Aeros avoid sweep as Packer shuts down SeaWolves
Left-hander goes seven innings as Akron wins on getaway day
AKRON, OH -- Coming into Wednesday, Akron Aeros left-hander Matt Packer owned a 0-4 record, a 4.60 ERA, more hits (42) than innings pitched (29.1), and almost as many walks (14) as strikeouts (16).
Packer began to turn things around Wednesday morning at Education Day at Canal Park, however, throwing seven innings with no earned runs (two unearned) as the Aeros defeated the Erie SeaWolves 4-2. The win allowed Akron to avoid a sweep before heading out on a seven-game road trip.
The left-hander knew coming into his start that he needed to make some changes after struggling early in the year, so he made sure to do just that between starts.
"I had a good bullpen session a few days ago with [hitting coach Greg] Hibbard and pitching coordinator Ruben [Nibela]," Packer said. "[We] made a couple little changes I think helped me out quite a bit today."
Packer's velocity was down earlier in the season, but he sat in his normal 88-90 MPH range on his fastball today. The left-hander said that is a big part of the changes he worked on in his bullpen session.
"It was mainly using my back leg," Packer said of the changes. "Pushing off coming to the plate, and I think what we worked on gave me that little extra speed today that helped me pitch better."
That speed proved helpful in holding down the Western Division-leading SeaWolves (19-12), who only managed five hits off of Packer. The outing gave Packer (1-4, 3.72 ERA, 3.89 FIP) his first win of the season, no small feat in his mind.
"It's tough going a little over a month without getting a win," Packer said. "But I knew if I kept working, it would come, and hopefully it's one of many this year."
The Aeros (16-17) won in front of the largest crowd of the season, with the announced attendance of 6,993 buoyed by numerous local schools there for Education Day. The loud crowd was there to see the team get back on track after disappointment the night before.
"It's always good after two losses to stop the bleeding and regroup," manager Edwin Rodriguez said of salvaging a win on getaway day. "To be honest, I think yesterday we played better than today. It doesn't show, but I think we played a very good game yesterday. Today, we won, but I think that there were some things we could have done better."
One of those things was not the play of the team's leadoff hitters, as center fielder Tyler Holt and second baseman Justin Toole both went 2-for-4 at the top of the lineup. Toole in particular, who was called up to fill in for the injured Jose Ramirez, has the confidence of his manager.
"He handles himself very well and he knows his role," Rodriguez said of Toole, who he managed in High-A Carolina last year. "He will make the routine play, he will make contact and put the ball in play. He's a guy you can rely on."
Toole brought in Akron's first run of the game in the first. Following Holt's leadoff triple down the line in left field, Toole lined a double into the right-center gap. The ball was not hit incredibly hard, but the second baseman just managed to find a hole.
"It's just one of those days," Toole said of what went right on that play. "Sometimes the ball falls where you want, sometimes it doesn't. Today I got lucky that a couple of them fell where no one was."
In the third inning, Holt took the extra base going from first to third on Toole's single to right-center field. Rodriguez was encouraged by Holt's effort and how that play embodies what he looks for in a baserunner.
"That was a very good heads up baserunning there," Rodriguez said. "He was ready to stop at second when he saw the center fielder field it way out there and he took advantage of that.
"We want them to make decisions on the field. Don't rely too much on the coaches...They have to learn that and they have to know that, and for them to learn, they have to take chances."
The Aeros are on the road Thursday in Reading where they will send right-hander Paolo Espino (1-0, 4.18 ERA, 3.57 FIP) to the mound. The Fightin Phils will counter with left-hander Jesse Biddle (2-2, 2.56 ERA, 2.60 FIP), who is the Phillies' #1 prospect according to Baseball America. First pitch is scheduled for 6:35 PM.
Attendance: 6,994... Time of Game: 2:34... First pitch was at 10:39 AM... Game time temperature: 64 degrees...After seeing his team-long hit streak end at eight games Tuesday, right fielder Carlos Moncrief got going again Wednesday with a double and a walk as a part of a 1-for-3 day... Right-hander Jose Flores earned his third save of the season, striking out the side in the ninth.
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