AKRON, Ohio - Nellie Rodriguez homered on the first pitch in the bottom of the tenth inning off Matt Eckelman to lift the Akron RubberDucks to a 2-1 win and 2-0 series lead over the Altoona Curve on Thursday at Canal Park.
The Curve are now 0-3 in extra-inning playoff games in team history and have now lost 10 straight postseason games in Akron's Canal Park.
Cole Tucker put the Curve up early when he turned on a 3-2 pitch and lifted a lead-off homer over the eight-foot wall in right field. Tucker has scored all three runs of the postseason for the Curve after crossing home twice in a game one loss.
Eduardo Vera breezed through the first five innings on 46 pitches and did not allow a hit over that span. The lone blemish on his line to that point was a one-out walk that was eliminated on a double play to finish the first frame. He went on to retire 13 in a row until Jodd Carter hit a bloop single for Akron's first hit of the night.
Akron tied the game, 1-1, on a groundout by Sam Haggerty after Daniel Salters laced a single to right two pitches later that advanced Carter to third base. The 2-2 pitch was hit directly at first base where Will Craig fielded and stepped on the bag before he threw home, all in one motion. Craig's throw was on time and on target but Carter slid behind the tag and was called safe.
Akron's run in the sixth inning was the first run Vera had allowed since the second inning of his third-to-last start of the regular season, a stretch that lasted 25.2 innings.
Vera's night lasted eight innings with three strikeouts, one walk and held the 'Ducks to two hits.
While holding a 1-0 lead, the Curve offense stalled out against Jake Paulson and the RubberDucks bullpen. The Curve did not pick up a hit and had two baserunner, both reaching on walk, after Craig's fourth-inning single.
Paulson sat down 10 straight from the fourth through a two-out walk to Logan Hill in the seventh and finished with seven one-run innings prior to scoreless relief from Argenis Angulo, David Speer and Jordan Milbrath (Win, 1-0).
Altoona hit into double plays during the first, second and fourth innings. Ke'Bryan Hayes followed Tucker's blast with a single but was wiped out on a ground-ball double play off the bat of Bryan Reynolds . Jordan George bounced into an inning-ending twin killer to end the second and a fly out by Jin-De Jhang doubled off Craig after a lead-off single in the fourth.
Before he allowed the game-ending homer to Rodriguez, Eckelman (Loss, 0-1) worked a 1-2-3 ninth inning to send the ballgame to extra innings.
The series shifts to Altoona on Friday night for game three with a 6 p.m. first pitch. Right-hander James Marvel (3-1, 3.00) has been tabbed to start for the Curve opposite RubberDucks right-hander Zach Plesasc (3-1, 2.45). 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.