Cooper efficient in return to rotation as Aeros win 4-3
Right-hander allows one hit in six innings as Akron gets back to .500
AKRON, OH -- The Akron Aeros extending their winning streak to five games Saturday night, defeating the Portland Sea Dogs 4-3 at Canal Park. The win moves the team to 31-31 on the year as the Aeros got back to .500 for the first time since May 13.
Akron starting pitcher Jordan Cooper (2-2, 4.14 ERA, 4.39 FIP) -- who had not started a game since May 21 -- pitched effectively, holding the Sea Dogs to one hit and no runs in six innings. That hit came from Sea Dogs (31-28) leadoff hitter and center fielder Shannon Wilkerson in the first inning.
"After that he settled down," manager Edwin Rodriguez said of allowing a hit to the leadoff batter. "He didn't show any power pitch but he changed speeds, he located very well, he pitched to situations; so that's all you can ask for from a pitcher."
Cooper's command was shaky at times as he had three walks and only threw a first pitch strike to nine of his 20 batters, but Rodriguez thought that Cooper did well compared to his last time out.
"He needs to get ahead in the count," Rodriguez said. "Not having that power pitch, he needs to get ahead in the count right away. Whatever happens after that happens...
"That was the big difference from his last outing. I think that he made adjustments. Greg Hibbard, the pitching coach, worked with him about his approach to pitching and he did good. He took that to the game."
While Cooper is not considered a top prospect, but his counterpart, Matt Barnes, is. A consensus top-40 prospect in all of baseball, the Aeros knocked Barnes (3-3, 5.87 ERA, 3.57 FIP) around Saturday, chasing him from the game with four runs on five hits in four innings. Barnes did get eight strikeouts, but the right-hander did not have his normal compliment of stuff in the loss.
"Tonight, the secondary pitches weren't working," Rodriguez said. "He was struggling throwing the breaking ball and changeup for strikes. We took advantage of that. But the arm is there, the arm speed is there. The pitchability's there. He knows what he's doing. Definitely, he's one of the good prospects."
Rodriguez thought that -- despite the plus stuff -- his team was adequately prepared for Barnes since a good chunk of them faced him last year.
"We faced him in Carolina last year, in the Carolina League," Rodriguez said. "[He has] good stuff. The fastball's 94-95, with the downhill action, and he was very good."
The Aeros got all of their runs in the first three innings. A two-run single from right fielder Carlos Moncrief in the first and a two-run double from first baseman Jesus Aguilar in the third supplied all the scoring. Moncrief extended his hitting streak to nine games while Aguilar drove in a run for the fifth consecutive game.
Moncrief and Aguilar serving as the run producers comes as no surprise to Rodriguez, especially how they came through when it mattered most.
"They've been showing that lately," Rodriguez said. "Then again, every time we had those situations, two-out RBI, chances are we are going to win a lot of ballgames. We did that today with those runs."
The game got tight late when right-hander Bryce Stowell allowed three runs in the seventh and eighth innings, cutting the score to 4-3. Stowell has been very good for most of the season, but tonight he was just off.
"It was about command," Rodriguez said of Stowell. "The fastball and the velocity was there, the breaking ball was good -- it was hard, late break -- but fastball command wasn't there. But then again, he's going to have bad nights. He's fine."
Right-hander Jose Flores picked up his teammate, though, inducing a groundout to end the eighth and then striking out the side in the ninth for his sixth save on the year.
"He really saved the game today," Rodriguez said. "He got a four-out save. That was huge."
Before tonight, the Akron bullpen had only allowed one run in 15.0 innings during the homestand.
The Aeros will look to sweep the Sea Dogs Sunday afternoon at Canal Park, sending right-hander Will Roberts (4-2, 3.92 ERA, 4.68 FIP) to the mound to face right-hander Keith Couch (3-2, 4.78 ERA, 4.16 FIP). First pitch is at 2.05 p.m.
Attendance: 4,558... Time of Game: 2:50... First pitch was at 7:09... Game time temperature: 69 degrees...Second baseman Jose Ramirez reached base for the 13th straight game with a walk in the first inning. He also stole a base to bring his total to 21 on the season... Third baseman Giovanny Urshela went 0-for-4 to snap his 10-game hit streak. He is the only Aero with multiple 10+-game hit streaks in 2013.
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