Aeros bullpen comes up short in tough 4-2 loss
Akron strikes early, can't hold lead late
AKRON, OH -- A solid first half for the Akron Aeros was not enough to hold off the Erie SeaWolves, who prevailed 4-2 on Saturday night at Canal Park. Akron’s tough defense and strong hitting carried over from Friday night but was overshadowed by weak relief pitching late in the game.
The SeaWolves, who are second in the Eastern League in hitting, started out slow but smacked 10 crucial hits beginning in the fourth inning. After a 2-0 deficit early on, the SeaWolves rallied to take a 3-2 lead in the eighth inning and added one more in the ninth for the win.
The highlight for Erie was an RBI triple by third baseman Wade Gaynor in the fifth inning, which gave the SeaWolves’ offense momentum later in the game, which they never gave up.
Another play that helped the SeaWolves finish off Akron was a very close call at first base called in Erie’s favor.
With the bases loaded in the eighth inning Gaynor hit a single and was called safe at first by only a few inches, allowing Daniel Fields to score from third and take the lead. A discussion with the first base umpire initiated by manager Edwin Rodriguez proved to be unsuccessful.
“It was a judgment call," Rodriguez said. "The umpire is way closer than I am. I am fifty feet away from the bag and he is only ten feet. He saw the play as safe, so it was safe.”
There were several factors on the Aeros side as well that contributed to their defeat Saturday night and manager Edwin Rodriguez believed that no one factor or player was the reason for the loss.
“I think that’s part of the game," Rodriguez said. "We had a very good first half, but in the second half they [Erie] made adjustments. The pitching coach and catcher went out to talk to the pitcher, and we were not able to make adjustments.”
However, there were several bright spots for Akron, just not enough to constitute the victory.
“I just try to hit the ball,” Chen said, and he has now done so in eleven straight games.
Jesus Aguilar also got his 34th RBI of the season in the bottom of the third inning.
Blake Wood retired three straight batters in his one inning of duty as part of his second rehab assignment with the Aeros. He showed considerable improvement from his previous start, when he was pulled after giving up one run in two-thirds of an inning.
“The main thing with him is that he stays healthy," Rodriguez said. "He was throwing strikes, he was happy, he was having fun, and there was no concern about his arms. That’s what is important for him.”
Wood is hoping to return to the majors later in the year, continuing his recovery from Tommy John surgery.
Matt Packer replaced Wood in the second inning and pitched five decent innings, giving up one earned run and five hits. His ERA for the year now stands at 3.83. Packer himself was pleased with his pitching on Saturday night.
“I felt good today," Packer said. "I had my fastball working, I was low in the zone, and got a lot of early contact, and got a lot of ground balls.” Ten of the first 12 outs in the first four innings were on grounders.
He also mentioned that he has had time to improve between starts, even though he came into the game in relief in the second inning on Saturday.
“I’m working on a few different things," Packer said. "I thought my fastball was a lot better today, and I think that’s why I had more success."
“He (Packer) has been working with a pitching coach [Greg Hibbard]," Rodriguez said. "I think that he is going to get better and better.”
Despite Packer’s success on the mound, problems arose in the bullpen. Austin Adams gave up two runs and three hits in one inning pitched as Erie took the lead and kept it for the rest of the game.
Bryce Stowell also gave up one run in the ninth, which solidified the win for Erie, who is now 25-15 for the season.
The Aeros had several opportunities to extend their lead throughout the game, especially in the sixth inning. Akron loaded the bases with two outs, but was unable to bring in a single run. In total, Akron left 10 runners on base.
The Aeros are now 20-22 and trail the SeaWolves by six games for the lead in the Western Division. The series finale is Sunday afternoon as the Aeros look to win two out of three and take the series against the SeaWolves as their seven game homestand continues. The first pitch is set for 2:05 pm.