A look ahead at Game 2 tonight in Bowie

BOWIE - It is not a must-win like their game Sunday, when the season would have been over with a loss, but it’s a pretty vital game for the Bowie Baysox tonight.

They host Akron in Game 2 of the Double-A Northeast Championship Series. After losing here 5-1 last night, they would be in an 0-2 series hole with a loss tonight, and heading to Akron for the rest of the series. Game 3 is set for Friday night at 6:05 p.m.

Westburg-and-Handerson-at-Aberdeen-Sidebar.jpgThe Baysox, who tied with Akron for the most runs scored in the league in the regular season, were held to one hit last night, and it came on their first at-bat of the night. Shortstop Jordan Westburg, who hit .393 (11-for-28) in seven games last week, hit a solo homer to right-center leading off the last of the first inning. That gave Bowie a 1-0 lead, but the Baysox did not record another hit the rest of the night.

Bowie went 1-for-23 versus Akron right-hander Peyton Battenfield, a Cleveland trade acquisition from Tampa Bay in July. Battenfield, Cleveland’s No. 17 prospect, went seven innings with no walks and 10 strikeouts. Bowie was retired in order six times on the night.

Westburg said this afternoon that the mood in the clubhouse today remains upbeat after Tuesday’s loss. He said last night’s homer was the latest example that he is feeling good at the plate right now.

“I’ve been doing a lot of damage in the middle of the field, that is where I try to live. Last night felt good, I got a pitch I could drive and it was cool to start the game like that. It was cool to see the dugout fired up and bring that energy. Obviously it didn’t go the way we wanted to but tonight’s a new night and hopefully we bring the same energy today. And it’s a totally different story tonight,” he said.

Gunnar Henderson said the Baysox remain unbeat after Game 1.

“We just stay the same. I mean, you’re going to have days like that. It’s baseball. But we stil have the same mindset, go out and do our thing and know we can hit,” added Henderson.

So the Baysox could badly use a win to get even tonight, and they will send ace right-hander Grayson Rodriguez (6-1, 2.60 ERA) to the mound. He is baseball’s No. 1-rated pitching prospect, and is the No. 7 overall prospect in the Baseball America top 100 and No. 8 via MLBPipeline.com.

Rodriguez has an ERA of just 0.69 in three September starts. In 13 innings he allowed five hits and one run with three walks to 17 strikeouts. Rodriguez faced Akron in back-to-back starts June 15 and 20. Over 9 2/3 innings he allowed six hits and four runs, including two homers, so Akron did better against him than did most of the league this season. He posted a 3.72 ERA in those two games.

Right-hander Xzavion Curry will get the start for Akron. He has gone 8-1 with a 2.30 ERA in 19 starts this year at three levels, beginning at low Single-A and advancing to Double-A for his first Akron start last week. He allowed two runs on solo homers over 4 2/3 innings last Thursday versus Somerset.

Curry, a seventh-round pick in 2019 from Georgia Tech, is rated as Cleveland’s No. 30 prospect by MLBPipeline.com. The scouting report states his fastball is in the low 90s, touching 96, and that his slider is his best secondary.

Before Tuesday’s series opener, Bowie manager Buck Britton was asked to assess the talent level of his club, which finished 73-47 in the regular season, went 4-8 versus Akron and won 12 of its last 14 to make the postseason.

“The talent is there,” said Britton. “And we’re very dynamic, we can run. That’s one of the things we take pride in, how we run the bases. Being aggressive, going first to third. Anticipating dirt-ball reads and trying to pick up 90 feet when we can. And then what we do offensively. We walk so much. I’m so proud of these guys for buying in. Swing decisions are huge here. I think we had 500 walks and four teams had that and were over 400 in our league. That is eight teams that had less than 400 walks and we had 500. That is a big deal for us.”

The Baysox drew just one walk last night, by Cadyn Grenier in the eighth inning. Westburg’s homer in the first was his fifth in 31 games with the Baysox. Westburg has played at three levels this year, starting at low Single-A Delmarva and moving to high Single-A Aberdeen before playing his first game with Bowie on Aug. 17. He has impressed his manager very much.

“You start with the human being first,” said Britton. “I don’t know where the Orioles are finding these kids, because it’s hard to have this much talent and also be good human beings and such good teammates. Westy is kind of a throwback. He’s a really good baseball player. On offense he really pounds the ball to right-center. He goes oppo gap, which for a young hitter is very impressive. He’s starting to mature a bit too, and learn which pitches he can drive pull-side. But his ability to hit the ball to right-center is going to carry him, and this kid is going to play in the big leagues for a long time. He’s a super athlete and has done a nice job at shortstop. This guy will be there, I think, when the Orioles are winning games.”

According to the MLBPipeline.com team prospect rankings, there are 14 top 30 prospects in this series, with nine on Akron’s roster.

They are outfielder George Valera (No. 2), catcher Bo Naylor (No. 6), infielder Brayan Rocchio (No. 7), pitcher Logan Allen (No. 10), infielder Jose Tena (No. 12), catcher Bryan Lavastida (No. 13), Battenfield (No. 17), outfielder Will Brennan (No,. 29) and Curry (No. 30). For the Baysox, there is Rodriguez (No. 2), Gunnar Henderson (No. 4), Westburg (No. 6), Adam Hall (No. 15) and pitcher Drew Rom (No. 26).

After tonight’s game the best-of-five series shifts to Akron for Game 3 on Friday and, if necessary, Game 4 on Saturday and Game 5 on Sunday.

Tonight’s game is still very much on and the Baysox hope they can get it in and will try everything to do that.

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