AKRON, Ohio — The Portland Sea Dogs had just answered Akron’s first inning run with one of their own in the top of the third, seemingly grabbing some momentum.
But the host RubberDucks came right back with three runs in the bottom of the inning, opening up with four consecutive hits, off Sea Dogs starter Mickey Pena (2-2).
That set the tone for a 6-1 Sea Dogs’ loss in an early-season battle between the two division leaders in the Eastern League in front of a sellout crowd of 7,686 fans at Akron’s Canal Park.
Portland falls to 42-33, while Akron improves to 40-28.
“The one in the first, we could overcome that,” Portland Manager Billy McMillon said. “We score in the third and then give up three, that’s kind of like air out of our sails. We had something going and then we give up three, that’s tough. But the game was still close until we give up two more in the seventh, and I think that put the game out of reach.”
The Sea Dogs tied the game on back-to-back singles by Derrik Gibson and Deven Marrero, followed by a sacrifice fly to center by Blake Swihart. But Pena allowed a leadoff double to shortstop Francisco Lindor – the Cleveland Indians’ top minor league prospect – and followed that with singles to Tony Wolters, Joe Wendle and Bryan LaHair.
Wendle, who went 3 for 3, drove in two runs on his single, and Wendle scored on LaHair’s hit to make it a 4-1 lead. Pena settled down by coaxing a double play groundout and a strikeout to Ronny Rodriguez, but the damage was done.
“We knew Pena throws strikes, but we didn’t change a thing,” Akron Manager David Wallace said.
“We tell our hitters, if that first pitch is in your zone, go for it. If you like it, go for it. If not, take it and work the count. He put some balls in our zone and our guys took advantage of it (in the third) and put some good swings on it.”
Pena, who gave up 11 hits and was charged with all six runs (all earned), left in the seventh after allowing a leadoff single to Jordan Smith, hitting No. 9 hitter Ollie Linton, striking out Lindor and walking Wolters on four pitches.
Reliever Wilfredo Boscan gave up a sacrifice fly to Wendle and an RBI single to LaHair, who went 3 for 4 with two RBI, to make it 6-1.
“He just left a lot of balls over the middle of the plate,” McMillon said. “Their team’s in first place, so I’d imagine they could hit some balls over the middle of the plate. There were some adjustments in some innings, but the innings where they scored crooked numbers, it was because they put some balls over the middle of the plate.
“That’s part of his development. He’s got to do a better job of not putting balls over the middle of the plate.”
Wallace was looking forward to this midseason test.
“I was glad that Portland was coming in because a lot of their lineup was the same that was in Salem in the Carolina League last year, which was the same thing with our lineup being the same as it was in Carolina,” Wallace said.
“They know us well. We know them well. We know they’re a good team that’s well managed by Billy. We had some good battles last year, and I knew our guys would step up.
“I expect two more fun games over the next two days. (Henry) Owens is the real deal, so we’ll have a tough task ahead of us.”