RubberDucks blow late lead, lose 4-3 to Thunder
The RubberDucks lead through seven innings, but the Thunder put up three runs in the bottom half of the eighth inning to secure a 4-3 victory.
TRENTON, NJ – With momentum on their side heading into a four-game set with the Trenton Thunder, the Akron RubberDucks were looking to stay hot and gain some ground in the Western Division of the Eastern League.
Following back-to-back nights in which the pitching staff blew leads, the momentum has officially faded and the RubberDucks have dropped the first two games of the series.
On Tuesday, Akron held a lead through seven innings, but the Thunder put up three runs in the bottom half of the eighth inning to secure a 4-3 victory.
In the fateful eighth inning, Trenton loaded the bases with two singles and a walk before first baseman Dan Fiorito hit a go-ahead, three RBI triple off of the right field wall that, ultimately, sealed the victory for the Thunder.
Armstrong entered the game with one out, and the bases loaded, was able to strike out Yeral Sanchez before giving up the bases-clearing triple. All three runs were credited to Valera, whose ERA jumped from 1.80 to 5.68 after the outing.
Akron starting pitcher Joseph Colon made his fourth appearance of 2014, and pitched well through six innings, giving up one run on seven hits and two walks. Colon has now allowed just two runs in two starts and 12 innings against Trenton, but has a loss and a no-decision to show for it.
The struggles of the RubberDucks offense, notably the team’s most highly-regarded prospects, continue to be the story early in the 2014 season. Akron is hitting just .239 as a team, which puts them in 10th out of 12 teams in the Eastern League.
The RubberDucks promising infielders have been particularly disappointing nearly three weeks into the season. Shortstop Francisco Lindor, who hit .303 in the minors in 2013, is hitting just .239, thus far, after going 1-for-3 on Tuesday. Second baseman Ronnie Rodriguez, another top-10 prospect within the organization, is off to a staggeringly slow start, batting just .135 with 10 strikeouts in 37 at-bats. And Joe Wendle, who slashed .295/.372/.513 in 2013, has put together a disappointing .188/.304/.280 line in 2014.
Center fielder Tyler Naquin showed signs of life on Tuesday, scorching his first two triples of the season, and raising his batting average to .219 in the process. Third baseman Giovanny Urshela continued his hot start, smacking his fourth home run and tallying his 13th RBI of the year. Urshela, signed as a non-drafted free agent in 2008, is now tied for the league lead in home runs and tied for fifth in RBIs.
All four of the Trenton runs came with two outs.
Starting on the hill for the Thunder, Bryan Mitchell lasted five innings surrendering just one run on four hits and one walk. The righty out of Rockingham County High School (SC), who is widely considered a top-15 prospect within the Yankees organization, has now thrown 11 innings against the RubberDucks in 2014, allowing just the one run.
Branden Pinder (1-0, 0.00) picked up the win in relief, throwing two perfect innings, while striking out two. On the day, the Trenton pitching staff struck out ten Akron batters, while walking just two.
With Tuesday’s loss, the RubberDucks fall to 9-9 on the year, while the victory brings the Trenton Thunder to 11-7.
On Wednesday, Akron will send Will Roberts to the mound. In three starts thus far, the 2011 fifth-round selection of the Indians sports a 3.50 ERA. Roberts’ problem so far has been allowing base hits, as opposing hitters are batting .320 against the lanky righty. Roberts has not faced Trenton in 2014.
For the Thunder, Zach Nuding will get the start, looking to build on the success he had in his previous start against Akron. In that outing, Nuding had his best start of the year, throwing seven scoreless innings of two-hit ball and earning his only victory of the 2014 campaign.
First pitch is slated for 7:05 PM ET at Arm & Hammer Park in Trenton, New Jersey.