Ronny Rodriguez perfect at the plate in RubberDucks' 6-4 win
AKRON, Ohio – Fans lined the wall next to the visitors clubhouse, their Nationals uniforms and memorabilia in hand. A bit of a foreign site in Northeast Ohio, where the Indians reign supreme, but when a player as special as Bryce Harper makes an appearance at Canal Park, fans of the 20-year-old appear out of the woodwork.
Harper continued his rehab tour of the Washington Nationals minor league system with the Harrisburg on Thursday night, but would not earn a victory in his Senators debut, as the RubberDucks defeated the Senators by a finals score of 6-4.
“We weren’t at any time trying to pitch around him. We wanted to go after him,” RubberDucks manager David Wallace said of the bearded baseball prodigy. “He’s fun to watch.”
While Harper’s mere presence stole the show on the evening, both teams were heavily engaged in a back-and-forth affair, beginning in the third inning.
Harrisburg took a 3-0 lead into the top of the third inning, looking to take control of the contest very early on, but the RubberDucks immediately responded with a huge scoring opportunity.
A single from Ronny Rodriguez single sandwiched between walks to Jake Lowery and Jordan Smith loaded the bases for the home team without an out, bringing up Tyler Naquin and Joey Wendle, each of whom hit sacrifice flies to center field to cut the Harrisburg lead to just 3-2.
With two on and two out, Bryan LaHair stepped to the plate and pulled a single through the hole between first and second, evening up the ballgame.
The Senators regained the lead two innings later in the top of the sixth, as Harrisburg catcher Brian Jerolomanlaced an RBI-single to center, but once again, the RubberDucks offense was ready for a rally.
For the second time on the evening- this time in the bottom of the seventh- the RubberDucks loaded the bases without an out and Tony Wolters made the most of the opportunity with a go-ahead, two-RBI single to left-center.
The combination of shut-out innings from Geovany Soto and Shawn Armstrong from the bullpen and a Jordan Smith RBI single in the bottom of the eighth all but sealed the game for the home team, as the RubberDucks secured their 46th victory of the season.
Overall, on the evening, the bottom three RubberDucks hitters- Jake Lowery, Jordan Smith and Ronny Rodriguez- were ultimately responsible for the victory, as the trio combined for seven hits, two walks and all six of the RubberDucks runs on the evening.
“Dang,” Wallace exclaimed, upon hearing the aforementioned statistics. “From day one we’ve felt we’ve gotten production from the top spot and the nine spot. That’s one of the reasons we’re having a good year.”
Two of those hitters, Rodriguez and Smith, have had their struggles on the year, but Wallace said their recent play is an attribution to their tireless work throughout the season.
“If every time you made an adjustment and it happened the next day, we wouldn’t need the Minor Leagues,” Wallace said of the progress of those two hitters. “This stuff takes time, some guys adjust quicker than others. How ever much time it takes, is what will do.”
Rodriguez’ thought process were in sync with his manager’s, as he too thinks his recent success is just the result of all of his work finally coming together.
“I don’t think too much. I just try to come to the field and do the routine and do my stuff,” Rodriguez said. “When you put in your effort, you see the progress. Now, I’m seeing the progress.”
The RubberDucks are scheduled to continue their four-game series with the Senators tomorrow night from Canal Park. First pitch is set for 7:05 p.m.