Aeros Take 2-0 Series Lead in Eastern League Championship Series; Aeros 7, Thunder 5
By Ronnie Tellalian
Fantastic pitching and an offensive burst spelled doom for the Trenton Thunder. Akron displayed dominance at home all post season, winning the final three games of the Division Series, and the first two at home in the Championship, as they breezed through game two, winning in convincing fashion 7-5.
Aeros’ right handed pitcher Danny Salazar (5-2, 2.36) took the mound tonight for the home team. The 22-year old Salazar made his lone post season start against the Bowie Baysox on September 7, going 5.1 innings and giving up only two runs with a whopping eight strikeouts in route to an unfortunate no decision.
Looking to stifle the Aeros’ offense was Trenton Thunder left hander Shaeffer Hall (9-10, 3.67). Hall, a former 23rd round draft pick of the Cleveland Indians, finished 3rd in the Eastern League in innings pitched with 164.1. He came in to relieve David Aardsma in game two of the ELDS at Reading, and threw 5.2 shutout innings, allowing only one hit.
Salazar started the game off strong, throwing nine consecutive strikes on way to fanning the side in the top of the first inning. In the Aeros’ half of the first, Hall looked good, until designated hitter Chun Chen hit a sharp ground ball to Trenton third baseman David Adams. Adams couldn’t quite handle the backhand, and Chen reached first on the error. Championship teams often capitalize on opponents mistakes, and Akron showed its championship potential, when Jesus Aguilar walloped a curveball from pitcher Shaeffer Hall deep into left field. Thunder left fielder Ramon Flores just turned and watched it go, and the Aeros had the early lead 2-0.
One of the biggest obstacles for Aguilar has been adjusting to the curveballs he has seen at the AA level.
“They throw me a lot of breaking balls,” Aguilar said. “I have to learn to stay back on them. The coaches have been working with me on staying back and seeing the pitch.”
Aguilar apparently heeded that advice, since his first inning home run came off a Hall curveball.
“I was lucky to hit that so hard.” The very humble Aguilar stated.
Salazar, who is undefeated (4-0) since moving up to Akron from Carolina, was on his game. The right hander allowed only one run on two hits through the first five innings, striking out seven, and throwing first pitch strikes to 13 of the first 17 batters he faced. The lone mistake in those first five innings came in the form of one pitch to Thunder first baseman Tyler Austin. The pitch left Austin’s bat, and sailed high and deep into right field for a home run.
Every team looks for that big inning, and in the bottom of the third, the Aeros found theirs. Tyler Holt singled with one out, and Chen followed with a four pitch walk. After a Jesus Aguilar strikeout, the Canal Crew got things going with two outs. Matt Lawson scorched a liner to left center that found the gap, scoring Holt. Left fielder Adam Abraham stepped up and demolished a Hall pitch to the deepest part of the park in center field. Thunder center fielder Adonis Garcia raced back to the wall, leaped up, but could not make the catch as the ball rickashayed off the top of the wall, and bounced away from Garcia, Abraham raced into third base with a two RBI triple. The scoring wasn’t over yet for the Aeros. A rattled Hall served up a belt high fastball to Ryan Rohlinger that the shortstop launched into the Akron night, and over the left field fence for a two run home run, and a 7-1 Aeros lead.
Trenton finally broke through against Salazar in the sixth. After two quick strikeouts, the Thunder offense came alive. Ramon Flores grounded a single up the middle past a diving Davis Stoneburner to kick things off. Davis Adams mimicked Flores with a grounder of his own up the middle, and Trenton had two men on with two outs. Right fielder Zoilo Almonte strolled into the box with ill intent. Almonte, who hit 21 home runs on the season, showed it was no fluke, when he crushed a Salazar change up off a light pole in center field. The three run blast brought Trenton to within three runs, with three frames left to play.
A leadoff single from Trenton’s J.R. Murphy got the Thunder going in the seventh. Kevin Mahoney then slashed one down the line that stayed just fair, and bounced into the corner for a double to put runners on the second and third. Rob Segedin stepped up and smacked a line drive into the left center gap. Aeros’ left fielders Abraham scooped the ball up quickly, and fired it to cut-off man Lawson. Mahoney raced around third, and tried to beat Lawson relay to catcher Roberto Perez. Perez made a great tag to get the runner, and keep the damage to a minimum. Akron still leads 7-5.
The one-two bullpen punch of Hector Rondon and Preston Guilmet slammed the door on any hopes Trenton had of a comeback. Rondon struck out two in the eight, and Guilmet followed with a perfect ninth inning for his fourth save of this post season. Salazar was credited with the win and Hall with the loss, as the Akron Aeros take game two by a score of 7-5.
The Akron Aeros now lead the five game series two games to nothing against the Trenton Thunder. Akron fought back last series against the Baysox down 2-0, so Manager Chris Tremie knows all too well that a turnaround is possible.
“Going up 2-0 is a good thing,” Tremie said. “but you can’t get comfortable. We’re going to try to go into Trenton, get the first game, and wrap it up.”
When asked if winning the first two games takes some pressure off the guys, the Akron skipper showed confidence in his club.
“The players have done a great job at handling the pressure,” Tremie stated. “The way they’ve reacted to it is very promising.”
Game three will take place in Trenton, NJ on Friday night, first pitch at 7:05. The Thunder will bring Mickey O’Brien (5-7, 4.20) to the hill, while Akron will trot out rehabbing right hander Carlos Carrasco (0-0, 0.00). Carrasco will throw two innings before giving the ball over to T.J. House (8-5, 3.98). The Aeros will look to sweep the series as they play for their first Eastern League Title since 2009.
Photo: Matt White/DTTWLN.com photographer