AKRON, Ohio - The Akron RubberDucks defeated the Altoona Curve, 5-2, in the first game of the Eastern League Division Series with superior pitching and a go-ahead, two-run homer in the third inning by former American League MVP Josh Donaldson on Wednesday at Canal Park.
The Curve brought the tying run to the plate in the ninth inning after a pair of two-out walks by Rob Kaminsky, but Jordan Milbrath (Save, 1) nailed down the final out with two pitched to preserve the win for the RubberDucks.
Kyle Dowdy (Win, 1-0) held the Curve to two runs over 6.2 innings and struck out six with two walks and four hits allowed.
After Dowdy was replaced by R.C. Orlan with two outs in the seventh, Altoona loaded the bases on two walks and an infield hit but stranded the bases full.
Altoona's offense was a stagnant 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position as Akron's bullpen kept five Curve baserunners from scoring over the final three innings.
A pair of aggressive plays on the bases by Cole Tucker helped the Curve score the first run of the game. After a lead-off walk, Tucker went first to third on a single to right by Ke'Bryan Hayes and scored on a sacrifice fly to shallow left off the bat of Bryan Reynolds .
Akron took the lead for good with a three-run third inning. Ernie Clement singled in Jodd Carter, who started the inning with a double, to tie the contest before Donaldson's go-ahead, two-run homer to center. Acquired by the Cleveland Indians via a trade with the Toronto Blue Jays on August 31, Donaldson is with the RubberDucks on a Major League rehab assignment with a left calf injury.
The RubberDucks plated an unearned run in the fifth after a pair of walks by Cam Vieaux (Loss, 0-1) with two outs. The Curve lefty recorded two outs on fly balls to center and walked the next two hitters. Immediately after a mound visit, Hayes, who led all minor league third baseman with a .978 fielding percentage, booted a ground ball off the bat of Li-Jen Chu that allowed a run to score. Vieaux ended the inning with a fly out on the next pitch.
Vieaux completed five innings and struck out three batters with three total walks in the game.
The Curve got that run back and pulled within two in the sixth when Tucker started the inning with a triple and scored on a groundout by Hayes.
The 'Ducks added on to their lead with small ball in the seventh. Clement hit a lead-off single off Blake Weiman and was bunted over by Sam Haggerty, who replaced Donaldson in the seventh. Clement moved over to third on a groundout and scored on a broken-bat single to center by Nellie Rodriguez to grow Akron's lead back up to 5-2.
Wednesday's defeat in Akron drops the Altoona franchise to 1-10 at Canal Park all-time during the Eastern League playoffs. Altoona's lone postseason victory in Akron to date occurred in game two of the 2003 ELDS with a 4-3 win, which was the Curve's second playoff game in franchise history.
The Curve and RubberDucks play game two of the Eastern League Division Series on Thursday with first pitch at Canal Park set for 6:35 p.m. Right-hander Eduardo Vera (8-3, 3.62) will take the mound for Altoona against right-hander Cody Anderson on a Major League rehab assignment from the Cleveland Indians.
The series shifts to Peoples Natural Gas Field beginning with game three on Friday. For tickets or more information, visit AltoonaCurve.com, call 877.99.CURVE or stop by the PNG Field box office.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.