Aguilar rescues Aeros with late clutch hit
Altoona, PA – When the bases are loaded, Eastern League pitchers would rather see any other human being at the plate besides Akron's Jesus Aguilar.
On Friday night in Altoona, Aguilar, the league's top run producer and, by many estimates, the circuit's most feared hitter, cracked a bases-loaded single with two outs in the eighth inning to lift the Aeros to a 3-1 victory over the Curve in the opener of a four-game series at People's Natural Gas Field.
It is the final series of the season for the Aeros (66-72), who earned their 11th win in 19 games against the Curve (62-77) this season. The win means the Aeros cannot finish last in the division.
Down 1-0, in the eighth, the Aeros rallied to load the bases against reliever Jason Townsend (5-5). Adam Abraham and Chris Wallace led off with back-to-back hits, and were moved up a base by Jose Ramirez's sacrifice bunt. A walk to Tyler Naquin loaded the bases for Aguilar.
Already leading all of Double-A in RBI, Aguilar stroked a base hit up the middle chasing home Abraham and Wallace for the lead. Center fielder Mel Rojas, Jr. came up firing to third, but his throw hit Naquin and skipped into foul territory, allowing Naquin to score, and make it 3-1. Aguilar now has 105 RBI, adding to the Aeros record which he already owns. When hitting with the bases loaded this year, Aguilar is now 6-13 (.462), with 14 RBI.
Jose Flores worked the final two innings to earn his 14th save. He pitched around a walk and single in the ninth, punctuating his outing with consecutive strikeouts to end the game. He made a winner of Bryce Stowell (4-1), who tossed a scoreless seventh.
It was a rare and pleasant comeback for the Aeros, who are now just 8-57 when trailing after the seventh inning.
Altoona righthander Nick Kingham was superb in a starting role. He twirled seven shutout innings, scattering five hits, with no walks and eight strikeouts. Of his 94 pitches, 69 were strikes.
On the Akron side, lefty Frankie Jimenez was called up from Class-A to start the game, and, despite, making just one other start this season, was quite effective. Jimenez, used primarily as a short reliever at Carolina, worked four innings and allowed just one unearned run in the second inning when the Aeros committed three errors behind him. Jimenez did not walk anyone and fanned two.
Righthander Shawn Armstrong chipped in two scoreless innings of relief for Akron.
The Aeros and Curve will play game two of the series on Saturday night. Game time is 6:00 p.m. LHP Matt Packer (11-9, 3.41) will make his final start of the season for the Aeros, while RHP David Bromberg (6-11, 3.23) will start for the Curve.