Neal, Aeros stay hot in 7-1 win
AKRON -- Right fielder Thomas Neal had two extra-base hits, including a home run, as the Akron Aeros eased their way to a 7-1 comeback win over the Erie SeaWolves at Canal Park.
The Aeros (48-31) ended a three-game losing streak and picked up another game on second-place Harrisburg, who lost at home against Altoona. The Aeros now lead the Eastern League Western Division by 7.5 games.
Akron fell behind 1-0 in the first after a RBI-groundout by Erie left fielder Rawley Bishop. The Aeros put the game out of reach in the fourth, however, scoring five times off Erie starter Patrick Cooper (2-1, 5.20). Neal, who was named an Eastern League All-Star earlier in the evening, led off with a homer off the batter’s eye in straightaway centerfield.
“I think he’s been a key to our lineup all year, but he’s had some success as of late with doubles and home runs,” said Akron Aeros manager Chris Tremie. “He’s putting some really good swings on some pitches.”
The dinger was Neal’s sixth of the season, all coming in the month of June. Neal credits his power surge to an adjustment he made earlier in the month.
“I finally started using my legs -- I think it was something I got away from and didn’t really realize it,” said Neal. “One day I was in the cage with our hitting coach and I told him that I’m just going to focus on my legs. As soon as I started using my legs, everything took off from there.”
After two more runners reached, second baseman Matt Lawson hit another deep drive to center that landed at the base of the wall for a two-run triple. Center fielder Jordan Henry and shortstop Juan Diaz followed with two run-scoring singles to extend the lead to 5-1.
Henry, who went 2-for-3 on the night with two walks and a stolen base, continued his hot streak at the plate. He now has eight hits in his last four games.
“[Henry] has worked hard to get back to 100% and he kind of got his feet wet here in his first couple games,” said Tremie. “He’s responded in his last few games and is showing the kind of player he is. It’s a good sign for him and a good sign for us.”
Neal hit a two-out double in the sixth for his sixth extra-base hit of the series. The ball was just feet from hitting the batter’s eye wall for his second homer of the night. He later scored on a double by first baseman Adam Abraham to make it 7-1.
“My objective when I go up there is to hit the ball hard, so I did my job when I went up there and got a double,” said Neal. “I think home runs are always a good thing, but at the same time I think we’ve done a good job as a group.
“It’s a team effort and we’ve just kind of been feeding off everyone else being successful.”
Aeros starter Brett Brach (3-3, 3.49) settled down after his wild first inning and pitched a season-high seven innings. He scattered four hits and four walks, allowing just the one run.
“He got into a little bit of trouble in the first but got out of it with minimal damage after allowing just one run,” said Tremie. “He threw six really good innings after that and kept them at one run until we scored. Once we did score, he held them down.”
Kyle Landis, another Aeros All-Star, finished with two scoreless frames, allowing just one hit.
The Aeros and SeaWolves (38-39) will play the final game of the series on Friday at 7:05 p.m. Right-hander Cesar Carillo (0-0, 9.00) will start for Erie against Aeros righty Paolo Espino (2-2, 3.05).
Notes: Every Aero had a hit except Nick Weglarz and Roberto Perez, who struck out twice. … Kyle Landis broke a streak of four straight appearances in which he had allowed at least one run. … Announced attendance: 2,231.
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.