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Akron Air Raid: Chen Heating Up; Aeros Rotation Hits Stride

July 26, 2011
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(Chun Chen: Photo Credit - Lianna Holub)
A tailspin week for Harrisburg that included seven losses opened the Western Division wide open and the Aeros certainly took advantage with a 5-2 week against Altoona and Erie. Harrisburg played Richmond, also in the four-way West battle, six times, including two double headers in four days. They came out the other end with just one win after dropping a pair to Bowie. The cluster is even more glued together and the recently-hot Aeros are taking advantage.

The Aeros are now back at home for a crucial week-long home stand at Canal Park, where they'll also play ten of their next 13 games at. They'll get another four games at below .500 Erie, so it's a good opportunity to climb even closer to the top.

More impressively, the Aeros are doing it with some shakeup to their roster, perhaps the most all season. Beau Mills has departed, Matt McBride has returned, and the bullpen has seen additions like Rob Bryson and Bryce Stowell, while also losing Kelvin De La Cruz and Bryan Price. It should be interesting to see how continue to adapt with Cleveland calling players up, and in turn Columbus getting some of the well-performing Aeros players.

Latest Landings: Vs Altoona (2-1), @ Erie (3-1)
Future Itinerary: Vs Trenton (3), Vs Erie (4), @ Trenton (3), Vs New Britain (3)
As it Stands: Akron is currently in fourth place in the Eastern League Western Division and 3 games back of first place.

On the Mound

In seven starts this past week, the Aeros starters combined to give up 14 runs in 47 innings, which is good enough for a 2.48 ERA. This is going to be some race if the rotation is hitting their collective stride. It's all started with TJ McFarland, who started to get on a roll towards the start of June. In July and June combined, McFarland is 6-0 in 9 starts with a 3.68 ERA in June and a 3.00 ERA in July. 

The right-hander from Illinois has now lowered his ERA to 4.08 and has 30 walks in 90 innings.

The other starter really coming on is Matt Packer, who made two starts this past week and picked up a win and was in line for another until a bullpen collapse. Packer gave up just two earned in 15 innings between the two starts. He struck out 12 and walked four. Packer is also having a great July, going 2-1 with a 2.86 ERA.

Drew Pomeranz's second start and took the loss, but he certainly didn't give a losing effort. Pomeranz struck out six and exited after five, having given up just one run. 

This past week's lines:

Austin Adams
ND, 7.1 IP, 8 H, 3 R, 1 BB, 6 K
W, 6 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 4 BB, 2 K

Drew Pomeranz
L, 5 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 6 K

TJ McFarland
W, 8 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 0 BB, 7 K

Matt Packer
W, 8 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 7 K
ND, 7 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 3 BB, 5 K

Joe Gardner
W, 5.2 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 2 BB, 3 K

From the 'Pen

He picked up a save over the weekend series against Erie, but sandwiched in between that for Cory Burns was a loss and a blown save. Burns had a bat weekend to say the least, giving up four total runs off three hits and three walks. He blew Matt Packer's gem on Sunday by giving up two runs after recording the first out, walking the second hitter and then giving up a walk-off home run to Delk Scram. It was just Burns' second blown save of the entire year.

Eric Berger had a solid week as did Rob Bryson, who was just about perfect, not giving up a hit or a walk and striking out three. Bryson had his first taste of Double-A hitting since 2010 and continues to pitch solid since returning from his foot injury.

Adam Miller pitched in just one game and gave up three runs off five hits against Altoona on Wednesday.

Relievers for this past week:

Eric Berger
3 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 0 K

Rob Bryson
2.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 K

Cory Burns
SV, BS (L- 2), 2.1 IP, 3 H, 4 R, 3 BB, 1 K

Matt Langwell
W, BS, 2.2 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 4 K

Adam Miller
2 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 0 BB, 2 K

Bryce Stowell
2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 K

Tyler Sturdevant
1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 K

Swinging Sticks

With Beau Mills getting promoted, Matt McBride has returned to the Aeros, but it marks yet another offensive force the club has lost to the Clippers this season. McBride did his part in his return, going 6-for-11 with a pair of doubles, but it was Chun Chen who carried the offensive burden with Mills promoted. Chen hit a few blasts, and knocked in eight total runs, while scoring four.

