Akron, OH -- Akron catcher Roberto Perez drove in the go-ahead run with sacrifice fly in the seventh inning to give the Aeros a 2-1 victory over Bowie, tying the playoff series at two games apiece Saturday night at Canal Park.
The Aeros (82-59, 2-2) will play in their third must-win game in a row on Sunday in order to advance to the finals. The Eastern Division matchup between Reading and Trenton was postponed Saturday night and will resume Sunday with Trenton maintaining a 2-1 series advantage.
Akron jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the fourth after a clutch hit by third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall. Right fielder Jordan Henry reached on a bunt single to open the inning and advanced to second on a throwing error on the same play. Henry moved to third on a sacrifice bunt before scoring on Chisenhall’s RBI base hit.
Following the game, Akron Aeros manager Chris Tremie stressed the importance of executing the fundamentals, especially in a playoff atmosphere.
“Fundamental baseball, getting bunts down, forcing them to make plays. If you do that you increase your chances of having success,” said Tremie. “They’ve done a great job all year of doing that type of thing.”
After Bowie tied the game in the seventh, the Aeros took the lead again in the bottom half of the inning. Designated hitter Chun Chen walked to lead off the inning and was replaced on the basepaths by Ronny Rodriguez. Rodriguez advanced to second and third on two bunts before scoring the winning run on Perez’s sacrifice fly to right.
“I feel good that they gave me the opportunity to try to run the bases and do what I do,” said Rodriguez, who was making his first Double-A appearance. “This is my second playoffs playing with the Cleveland Indians so that’s great to be here with my team, trying to win every game.”
Rodriguez, who hit 19 home runs with the Carolina Mudcats before his recent promotion, believes he made significant improvement over the course of the season.
“I was learning more [this year] than last year,” said Rodriguez. “Every day you learn something. What I learned this year was that you have to get better every day.”
In addition to pinch-running Rodriguez, Tremie also subbed in Delvi Cid for left fielder Adam Abraham. The Aeros used 15 different players in an attempt to create the best possible outcome.
“It’s a playoff situation so every person on this roster will have some part in the series,” said Tremie, “whether they’re starting, coming in running, hitting, playing defense -- whatever it may be. A lot of time that’s what it takes.”
Akron starter Toru Murata pitched six innings, allowing just one run on four hits and three walks while striking out four. Relievers Trey Haley and Shawn Armstrong combined to pitch the seventh and eighth. Armstrong struck out the only batter he faced to get the Aeros out of a bases loaded jam.
“They’re one of our strengths,” said Tremie. “The bullpen has been a strength all year for us and the guys out there right now are doing a great job. Armstrong came in with the bases loaded and threw three pitches, got the strikeout.”
Preston Guilmet worked around a leadoff hit by former Indian Josh Barfield to record his second save in two days.
“He’s been our closer all year and he’s done a fantastic job all year,” said Tremie. “He bared down and finished it out.”
The Aeros and Baysox will conclude the series Sunday at 7:05 p.m. Right-hander Tim Bascom (6-6, 4.41) will start for Bowie, while righty Carlos Carrasco (0-0, 0.00) will take the mound for the Aeros to pitch in a shortened rehab start.
Notes: Nick Weglarz has not played in a game since September 1. … Four different Aeros had sacrifice hits on the night (Perez, Rohlinger, Abraham, Holt). … Announced attendance: 1,652.
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.