RubberDucks fall to Sea Dogs at home, 5-1
Tyler Naquin extended his hitting streak to 16 games with a single in the sixth.
AKRON, OH. — In front of the second consecutive sold out crowd of 8,107 fans at Canal Park on Military Appreciation Night, Portland’s Henry Owens bested the RubberDucks’ Duke von Schamann in a pitchers' duel, leading his Sea Dogs to a 5-1 road victory.
Owens (8-3, 2.16), ranked 30th in MLB.com’s 2014 pre-season prospect ratings, was brilliant in his start. The Red Sox farm product earned the win and pitched six and two-thirds of an inning, yielding just one run on six hits. The lefty struck out seven batters and walked only one hitter.
“Everything was working later in the game, I got into a nice rhythm. I got a week off and I didn’t throw because I got skipped so it felt good to get back out there. We played some good defense and ended running away with the game late” said Owens.
Portland’s skipper Billy McMillon attributed his pitcher’s good start to getting ahead of hitters, “He had command of his fastball, curveball and changeup and he kept those hitters off-balance.”
“Every time it started getting away from him, he got right back in the zone,” manager David Wallace said. “The at-bat where he struck LaHair out, just from the side view watching the bottom fall out of those pitches was impressive.”
Overshadowed by Owens’ performance, Duke von Schamann (3-1, 3.09) also turned in a good starting effort for the RubberDucks, despite losing his first game of the year. The right-hander pitched six innings, allowed two earned runs on five hits, struck out four, and walked one.
Owens endorsed Akron’s starter, “He threw really well, kind of got ahead of batters and threw a lot of strikes. It was a fun pitch duel.”
Wally also said von Schamann did a good job keeping the ball down and did his job well.
Portland was the first to score a run when catcher Blake Swihart hit a 2-out RBI single to left field that scored Derrik Gibson, giving the Sea Dogs a one-run advantage. Swihart delivered again when he led off the top of the sixth with a homer to right field on a first pitch fastball, extending Portland’s lead to 2-0.
The RubberDucks started the bottom of the sixth inning off with a Tyler Naquin chopper up the middle, which extended his hitting streak to 16 games. Francisco Lindor followed with a hit in the gap between third base and shortstop that was beautifully stabbed by Sea Dogs shortstop Deven Marrero, who threw Naquin out at second.
“We saw Marrero last year, I’m impressed with him, the kid’s a good baseball player” Wallace said.
Lindor moved up to fourth place in the Eastern League in stolen bases (19 total) when he took second base the following play. Joe Wendle eventually brought him in on a two-out RBI single up the middle, which finally got Akron on the board against Owens and cut Portland’s lead to 2-1 at the end of the sixth.
The Sea Dogs responded in the top of the seventh when Akron reliever Tyler Sturdevant threw two wild pitches after giving up a leadoff double to Keury De La Cruz, leading to the left fielder coming home and extending the visiting team’s lead to 3-1.
Sturdevant threw one inning, gave up one earned run, a hit, walked one and struck out one. Bryan Price replaced him in the eighth and fanned two Sea Dogs in a 1-2-3 scoreless inning of relief.
The Sea Dogs added on insurance in the top of the ninth when Adam Miller gave up a two-run single to Jonathan Roof, putting Portland up 5-1. Miller has now given up at least one earned run in five straight relief appearances. Akron's skipper commented on the right-hander's struggles, “I don’t think he’s throwing his slider the way he wants to right now, just not getting the bite on it that he’s had before.”
Despite the issues, Wally said that he’s not going to give up on his reliever, “We’re going to work through it, he’s going to keep throwing, and once he gets it he’s going to get back to being him again.”
When I asked McMillon about how important this series is, he believes that it has been overblown out of proportion, “It’s June. We haven’t even reached the halfway point. No one’s thinking about records on our side. We’ve still got 75 games to go so this isn’t going to make any kind of determination on any post-season play.”
The Sea Dogs manager believes this season that both his team and the RubberDucks will have a lot of turnover on their rosters, “Other guys moving up presents other opportunities for other guys to show what they can do.”
Wallace said he’s not surprised that his RubberDucks and Portland are the top two teams in the Eastern League, “Both teams have good pitching, good defense, and two great shortstops that both made awesome plays tonight.”
The RubberDucks (40-29) will try to win the rubber match with the Sea Dogs (43-23) tomorrow on Fathers Day. RHP Cody Anderson (2-4, 4.86) will take on Portland LHP Brian Johnson (4-1, 1.96). First pitch is scheduled for 2:05 p.m.
Spencer Davies is a student at the University of Akron studying Sports Management with a minor concentrating in Mass Communication. He has interned for the Cleveland Indians minor league affiliate Akron RubberDucks, IMG College, and has shadowed Fox Sports Ohio's Sam Amico. He is currently an on-air sports personality at WZIP-FM and works for the Akron Beacon Journal. Follow Spencer on Twitter @SpinDavies.