Richmond Flying Squirrels close out first half with 2-1 win
The Richmond Flying Squirrels (43-44) won their second-consecutive game to close out this five-game series, besting the division-leading Akron Rubberducks (51-38) before 4,662 fans at The Diamond. Chase Johnson led the way on the mound, followed by strong performances from Shaun Anderson and Sam Wolff in relief, and Aramis Garcia played hero at the plate, going 1-for-3 with a HR (8) and 2 RBI’s (27), as the Squirrels won it, 2-1.
Johnson made his tenth start of the year for Richmond, and this was one of his best. Coming back from Tommy John surgery, which has limited his innings, Johnson had his longest outing of the season, with a season-high 68 pitches and five innings. He was superb, surrendering just two hits and one run while striking out four without issuing a walk to the highest scoring team in the Eastern League.
Opposite Chase Johnson was Triston McKenzie, a 20-year-old right-hander, regarded as one of the best prospects in the Cleveland Indians organization. McKenzie matched Johnson in nearly every way, throwing six innings of two-hit work, striking out six and walking just two.
The Squirrels took the lead first, getting to McKenzie on a solo home run by Aramis Garcia in the bottom of the fourth. Garcia, who made his third start at first base, clubbed his eighth long ball of the year on an 0-1 pitch. It was the Squirrels second hit of the afternoon.
Much like McKenzie, Chase Johnson was on cruise control through the early parts of the ballgame, until he allowed a solo home run. Bobby Bradley, the prized slugger for Akron, cranked his 17th home run of 2018, leading off the fifth inning. It was the first hit and the first base runner allowed by Johnson, breaking up a perfect start.
Johnson was followed in the Richmond pitching effort by Shaun Anderson. In his first appearance out of the bullpen this year, Anderson, who was pitching in advance of his appearance in the MLB Futures Game, was strong, per usual. Anderson went three innings, allowing just one hit while striking out a pair. Anderson (6-5) was the pitcher of record, getting the win.
Richmond took took the lead in the bottom of the eighth, with a two-out rally. The Squirrels loaded the bases against Akron reliever Argenis Angulo. With two gone, C.J. Hinojosa and Ryan Howard got aboard with back-to-back singles, and the Dylan Davis reached first by drawing a five-pitch walk. Garcia, who had already driven in the lone Richmond run, was hit by an errant pitch from Angulo, scoring Hinojosa from third, and giving the Squirrels a 2-1 lead.
Sam Wolff emerged from the Richmond bullpen, and was able to see it through, securing his first save of the year.
The Squirrels, along with the entire Eastern League, will be off for the next three days for the All-Star break. The Eastern League All-Star Game will take place at Arm & Hammer Park in Trenton, NJ, home of the Trenton Thunder, the Double-A affiliate of the New York Yankees, on Wednesday, July 11 at 7 p.m. Five Squirrels will take part in the game, with six selected — Shaun Anderson will not take part as he has been chosen to play in the MLB Futures Game. Shortstop Ryan Howard, Outfielder Luigi Rodriguez and pitchers Caleb Simpson, Dillon McNamara and Dan Slania will suit up for the Western Division All-Stars, with Rodriguez slated to take part in the Home Run Derby as well earlier in the week.
The Squirrels will remain in Trenton after the All-Star break, taking on the Thunder in a four-game series. Richmond will return home to The Diamond the following Monday, July 15th for an inter-divisional three-game series with the Erie SeaWolves. The series opener will feature Bark in the Park Night as well as a performance by the K9 Crew Trick Dog. Tuesday night, a Tip-of-the-Cap Tuesday, the first 1,000 fans 15-and-up will receive a green “FS” logo cap, in celebration of St. Patrick’s Day, presented by Mountain Dew. The series finale on Wednesday will be a Wine-Up Wednesday, with wine specials at The Diamond, as well as Camp Day and National Hot Dog Day. Tickets can be purchased online over the phone by calling 804-359-3866 (FUNN).