witnessed in recent years when Corey Kluber was at his best. Columbus pitcher Ryan Merritt was superb over his six innings of work; he allowed just two hits (1 ER) and struck out five opponents. But the Clippers offense could not manage a single run to help him.
Joey Butler and Erik Gonzalez both added two hits apiece, but no one else managed more than one hit if any. All told, Clippers batters recorded just six hits and two walks while striking out five times. Giovanny Urshela, who recently looked like he was finally getting on track offensively, was 0-for-4 with a strikeout.
Reliever Tommy Hunter continued his rehab as he works towards his debut with the Indians, working two innings and allowing just one hit with one strikeout.
Akron RubberDucks 4, Binghamton Mets 1
Box Score · RubberDucks advance to 8-3
The RubberDucks got back into the win column following a two-game losing streak thanks to a trio of outstanding pitching performances.
First and foremost, starting pitcher Adam Plutko had his longest outing of the season, going 6.2 innings and allowing just three hits while striking out four. After the one-inning, five-run disaster his last time out, seeing Plutko last so long and look so good was a welcome sight.
Behind Plutko, relievers J.P. Feyereisen and Ben Heller shut down the Mets offense in the final 2.1 innings. Both relievers have a bright future in Cleveland, and Heller touched 100 mph several times en route to his fourth save of the season. Feyereisen has yet to allow a run in 2016 in his 5.1 innings of work.
The Akron offense, led by third baseman Yandy Diaz's 2-for-3 night, tallied six hits and struck out five times. I only caught the last few innings of this game -- and only saw one Bradley Zimmer at-bat -- but the Indians top prospect looked lost. Two ugly swings on pitches outside of the zone and a called strike finished off his night.
Lonnie Chisenhall and Michael Brantley were a combined 1-for-7 in their rehab starts Monday night. Most interestingly, Lonnie started in center field, something he has never done in his major-league career. I would expect this is more out of necessity of a crowded Double-A roster than trying to see if Chisenhall can really handle center field, but who knows.
The highlight of Monday night (which, unfortunately, MiLB hasn't actually made into a video highlight) was a double play in the seventh inning. Shortstop Eric Stamets flipped a ball behind his back to second baseman Todd Hankins who barehanded it for the first out then threw an awkward bullet to first base that pulled Nellie Rodriguez off the bag. Rodriguez quickly recovered and tagged the runner out at first. A fun sequence all around that prevented the Mets from taking the lead in what was, at that point, a 1-0 game.
Lynchburg Hillcats 9, Potomac Patriots 6
Box Score · Hillcats advance to 9-6
After a rough series against the Potomac Patriots last week, the Lynchburg Hillcats kicked off this newest one with a big win that included their biggest offensive output of the season. All without Mike Papi, who I assume was at home getting some one-on-one time with his Play of the Week Award.
The rest of the Hillcats offense picked up the slack for Papi, especially second baseman Mark Mathias, who went 3-for-5 with two doubles. Mathias has been off to a slow start this season, but he is 5-for-18 in his last four games, so he looks to be turning it around.
Right fielder Greg Allen went 2-for-3 hitting from the leadoff spot, extending his hitting streak to four games.
Bobby Bradley continues to struggle to adjust to High-A pitching, going 0-for-4 and striking out in every single at-bat. He has now struck out 19 times in this season, the highest total in the Carolina League.
Hillcats starting pitcher Mitch Brown struggled with control all night long, but he managed to keep runs off the board until a fourth-inning collapse. Brown issued two straight walks then a bases-clearing Triple. Luckily, by that time the Hillcats had already piled on six runs so the game was still well in hand. Brown finished the night with six walks and just two strikeouts over four innings.
Despite losing top prospects Clint Frazier and Bradley Zimmer to Double-A, the Hillcats offense has not missed a beat. They currently lead the Carolina League in runs (68) and home runs (13).
Lake County Captains 3, West Michigan Whitecaps 9
Box Score · Captains fall to 8-4
The Lake County Captains got on the board first with an RBI double in the second inning, but they could not overcome the nine total runs of the West Michigan White Caps.
Nathan Lukes and Willi Castro, batting in the one and two slots, respectively, were a combined 4-for-9 with a double on Monday, but the rest of the Captains offense was flat. A total of seven batters were left on base, and they were 3-for-11 as a team with runners in scoring position.
Captains starting pitcher Casey Shane cruised through three innings before the first three Whitecaps got on base in the fourth inning. Two triples later, and Captains were quickly down 4-1. A five-run six inning was enough to finally sink Lake County, and their two-run eighth inning rally was not nearly enough.