Akron, OH -- Left fielder Thomas Neal hit his 10th home run of the season in the bottom of the fifth and righty Danny Salazar got his first career Double-A win as the Akron Aeros beat the New Hampshire Fisher Cats, 8-3.
Salazar (1-0, 3.72), making his second start for the Aeros, pitched five strong innings in his Canal Park debut. He allowed just one unearned run on four hits and one walk. He struck out two hitters.
“Tonight he did a real good job with his fastball command,” said Akron Aeros manager Chris Tremie. “There were a few times he was up in the zone a little bit, but overall for an outing it was very encouraging. He threw some breaking balls with some depth too.”
The one run was set up by an error by second baseman Davis Stoneburner. With one runner on, Stoneburner booted a double play ball. With two runners on, Salazar was able to allow just one run before getting the two final outs.
“I think he did a nice job of just going after the next hitter,” said Tremie. “He understands that [an error] happens sometimes and all he can do is make the next pitch.”
After the game, Salazar said he feels comfortable pitching at a higher level and is throwing with no health restrictions following Tommy John surgery in 2010.
“I feel very good right now,” said Salazar. “Sometimes, I’ve been in trouble in the game but I make adjustments. I feel very good actually in my arm. In the beginning of the season, they stopped me for a full month but right now I feel very healthy.”
Three Aeros relievers combined to keep the Fisher Cats fairly quiet over the final four innings. Bryce Stowell made his first appearance since July 2, pitching one inning with one strikeout. Loek van Mil pitched the seventh and eighth, allowing one unearned run on two hits. Van Mil lowered his season ERA to 1.94.
Rob Bryson came on to retire the final three hitters but struggled for the second straight appearance. After allowing two runs and a homer in his previous appearance on August 5, Bryson allowed a solo dinger while walking two. Bryson has struggled over the course of the season with walks and has now allowed nine walks in his last three appearances.
The Aeros offense got on the board in the fourth when Neal hit a solo homer down the third base line. Designated hitter Nick Weglarz followed with a walk and later scored on a sacrifice fly by catcher Roberto Perez to make it 2-1.
Neal’s leadoff dinger was his 10th of the season. After getting just one hit in his last six games, Neal had two on the night, including an opposite field double. In all, he reached base four times, scoring three runs.
“It was good to see him have a good night,” said Tremie. “He hadn’t been feeling overly comfortable the last couple games and he’s been working really hard to get back to where he feels comfortable with his swing and his pitch zone recognition.”
Neal, who is fourth in the Eastern League with a .311 batting average, is still focusing on contact despite his power surge over the last few months.
“Honestly, my whole goal was just to slow everything down and get a pitch to hit,” said Neal. “I’ve kind of been struggling as of late so I’ve just been trying to get back to the basics.
“I know if I hit the ball hard it has a chance to go out. My main goal is to put a good swing on the pitch every single at-bat.”
After the Aeros drew walks to load the bases to begin the bottom of the fifth, Weglarz hit a weak grounder grounder to first that went for an infield single. Third baseman Ryan Rohlinger followed with a two-RBI double to left. After a walk by Perez loaded the bases, Stoneburner grounded into a run-scoring double play to make the score 6-1.
The Aeros added two more runs in the bottom of the seventh to take an 8-1 lead. Neal led off the inning with a double down the first base line and later scored on a Perez single. Perez later scored on a bases loaded walk to center fielder Tyler Holt.
Neal, Rohlinger and Holt all had multi-hit games for the Aeros.
The Aeros will conclude the series and the homestand against the Fisher Cats on Sunday at 1:05 p.m. Right-hander and former Aero Yohan Pino (6-7, 3.67) will take the mound for New Hampshire against Aeros righty Brett Brach (3-4, 4.70).
Notes: The Aeros wore Star Wars themed jerseys that were auctioned to benefit Akron Children’s Hospital. … Juan Diaz made his 20th error of the season. … Announced attendance: 5,375.
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.