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Akron Air Raid: Chen and Offense Heating Up

May 3, 2011
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(Photo Credit - Lianna Holub)
It was a week filled with double-headers for the Akron Aeros. The four game series with Bowie was played in twos, as the Aeros and Baysox played a pair of double headers due to the wet weather. Both ended in splits and after that, Akron hit the road for a seven game swing.

The weather in Binghamton was much nicer as the club got to play all three games at the normal time. They came away with a pair of offensive explosions, but got shutout on Saturday in between.

Next up the Aeros are in Altoona for the first four games before returning to Canal Park this weekend to face Trenton. Akron lost last night to Atloona, after coming back and taking the lead in the seventh, the Akron closer blew his first save.

Latest Landings: Bowie (2-2), Binghamton (2-1)
Future Itinerary: @ Atloona (4), Trenton (3), @ Erie (3), @ Bowie (4)
As it Stands: Akron is currently in second place in the Eastern League Western Division and 1.5 game back of first place.

Scheduled Rotation: Matt Packer (TUE), Kelvin De La Cruz (WED), Joe Gardner (THUR), Austin Adams (FRI), T.J. McFarland (SAT), Matt Packer (SUN)

On the Mound

In his shortest outing of the season, Kelvin De La Cruz walked the most hitters an Aeros pitcher has all year with six. He also struck out five, and while he only gave up one run, the amount of pitches he threw signaled an early end to his only out inf of the week.

Matt Packer threw the first complete game, albeit an abbreviated one, for the Aeros this season. Packer went the full seven innings, but took his third loss of the season after giving up three earned runs (four total) off seven hits and two walks. It was his longest outing of the year, but he continues to search for his first win. The one starter who did pick up a win against Bowie was T.J. McFarland who went five innings, giving up just one unearned run and striking out five.

Austin Adams has been tip-toeing around that line and perhaps he finally crossed over it on Sunday with his seven inning performance. It matches Barnes for the longest outing by an Aero this season and it ended in victory. Adams went seven, giving up just one run off three hits and three walks. But he struck out eight, signaling he may have put it all together. Adams won his first start, giving up just two hits and a walk, but since has struggling to find some consistency until Sunday's stellar outing against Binghamton.

Joe Gardner's third start was a forgettable one. He only gave up a run but in just 2.2 frames surrendered six hits and two walks. He also struck out a pair, so it was an early exit for Gardner, who is averaging just a start per week right now.

From the 'Pen

Your weekly Nick Hagadone update: The left-handed reliever leads the league in holds and picked up his first win over the past week. Against bowie he went three scoreless frames, striking out four and giving up just one hit to earn the win in the second game of the first double header. Hagadone walked his second hitter of the year against Binghamton, but pitched a scoreless frame. Hagadone also received the Indians new Minor League Player of the Week award for his performance the week before.

And your weekly Cory Burns update comes with the first blemish to the Akron closer. Burns finally looked human, blowing his first save and giving up a pair of runs off three hits and a walk in the ninth against Altoona on Monday. He was only able to record one out before Akron was sent back with a loss after battling back to take the lead.

Quite the 'relief' appearance for Paolo Espino against Binghamton. The reliever came in and provided some long work, going five innings and giving up three earned. The good news is that he struck out nine hitters and didn't walk anyone. He also pitched three innings against Bowie giving up a run ff seven hits and one walk.

Great to see Kyle Landis, 2007 draftee appear. Landis was added to the roster after spending some time in extended spring training to getting himself into game shape. Landis took the place of Bryan Price and over the weekend against Binghamton pitched two scoreless innings with three strikeouts. Landis spent 2009 and 2008 split between Lake County and Kinston. He did not pitch in an official minor league game last season and after pitching a scoreless inning for Lake County, made his Akron debut this past weekend.

CC Lee had been up and down throughout April, but may be setting his ways after two straight scoreless appearances. Lee's gem outing this season came against Binghamton on Friday, going three innings and striking out five with just one baserunner. Lee continued that by striking out five more in 2.2 innings yesterday against Altoona.

Swinging Sticks

If the Aeros are going to score runs this season, they're going to need more performances like the one they got from Chun Chen this week. Chen is the most legit hitting prospect this team has and the 20-run outburst this weekend showed that when he's hitting, the rest of the lineup can pull together. Chen hit four home runs in the span of four games and over the past two series was 8-for-21 with 6 RBI. His two home runs on Sunday was the first multi-home run game for a player this season. Chen followed it up with two more doubles and three runs batted in on Monday.

Juan Diaz is starting to come into his own in the middle of the lineup as well, perhaps feeding off the performance of Chen. Diaz was 3-for-14 against Binghamton with three runs scored. He hit a solo home run against Bowie, one of his six hits in that four game series. He's off to a great start against Altoona, with two more hits and three more RBI.

Kyle Bellows has only five hits over his past seven games, but he knocked in the same amount of runs. Bellows is making his hits count, even if they are sparingly. John Drennen has seen a dip in run production, but has recently picked it back up after Sunday's game.

Mr. Consistency Tim Fedroff quietly notches hits and produces. Fedroff doesn't go through many hitless streaks and over the week collected eight hits. He isn't a huge run producer, but finds ways to get on base and scrap together hits.

On the struggling side is Matt McBride, who has four hits in his last 23 at-bats with a pair of strikeouts. He hasn't produced many runs over the past week. Jordan Henry was struggling int he Bowie series, but has recently re-ignited his fire, going 9-18 over the past four games with four more stolen bases to up his total to nine.

Additional Notes

Eric Berger was promoted to Columbus to replace Jess Todd in the bullpen. Given that he is the only left-hander in the bullpen and Joe Martinez is in the rotation in place of Alex White, he could be there for a good period of time, especially if he pitches well. With Akron he went 1-0 with a 2.13 ERA in 12.2 innings pitched. Good luck to the Marvelous Mustache and hopefully, his promotion is permanent.

Replacing Berger on the roster is Marty Popham, who will presumably fill the role of Berger as spot-starter/bullpen arm, a role he was filling with Kinston with great success. Popham got the start on Monday due to the multiple double headers and doubling up of starters and things didn't go so well. Popham's first taste of Double-A action went south as he gave up seven runs off 10 hits.

Akron finished April 11-12. Matt McBride has played every game, all but two at first base. They've still yet to win more than two games in a row, but on the bright side, have not had a losing streak longer than three.
 The offense finally started to hit and after not scoring more than six runs, had two 10-run performances over the weekend. However their inconsistencies are still there, as they got shutout in between those two games.

Sunday's game against Binghamton set a high for hits in a game this season with 16. The team has not hit more than two home runs in a game this season, but Chun Chen's mutli-home run game on Sunday is a sign of good things to come.

Out for Repair

Bryan Price was placed on the disabled list with some inflammation in his right shoulder. Price is eligible to be activated this weekend, but it will likely take more than week for him to be 100 percent ready to pitch once again, especially with his throwing shoulder. Price is 1-1 with a 5.73 ERA. He made an appearance against Bowie, going 1.1 scoreless.

Transaction Report
April 27:RHP Bryan Price placed on Disabled List
RHP Kyle Landis received from Kinston
April 29: IF Jason Donald finished rehab assignment
May 2: LHP Eric Berger sent to Columbus
RHP Marty Popham received from Kinston


Nino covers the Akron Aeros season-long here at the IPI. He has his own blog at The Tribe Daily and you can follow him on Twitter @TheTribeDaily.

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