Espino pitches Aeros to win
Akron, OH -- Akron starter Paolo Espino pitched his fourth consecutive quality start and catcher Roberto Perez had two run-scoring singles as the Akron Aeros beat the Portland Sea Dogs, 5-1, Wednesday night at Canal Park.
Espino (7-2, 3.02) continued to pitch shutdown baseball in the Aeros rotation, allowing just one run. The Portland run came after Espino gave up two two-out hits in the first inning. After two quick ground outs to open the game, Jeremy Hazelbaker hit a double to center and scored on a Bryce Brentz single.
Over the next five innings, Espino held the Sea Dogs to one hit while retiring the final 13 batters he faced. In his six innings, he walked none and struck out four.
“My command has been there for me, also my offspeed pitches have been there,” said Espino. “When one pitch hasn’t been there, the other one is so I’ve been trying to take advantage of that. I’ve been working on my bullpen days on my command.”
It was also his second win over the Portland in a week after he defeated the Sea Dogs, 5-3, in Maine last Wednesday. Espino has allowed more than two runs just twice in his last ten starts and has limited opposing hitters to a .248 average during that same span.
“He has been consistent for us throughout the year,” said Akron Aeros manager Chris Tremie. “He goes out there and gives us six strong inning and a chance to win. He threw some good breaking balls tonight and had a solid outing.”
Following Espino’s start, three Akron relievers combined to throw three scoreless innings. Shawn Armstrong allowed the only hit of three and also walked a batter. Jose Flores and Loek van Mil each pitched one inning while striking out a batter apiece.
After a ground out by designated hitter Thomas Neal tied the game in the third, the Aeros (68-47) took the lead permanently against Sea Dogs starter Drake Britton (3-5, 4.02) in the sixth inning. Left fielder Nick Weglarz doubled and scored on a single by Perez. Perez later scored on a throwing error to give the Aeros a 3-1 lead.
Perez, ordinarily known as a defensive catcher, went 3-for-4 on the night with two run-scoring singles in consecutive innings.
“He means so much to this team with his defense and working with the pitchers,” said Tremie. “It’s nice to see him come up and get two big hits tonight, one to put us in the lead and another to extend the lead. He’s had some good at-bats, especially as of late, and he’s had some big hits.”
In the seventh, Weglarz and Perez both delivered RBI singles to extend the lead to 5-1. Perez, who also had a double in the second inning, registered just his second three-hit game of the year.
“He plays good defense every day, but he always comes through in the clutch with the bat,” said Espino.
With the loss, the Sea Dogs’ five-game winning streak came to an end. The Aeros lead in the Eastern League Western Division is 8.5 games. Akron’s magic number for clinching the division is 19.
The Aeros and Sea Dogs will play the rubber game of the series on Thursday night at 7:05 p.m. Right-hander Jeremy Kehrt (6-3, 4.17) will start for the Sea Dogs against Akron lefty T.J. House (6-2, 3.49).
Nathan Kemp graduated from The University of Akron in 2012 with a bachelor's degree in English. He plans to pursue a graduate degree through NEOMFA in the fall. Follow him on Twitter @NathanCKemp.