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'Ducks Report: Mike Papi leads Akron's offense in twin bill

Sunday’s doubleheader against Altoona Curve was rather unmemorable for the Akron RubberDucks after they suffered losses in both games, but right fielder Mike Papi managed to stand out above the rest by earning the team some much-needed runs thanks to his aggressive performance at the plate. IBI’s Daniel Sherriff recaps Papi’s outing and more from Sunday’s contest in the latest ‘Ducks Report.

(Game 1) Akron - 4, Altoona - 6 

(Game 2) Akron - 1, Altoona - 4 

Papi Offense Solid in Sunday’s Double Loss

It was a Sunday to forget for the Akron RubberDucks. The ‘Ducks found little success at the plate against Altoona Curve pitching and ended up dropping both games of a doubleheader to the Curve. The first game was lost by a final score of 6-4 and fell in the second game 4-1.

A strong performer in both games was right fielder Mike Papi. The Akron outfielder has been able to put together a nice hot streak of hitting as he is doing what he does best which is spraying the ball to all parts of the field. Papi ended up going 2-3 in the first game and had a clutch hit in the fifth inning when he sliced a soft fly ball down the left field line that Altoona left fielder Jordan Luplow just ended up missing and allowed Akron to take the 3-2 lead of Game 1.  

“He’s been a lot more aggressive this year overall,” noted Akron manager Mark Budzinski. “He’s been ready to hit from that first pitch on walking it into the box and letting it fly.” 

Papi was called upon unexpectedly in Game 2 when center fielder Greg Allen had to leave after the first inning after suffering a right wrist sprain during his at-bat. Papi went 1-3 with another hit and picked up another RBI as he was able to beat out a double-play ball and allow Akron to score its only run of the second game.

Brown’s Strongest Performance of the Year 

Another strong contender on the day was right-hander Mitch Brown. The RubberDucks reliever had arguably one of his strongest outings of the year when he came into relieve in the second game of the twin bill. His biggest challenge has always been having consistent command of his pitches which is something he was able to have in his latest outing. He fired two shutout innings while fanning two batters and allowing only one hit while issuing no free passes.

“[He] really just trusted his fastball and being aggressive,” Budzinski praised. “He threw a lot of fastballs today in fastball counts. He’s got good movement on it and he did a great job today throwing his fastballs for strikes.”

Brown has always had the arsenal to be an effective pitcher but has always had trouble putting it all together to have a consistent run. The RubberDucks are hopeful he will be able to build off a strong finish from the 2016 season where he ended up getting shifted to the bullpen in the middle of the season and was able to find much more success and consistency.

Stamets Breaks Out

Since coming back to Akron after beginning the year at Triple-A Columbus, it has been quite a challenge for shortstop Eric Stamets. He appears to be mired in a season-long slump, but showed some signs of life today in the double-header.

He went 1-3 in the first game as he picked up a hit in the 7th inning and jumpstarted a rally to have Akron put a few runs on the board before the Curve could successfully slam the door. He then went 2-3 in the second game as he picked up a stand-up triple by shooting the ball the other way and had it go off the wall in right field then slapped a double down the left field line in the last inning to give the RubberDucks some life.

Merryweather’s Pitching Slump 

Julian Merryweather struggled in the outing on Sunday afternoon. His velocity was consistent and he was able to throw his breaking stuff, but had trouble throwing it across the plate for strikes. He didn’t seem to have his best stuff and had a high pitch count in the early going. 

“I would definitely say today was more of a grind getting through the game,” admitted the right-hander. “I think the adjustments I could’ve made could’ve been better. The ones I was trying to make were probably not as effective as I wanted them to be.”

He was able to fight through it but came up a little short as he was one strike away from having five strong innings of work, but he ended up going only 4.2 innings while giving up six hits, three earned runs, two walks and three strikeouts.

Merryweather pitching log:

2nd Inning:  92, 93, 94, 76, 93, 92, 94, 94, 84, 94, 95, 93, 77, 76, 94, 76, 75, 93, 77, 93, 92, 77

Baker Shows Promise 

Coming off of Tommy John surgery, the right-hander Dylan Baker is a pitcher to keep an eye on.  He entered the game in the 7th inning of Game 1 and showed promising signs. He came out of the gates firing on all cylinders as he consistently had his fastball reached the upper 90s and was able to compliment his heater with a breaking ball that could drop all the way to 80 MPH.  

He is still just getting back into true form as he continues to recover from Tommy John surgery but his velocity remains blazing as usual which is an excellent sign to see.

Dylan Baker pitching log:

7th Inning: 95, 97, 95, 96, 95, 96, 97, 95, 80, 79, 86, 85, 96, 96

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