Chen has found his stroke in July with a .322 average. He's belted three home runs and knocked in 14 runs. He's also walking considerably more lately, walking 10 times in the month after walking just 14 times pre-All-Star break.

McBride has continued his hitting streak that was in-progress when he was promoted to Columbus. It's now up to 10 games and he's had at least two hits in five straight contests.

Ben Copeland is a doubles machine. The free agent signee had five doubles last week, and a home run, and he's hit a total of 10 this month. Copeland has had a fantastic July, knocking in a bevy of runs for the Aeros and getting on-base at a .362 clip.

The hitting lines:

Kyle Bellows
6-24, 1 2B, 2 RBI, 3 R, 1 BB, 2 K

Chun Chen
6-26, 2 HR, 1 2B, 1 3B, 8 RBI, 4 R, 4 BB, 9 K

Ben Copeland
7-26, 1 HR, 5 2B, 5 RBI, 3 R, 1 BB, 5 K

Juan Diaz
7-29, 2 2B, 3 RBI, 5 R, 4 BB, 5 K

John Drennen
8-24, 3 2B, 3 RBI, 5 R, 2 BB, 4 K

Kevin Fontanez
1-4, 1 BB, 1 K

Jordan Henry
4-21, 1 2B, 4 RBI, 3 R, 3 BB, 2 K

Matt McBride
6-11, 2 2B, 2 RBI, 3 R, 2 BB, 1 K

Raul Padron
8-27, 1 2B, 2 R, 9 K

Karexon Sanchez
3-22, 1 2B, 2 R, 1 BB, 6 K

Nick Weglarz
0-6, 2 BB, 2 K

Additional Notes

From the Aeros Media Department: The Aeros are 38-11 when they score first this season, which is second best in the Eastern League. 

The Aeros are done with Altoona after their series wrapped up last week. They were 11-9 against the Curve.

Bryce's Back!

Last week it was Rob Bryson and now it's Bryce Stowell making his return to Akron. Stowell started the year in extended spring training with a little bit of a control problem. The hot-throwing right-hander has gained it, having thrown 17 innings in Lake County before getting his chance in Akron. Stowell is hoping his stay is a short one and he can get back to Columbus soon, but for now he'll be strengthening the Aeros pen. Last year in just a short amount of time with the Aeros he gave up just 15 hits and 11 walks through 22 innings. He didn't and still hasn't surrendered a run at the Double-A level.

Stowell was 3-1 last year with a 2.14 ERA split between Kinston, Akron, and Columbus. He struck out 102 hitters in just 67 innings. He's looking to reignite that flame and get back on the fast-track to Cleveland.

In the Garage

Reliever Connor Graham has been tweeting his progress and looks to be close to returning soon. Graham is recovering from a shoulder injury and he threw all his pitches in a bullpen session last week. Graham has not pitched at all this season and went on the Disabled List from pretty much the start of the season.

The shoulder is the common theme, with both Bryan Price and Kelvin De La Cruz hitting the disabled list with some shoulder injuries. Kelvin De La Cruz has some left shoulder inflammation, which cannot be good news, and Bryan Price has a right shoulder injury.

Shoulder inflammation can never be a good thing. It often sends pitchers to a lengthy disabled list stint. This could end what has been a rather up and down, but ultimately disappointing season for De La Cruz. The DLC has gone 5-6 with a 4.56 ERA, but has struggled mightily with his command and control, walking 53 hitters in 79 innings. The talent and stuff is still there, but the command hasn't been.

Transaction Report

July 19: RHP Tyler Sturdevant sent to Columbus
July 21: RHP Tyler Sturdevant received Columbus
RHP Bryce Stowell received from Lake County
RHP Bryan Price placed on Disabled list
July 22: IF Beau Mills sent to Columbus
IF Cristo Arnal sent to Columbus
IF Matt McBride received from Columbus
IF Kevin Fontanez received from Mahoning Valley
July 25: LHP Kelvin De La Cruz placed on Disabled List
OF Donnie Webb received from Columbus

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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