Erie prevails over Akron in opener of pivotal series
Akron, OH – Erie’s road to the EL playoffs runs through Akron, and on Monday night, they kept the wheels moving in the right direction.
Currently holding the wild card spot in the EL West race, and just a half-game out of first place in the division, the SeaWolves opened a key, four-game series against the Aeros with a 3-2 victory on Monday night at Canal Park.
The final play of the game was the most heartbreaking for Akron. Erie centerfielder Daniel Fields ended the game when he made a sensational, running catch in deep, left-center field to rob Jesus Aguilar of a potential game-winning hit in the bottom of the ninth inning. The Aeros had runners on first and second at the time.
It was a timely win for the SeaWolves (71-63), as Harrisburg defeated Altoona, 12-5, to stay a half-game ahead of Erie. Bowie also won to remain 3 ½ games out. Richmond fell four games off the pace when they lost 7-6 at Reading in 10 innings.
Erie also did something Monday they haven’t been able to do all season. They finally hung a loss on Aeros lefty Matt Packer. In his previous five outing against the SeaWolves, Packer had been 4-0, with a microscopic 0.85 ERA. On Monday, though, he gave up three runs on eight hits over 5 1/3 innings to absorb the loss. Packer (11-9) allowed a run in the first on a single by Ramon Cabrera. The Wolves made it 2-0, in the third when they got runners on the corners and pulled off a double steal. In the sixth, Fields was hit by a pitch and scored on Tyler Collins’ double.
The Aeros (64-70) had plenty of chances against Victor Larez (9-7) and three Erie relievers. Akron stranded 11 baserunners in the game. They scored a run in the third against Larez on a fielder’s choice by Tyler Naquin that brought home Matt Lawson. In the seventh, three singles and an error produced a run, but the Aeros left the bases loaded. Larez worked the first five innings and held the Aeros to one run on five hits.
Trailing 3-2 in the ninth, closer Melvin Mercedes gave up singles to Lawson and Adam Abraham, and then served up the rocket to Aguilar which Fields caught to save the day. It was the 12th save of the season for Mercedes.
If you want to find a reason why the Aeros are on the outside looking in at the playoff picture this season, look no further than their 20-19 record in one-run ballgames.
Lawson had four hits on the night, his first four-hit games since the 2010 season when he was with the Mariners organization. He raised his batting average 19 points, to .229. Jose Ramirez was 3-5, with his league-leading 38th stolen base.
In the bullpen, Indians righthander Brett Myers threw a scoreless inning, striking out two. Myers, Enosil Tejeda, Jeff Johnson and Trey Haley all combined for 3 2/3 innings of scoreless relief. Tejeda stranded two inherited baserunners when he relieved Packer in the sixth.
The Aeros and SeaWolves will play game two of the series on Tuesday night at 7:05. LHP Ramon Garcia (1-4, 4.91) is the expected starter for the SeaWolves, while RHP Toru Murata (6-5, 3.65) will make the start for the Aeros.