Kingham outduels Roberts as Aeros lose 3-1
Akron offense stumbles for second straight night
AKRON, OH -- A season-high 7,021 fans came out to Canal Park and witnessed an entertaining pitcher's duel Friday night.
Unfortunately for the home crowd, the Akron Aeros came out on the wrong side of things.
The Altoona Curve defeated the Aeros 3-1, handing the Aeros their second straight post-All-Star break loss.
The Aeros (44-48) barely managed to avoid a second consecutive shutout thanks to the effectiveness of Curve (41-50) starter Nick Kingham. The right-hander held Akron to one run on six hits, two walks, and four strikeouts and constantly limited any damage the Aeros tried to do.
Aeros manager Edwin Rodriguez came away impressed by Kingham (2-2, 3.41 ERA, 2.70 FIP), the Pirates' #17 prospect per Baseball America.
"He has a very good arm," Rodriguez said. "[His] fastball [was] 92-94 with late movement and then his secondary pitches; he has a command of that."
Kingham outdueled Aeros starter Will Roberts, though Roberts should not be ashamed. The right-hander went seven innings only allowing two runs on seven hits, no walks, and six strikeouts.
Rodriguez remarked that Roberts (6-7, 4.30 ERA, 4.22 FIP) was particularly impressive Friday night.
"I have to say that was one of his best games of the season," Rodriguez said.
Early on it looked like Roberts was on his way to his worst start of the season. After an infield single by left fielder Mel Rojas Jr., third baseman Adalberto Santos and center fielder Gregory Polanco followed with back-to-back doubles to put two runs on the board early.
Roberts calmed down after allowing two runs within the first three batters, though.
"I had the same thought," Rodriguez said about things looking bleak early. "It was going to be a long night for us and a short night for him. But he settled down and he kept us in the game."
The Aeros finally got on the board in the fifth inning on a line drive single by shortstop Jose Ramirez. After advancing to second on the throw, Akron had runners on second and third with one out, only trailing 2-1.
A groundout by second baseman Ronny Rodriguez and a strikeout by center fielder Tyler Holt stranded both runners, however. In all the Aeros left nine runners on base and went 1-for-6 with runners in scoring position.
E. Rodriguez just thought his team wasted opportunities.
"We had plenty of chances, but we didn't get a clutch hit," Rodriguez said. "But that's the way it goes. I think it was a good ballgame. They played well, we played well."
Altoona added an insurance run in the eighth inning on a strange turn of events. Right-hander Austin Adams relieved Roberts and his first batter, Rojas Jr., tattooed a line drive to right field that appeared to be headed right for right fielder Carlos Moncrief.
The ball ended up well to Moncrief's right, though, and Rojas Jr. made his way to third for a triple. Polanco brought Rojas Jr. in two batters later on a hard line drive single back up the middle to raise Altoona's advantage to 3-1.
Rodriguez said that the line drive took a weird turn in the air, not that Moncrief lost the ball in the lights.
"That ball was so well-hit," Rodriguez said. "It cut, like 15 to 20 feet to the left, to [Moncrief's] right, to the left of the hitter. Even the pitchers in the bullpen, they were saying it was crazy. It looked like a cutter...
"He hit it so well and that fastball was about 96-97. It [was] well-hit with just a lot of movement."
Things got tense in the ninth inning after right-hander Trey Haley relieved Adams. After a leadoff bunt single, catcher Carlos Paulino squared to lay down a sacrifice bunt. Haley's pitch was high and inside, coming close to hitting Paulino's head, and his next pitch hit Paulino around the hip.
The two stared each other down and Rodriguez ran out to have a mound meeting with Haley. The manager said that the meeting was not about any potential headhunting, however.
"He was a little bit fiery out there," Rodriguez said of the meeting. "[But] not only that. We wanted to try the wheel play, so I wanted to make sure everybody was on the same page...
"It's Haley. Throughout the season, he has been showing some days that he's out of control out there. But no, that wasn't the case [throwing at Paulino]."
The Aeros will look to avoid a third consecutive loss Saturday night by sending rehabbing right-hander Zach McAllister (N/A) to the mound. The Curve will counter with right-hander Jameson Taillon (3-6, 2.94 ERA, 3.44 FIP), the Pirates' #2 prospect behind Gerrit Cole.
Attendance: 7,021... Time of Game: 2:45... First pitch was at 7:08... Game time temperature: 75 degrees... After a 1-for-4 night, Holt has now reached base in 13 consecutive games... Ramirez extended his hit streak to eight games with a 2-for-5 performance, while Moncrief extended his hit streak to five games following a 2-for-4 night.
If you want to follow Jim on Twitter, he’s @JimPiascik. If you want to e-mail him, you can do so at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you want to read his Master's thesis on college athletes and Twitter, you can do so here.