After a horrendous start to the season, the RubberDucks have hit their stride.

At .500 for the first time all year after opening a seven-game homestand with only one win, the Ducks (23-23) entered Saturday’s game with the Richmond Flying Squirrels on a tear.

Winners of seven of their last nine games, the RubberDucks were riding hot arms and crushing the competition. It’s not just one pitcher either as the entire squad has a collective 2.73 earned run average and 192 strikeouts since May 7.

“For me, the name of the game is pitching,” Ducks manager Rouglas Odor said. “You have to have pitching to win ballgames. You have to be able to play solid defense to help teams win ballgames and that’s what we’ve done.”

That success is hard to ignore as RubberDucks starters have allowed two earned runs or less in each of their last 16 starts.

What’s more, Ducks relievers have allowed only one run in the last eight games and 30 1/3 innings dating back to May 15, including scoreless showings in the last five games.

“We’ve been working to get better every day,” reliever Argenis Angulo said. “That’s our No. 1 job. It’s a healthy competition we have. We expect everyone to do better, so it kind of rolls over. Everyone follows that example and is expected to go out there and do their job.”

From Aaron Civale, who is 3-0 in three starts since May 7, to Rob Kaminsky, who is 2-0 with a 2.25 ERA and eight strikeouts in four appearances, it’s that next-up mentality.

It’s everywhere, too, as starters Tanner Tully (1.96 ERA, 12 strikeouts), Sam Hentges (2.25, 15), Jake Paulson (3.24, 10) and Eli Morgan (1-0, 1.59, 20 strikeouts) have been solid.

Add Nick Sandlin (two saves, 0.00 ERA, 17 strikeouts), Kyle Nelson (1-0, 0.00, 13 strikeouts), David Speer (one save, 0.90, 10 strikeouts) and Angulo (1-1, one save, 13 strikeouts) and the numbers are incredible.

“We’re just taking it day by day and getting a win each day,” Hentges said. “Our starters have been doing great and our bullpen has been even better. We know we have guys below us in Lynchburg that are itching to get out and once they do guys like Eli and Civale have come ready to go and they’ve been pitching phenomenal. It’s nice to build momentum off them and keep it going.”

That’s been the biggest takeaway. Zach Plesac and James Karinchak have been promoted to Columbus. Sean Brady asked for his release and is pitching for Altoona.

The Indians just grab the next prospect, move him up and success follows.

“Every time something like that happens, it’s an opportunity for somebody else,” Kaminsky said. “You’d be foolish not to make the most of it. Sometimes, things don’t work your way, but you don’t want to be a baby about it. You put your head down and do your work and get people out. That’s our job at the end of the day.”

It's also a credit to the Indians, who do a great job of mixing their minor leaguers in February and March in anticipation of the season.

“We make sure we have a great atmosphere in the clubhouse,” Odor said. “The personality they have and the chemistry is huge. They know each other. That’s why spring training is such a big part of the game. They interact with each other, so when a player goes up and another one joins us, they already know the chemistry they have. It’s a credit to the ballclub and the players.”

 

Moving up

With Jefry Rodriguez already pitching for the Indians, the Yan Gomes trade keeps looking better. Ducks outfielder Daniel Johnson, who led the Eastern League with 33 RBI, has been promoted to Columbus and Mitch Longo (.294, home run, 12 RBI) has been activated from the disabled list to take his place.