Image: Lindsay Cairico/MiLB

A combination of the usual trade deadline organizational shakeup and a few injuries at the higher levels have pushed some season-long Akron players up the ladder late in the year and a flurry of new talent is taking over. Many fresh faces find themselves on the Hot list to start their time in Akron. These new players will get to test their skills with an opportunity to play for a playoff spot in the AA Northeast League. Even following a 4-3 series loss this week against the Altoona Curve (45-37), the Akron RubberDucks (51-32) lead the league standings by 1.5 games over the Bowie Baysox (49-33). This week marked the first series loss for Akron since late June against Erie.

The promotion of Cody Morris opened a spot in the starting rotation up for LHP Konnor Pilkington, who was acquired from the Chicago White Sox in the Cesar Hernandez deal. Injuries to the likes of SS Tyler Freeman, SS Daniel Schneemann, OF Chris Roller, and RHP Kyle Marman opened the door for the likes of RHP Payton Battenfield, OF Will Brennan, and the returning C Angel Lopez and RHP Nick Mikolajchak.

Day-By-Day:

8/3: L 5-4 vs Altoona (F/12); W: Will Gardner (2-4) L: Thomas Ponticelli (4-3)

8/4: L 8-5 vs Altoona; W: Shea Murray (4-0) L: Skylar Arias (7-1)

8/5: L 3-1 vs Altoona; W: Steven Jennings (2-0) L: Nic Enright (2-2) S: Cristofer Melendez (6)

8/6: W 3-2 vs Altoona (F/7); W: Nick Mikolajchak (1-4) L: Will Gardner (2-5)

W 2-0 @ Altoona (F/7 – makeup from 7/11 played in Akron); W: Juan Hillman (9-2) L: Brad Case (2-2)

8/7: W 12-3 vs Altoona; W: Thomas Ponticelli (5-3) L: Shea Murray (4-1)

8/8: L 9-8 vs Altoona (F/10); W: Cam Alldred (4-0) L: Nic Enright (2-3)

Player of the Week:

LHP Juan Hillman: 1-0, CG, 7.0 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 6 Ks

Juan Hillman picked up his league-high ninth victory of the season in a complete game seven-inning shutout on Friday. Seven innings tied his season-high, but this is his first complete game of the year. In fact, it is the first complete game any Akron pitcher has hurled in 2021. Hillman surrendered two of his four hits in the first inning, but settled in to preserve the shutout and retired 13 in a row spanning from the 2nd inning to the 6th. The 24-year-old closed the game with a pair of K’s, showing he still had some left in the tank after seven strong innings.

Who’s Hot?

RHP Peyton Battenfield: 1 GS, ND, 6.0 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 6 Ks, 0.50 WHIP

Battenfield picked up right where he left off from the Montgomery Biscuits when he went six innings in Akron and had himself in line for the victory. An explosive 10-run bottom of the 8th would result in an Akron victory on Saturday, but the attention ought to be placed on the newcomer to the ‘Ducks rotation. In his time in Advanced-A (Bowling Green Hot Rods) and on two AA teams, Battenfield has a 5-0 record with a 2.09 ERA, .169 BAA, and 0.78 WHIP. The Oklahoma State alum retired the first seven Curve hitters and allowed just one hard hit ball that dropped in the game for a double in the fifth and contributed to the lone run scored against him.

LHP Konnor Pilkington: 1 GS, ND, 5.0 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 9 Ks

Pilkington struck out a season-high nine batters in his Akron debut and made a statement that he is a force to be reckon with in the future Guardians organization. The southpaw retired seven of the last 10 hitters he faced with punchouts and started his outing with two more K’s. Pilkington was a steady hand in Birmingham with 14 prior starts this year, and ‘Ducks fans should expect more of the same from the new arm the rest of 2021.

LHP Logan Allen: 1 GS, ND, 6.0 IP, 2 H, 2 ER, 3 BBs, 6 Ks, .105 BAA

Allen recorded his longest outing of the season and allowed just two hits, resulting in the lowest batting average against for the staff this week. The lefty did enough on the rubber to keep the game tied going into the seventh on Friday and a walk-off double from Jose Fermin got the RubberDucks the 3-2 win. The two runs scored in unconventional manners: on a wild pitch in the first and double steal of second and home in the third. Aside from allowing three to reach without putting the ball in play, Allen has been consistent of late.

OF Steven Kwan: 10-23 (.435), 9 R, 1 2Bs, 2 HRs, 3 RBIs, 2 BBs, 1.239 OPS

Most people “Hit the Quan” but Kwan gets the hits. He led the team with 10 this week and hit two homeruns, with three of his five round-trippers in 2021 coming against the Altoona squad. He ended the week with three consecutive multi-hit games – the first time that has happened for him this season. He scored five times in the last three games as well. Kwan reached base four times on Sunday with three base hits and a walk. He has a .407 on-base percentage in 34 games, one of the highest OBPs in Akron this season.

C Bryan Lavastida: 9-25 (.360), 4 R, 4 2Bs, 3 RBIs, 2 BBs, 1-1 SB, .913 OPS

Since being called up and making his first Akron start on July 31, Lavastida is batting .412 with an OPS at 1.065. In seven games against Altoona, Lavastida had a hit in six games and a three-hit series finale on Sunday as well. Lavastida knocked two doubles, drove in a run and scored twice in 9-8 loss. All four doubles for the 2018 15th round pick came in the last four games, showing he can find the power alleys at Canal Park.

Who’s Not?

RHP Manuel Alvarez: 2 G, 1.1 IP, 7 H, 7 ER, 2 BBs, 0 K

Alvarez surrendered the lead after a three-run seventh inning on Wednesday on four hits and a walk. His second outing of the week was even shorter, just one out recorded but four runs given up. His ERA this season has ballooned to 7.08 and his WHIP is above two in 2021.

3B Marcos Gonzalez: 3-19 (.158), 2 R, 1 2B, 2 BB, 8 Ks

Gonzalez unfortunately cooled off this week after being on the Hot list in late July. The biggest issue for Gonzalez this week was the strikeout numbers. Eight K’s was tied for the most on the team in the Altoona series and he only had three hits to counter. With Tyler Freeman missing the rest of the season, Gonzalez will be someone that the RubberDucks count on for at-bats the rest of the way, he’s a player to keep your eye on to turn it back around with continued playing time.

Up Next:

8/10: @ Reading (6:45 pm)

8/11: @ Reading (7:05 pm)

8/12: @ Reading (7:05 pm)

8/13: @ Reading (7:05 pm)

8/14: @ Reading (6:45 pm)

8/15: @ Reading (5:15 pm)

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