Akron, OH -- Steven Wright tossed six effective innings and left fielder Thomas Neal launched a grand slam as the Aeros beat up on the Erie SeaWolves, 11-1, in the opener of a seven-game homestand at Canal Park.
It was a rare win over the SeaWolves for Akron. The Aeros improved to 7-11 in the season series. With the win, the Aeros remain 8.5 games ahead of second-place Richmond.
Wright (8-6, 2.54) scattered five hits and worked around four walks to earn his team-high eighth win of the season. With the win, Wright matches former Aeros starter T.J. McFarland in wins. McFarland was 8-2, in 10 starts before being promoted to Triple-A in May. Wright struck out six Erie hitters and did not allow a run until the SeaWolves hit a pair of doubles in the sixth.
“[The start] was good for him and good for us, obviously,” said Akron Aeros manager Chris Tremie. “Other than that one inning, he was really pretty effective and in the strike zone. It was a good outing and he’s been throwing the ball well -- not as well as he did early in the season, but tonight was just like earlier in the season.”
The Aeros (61-41) scored frequently throughout the game, knocking the SeaWolves to their fifth straight loss. Every Akron hitter reached base and seven had at least one hit. The Aeros registered 15 hits overall.
The Aeros took a 2-0 lead in the second off of Erie starter Patrick Cooper (2-5, 5.11). A leadoff walk to designated hitter Nick Weglarz and a base hit by shortstop Juan Diaz put runners at first and second for Adam Abraham, who lined a single to left that scored Weglarz for a 1-0 lead. The next hitter, right fielder Jordan Henry, hit a swinging bunt back to Cooper, who threw to first for the out. Diaz scored from third on the play to make it 2-0.
Abraham appeared to injure his ankle while running to first in the second inning, but stayed in the game to hit a two-run home run to straightaway center off of Cooper in the third. It was Abraham’s 12th homer of the year. With three runs batted in on the night, Abraham took the team lead with 47 for the season. He left the game following his homer for precautionary reasons.
The Aeros blew the game wide open in the seventh against reliever Mike Morrison. Ryan Rohlinger led off with a solo shot to left. After two singles and a walk, Neal blasted a grand slam to center, his ninth homer of the year, and the team’s third grand slam of the season. It was also Neal’s third hit of the night. With the five runs scored in the inning, the Aeros took an 11-1 lead.
“[Neal]’s been very consistent most of the season, not missing pitches,” said Tremie. “I think he expects it out of himself. It’s a good sign that he’s continuing to produce every night.”
Neal credits a consistent approach for his success and knows that he won’t always be so successful at the plate.
“I’m just really trying to go up there and have an approach,” said Neal. “I’m just fortunate that I get some knocks here and there.
“I kind of got into a routine where I’m able to work on my swing path and use my legs. I’m trying to put both of them together which is helping me be successful, so I’m just doing that every day and it’s working out.”
Indians lefty Rafael Perez worked two innings in his third minor league rehab appearance with the Aeros . It was his fourth minor league game overall as he recovers from a strained lat muscle that has kept him on the disabled list since April 25th. Perez tossed two scoreless innings, allowing just one hit. He threw 26 pitches, 20 of which were strikes.
Tremie believes that Perez is a good influence on the Aeros bullpen and hopes that the young relievers are soaking up whatever knowledge they can.
“Anytime guys can get around a guy with that kind of experience, hopefully they can benefit,” said Tremie. “I think he probably brings that to the table for some of these guys and I bet they enjoy having the opportunity to talk with him.”
The Aeros and SeaWolves will play the middle game of the series Tuesday night at 7:05 p.m. Erie’s starter for the second game is right-hander Jared Gayhart (1-1, 4.22). Left-hander Matt Packer (1-0, 0.00) will make his second start of the season for Akron.
Notes: Chun Chen continued to miss time due to a strained thumb and has not played since July 8. … Cleveland Indians general manager Chris Antonetti was spotted in Chris Tremie’s office after the game. … Announced attendance: 8,243.
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.