Coming into the minor league season, the Akron RubberDucks seemed like the most obvious team to keep an eye on as a Cleveland Indians fan. As far as prospects are concerned, this is still the case -- at least four batters and a handful of pitchers on the team could find their way the majors in the next couple seasons. However, as far as watching good baseball goes, you will have to look at the High-A Lynchburg Hillcats.
The Hillcats won again yesterday, and they sport the best win/loss record in the entire Indians organization. That is in no small part because of their excellent pitching staff and an offense that can explode at a moment's notice as they did in a huge 10-run fifth inning last night.
Columbus Clippers 7, Charlotte Knights 6
Box Score · Clippers improve to 12-7
The Charlotte Knights attempted to avoid their second-straight loss to the Columbus Clippers with a late rally, but Columbus was able to secure the win walk-off fashion. This was the Clippers' seventh straight win, and it ensures that they will win their third-straight series.
Clippers batters scored four runs over the first five innings, including a two-run fifth that included doubles from Giovanny Urshela and Anthony Recker. The rumbling offense was not stopped until Charlotte made a pitching change, but by that time the Clippers had taken a 4-2 lead. They would add another two runs in the seventh when Anthony Recker hit again -- this time a home run to right center that scored Joey Butler.
When Columbus brought in pitcher Jeff Johnson in the eighth inning they were up 6-2. By the end of the inning, the game was tied at six. Johnson issued three walks to load the bases before giving up a grand slam (Not a #PapaSlam. Never a #PapaSlam) to Charlotte's Daniel Fields. Johnson was then mercifully replaced by Shawn Armstrong, who closed out the frame.
Jesus Aguilar led off the ninth inning with a double, then was replaced by pinch-runner Ronny Rodriguez. After Joey Butler's single move Rodriguez to third, Giovanny Urshela got him home with a sacrifice fly to win the game.
Anthony Recker was the standout offensive player of the game, going 3-for-4 with that seventh-inning home run (his first of the season), as well as two doubles. Urshela had a great night himself, going 2-for-3 with a double and that game-winning sac fly.
Columbus starting pitcher TJ House did a good job making his case to be the Indians' next fifth starter, going five innings and allowing two earned runs on seven hits. Other than Jeff Johnson's disastrous eighth, the bullpen held firm through 3.1 innings. The pitching staff as a whole held the Charlotte Knights, who lead the International League in home runs with 18, to just one longball on the night.
Akron RubberDucks 2, Reading Fightin' Phils 11
Box Score · Rubberducks fall to 12-8
Watching the Akron RubberDucks purely to see future Cleveland Indians players is great -- there are plenty of them there. But watching Akron as a team to root for is a frustrating experience. The talent-laden team dropped another game to the Reading Fightin' Phils yesterday, their fifth loss in the last seven games.
The first four Reading batters made it on base... without even recording a hit. In fact, not a single ball was put n play. Akron starting pitcher Dace Kime walked the first three batters he faced then hit the next two, scoring two runs in total. Kime was replaced by Justin Brantley before even recording a single out. Only three of Kime's 20 pitches found the strike zone. I have not heard yet if there some kind of injury or if it was just an awful night, but either way something is off with Kime.
Kime has allowed at least two earned runs in every one of his starts this season, and this is not the first time he failed to get out of the first inning. He did the same thing back on April 17 when he walked five in the first against the Bowie Baysox.
As you might expect, the RubberDucks bullpen was not able to keep the opposing offense scoreless over the remaining nine innings they needed to cover. Brantley did a fine job, striking out two and walking two in 2.2 innings of work, but Antonio Romero and Grant Sides allowed three runs apiece. Reliever J.P. Feyereisen was also great in his 1.1 innings, striking out two and walking one.
The RubberDucks offense did manage eight total hits, but they stranded six on base and were 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position on the night. Their two runs came from a fielder's choice in the second inning and a solo home run from third baseman Yandy Diaz in the fourth.
Clint Frazier, batting second tonight, tallied another hit to extend his streak to six games. However, he has not taken a single walk or recorded a multi-hit game in that span. Todd Hankins, Nellie Rodriguez, and Bryson Myles added two hits apiece on the night; both of Myles' hits were doubles.
Lynchburg Hillcats 12, Winston-Salem Dash 6
Box Score · Hillcats advance to 16-4
Almost the complete opposite of the RubberDucks are the Lynchburg Hillcats, who only have a couple players who could find themselves in the majors, but they are a fantastic team to watch. With their win last night (their 12th in the last 13 games), they lead the entire Carolina League with a 16-4 record, including a 9-0 record on the road.
Yesterday's win was spurred on by a huge, 10-run fifth inning. The final tally for that frame alone looks like the full box score for most teams on a good day. All told, the Hillcats finished with three walks, three singles, two doubles, and a pair of home runs from Bobby Bradley and Ivan Castillo on their way to 10 runs. Bradley also contributed two doubles in the game, while striking out twice.
Leadoff batter Greg Allen added three hits of his own, going 3-for-6 with a double and two runs batted in.
Lynchburg starting pitcher Sean Brady lasted six innings and was given a win, but he allowed five earned runs on nine hits while striking out just three. Three of those five runs came in the fourth inning when Brady gave up a home run with two men on base.
Lake County Captains 2, Burlington Bees 4
Box Score · Captains fall to 13-7
The Lake County Captains fell to the Burlington Bees thanks to a late comeback in the final two innings. After a rough first inning, Lake County starting pitcher was able to hold the Bees scoreless over five frames. However, the Captains offense could not overcome the two first-inning runs, as well as the late runs.
Lake County was just 2-for-16 with runners in scoring position and they stranded nine runners. Nathan Lukes and Willi Castro, batting in the first two spots in the lineup, were a combined 4-for-9, but the rest of the lineup mustered just four hits altogether.
With the series tied at one game apiece, the Captains will go for the win today.