Escobar dominates as Aeros fall 2-0
Richmond salvages split of four-game series with shutout of Akron
AKRON, OH -- Akron Aeros starter Paolo Espino rebounded into form Sunday after struggling mightily in his last two starts.
Unfortunately for Espino and the Aeros, the Richmond Flying Squirrels and Edwin Escobar were even better.
The Aeros (53-55) fell to the Flying Squirrels (50-58) 2-0 Sunday afternoon at Canal Park as they split the four-game homestand with Richmond. Despite the strong pitching from Espino, the Aeros just could not anything going on offense.
Escobar (2-2, 3.00 ERA, 1.66 FIP) has not missed a step after his promotion to Double-A earlier this month. Though this is only his fourth start at this level, manager Edwin Rodriguez came away impressed with the left-hander.
"He's 92-94 [miles per hour]," Rodriguez said of Escobar's pitches, "I think he has a cutter, command of his secondary pitches, he keeps runners close at first. He's the whole package; work fast, throw strikes."
Akron only managed three hits and two walks in Escobar's 7.1 innings while racking up nine strikeouts. It was not just Escobar's raw stuff generating those results, though, as Rodriguez feels that the left-hander's quick pace adds to his effectiveness.
"That's his style," Rodriguez said, "That not only has an effect on the hitters, it has an effect on the defense, [and] it also has an effect on the umpire. He's going to, on any close call, give it to you. I'm very impressed with him."
Escobar's dominance took some of the attention away from Espino (2-5, 5.70 ERA, 4.15 FIP), who had a great start of his own. After allowing 19 runs (15 earned) and 24 hits in his last two starts -- which only lasted 7.1 innings combined -- Espino went seven innings with five strikeouts, no walks, six hits, and two runs Sunday.
Part of Espino's recent problems were mechanical and the right-hander has been working on fixing them in his bullpen sessions.
"In my stride, I'm open[ing] early," Espino said, "So as soon as I open early with my leg, everything comes goes open. So I'm working on staying closer with my elbow more straight to the plate."
"That's part of it," Rodriguez said of the adjustments working Sunday. "He was flying open [before]. As soon as you're flying open, you're not going to be able to locate that inside pitch."
Early on it appeared that Espino was in for another rough start. He allowed a run on three singles in the first inning, though he settled down from there. Espino retired 13 straight batters from the second through the sixth inning as he had his off-speed pitches working.
"I wasn't hitting the spots I wanted to," Espino said of the first inning. "After that, then I settled in and I was mixing my pitches... My curveball was working well. I don't think I threw it as much as I've thrown it before in other games, but I was also using my changeup and my slider, so if you put all of them together, I probably threw the same amount of off-speeds that I normally throw."
Espino stumbled a bit in the seventh inning, as the Flying Squirrels scored a run on a double off of the right-field wall by right fielder Brett Krill and a single by catcher Tyler LaTorrie. The right-hander felt that the double in particular was on him.
"That double that [Krill] got was a fastball that I left up and away," Espino said. "I never thought that the ball was going to go that far. I think that the wind actually helped a little. It was actually my mistake... I was trying to go away, but not up though."
All of Canal Park held their breath during that seventh inning as a shard of third baseman Adam Duvall's broken bat came very close to hitting shortstop Francisco Lindor. The groundball was hit between Lindor and third baseman Matt Lawson -- who made the play -- though Espino and Rodriguez admitted their concern for Lindor as the play unfolded.
"I got kind of scared," Espino said. "I saw that bat going to Lindor and the ball was going almost the same way that the bat was going... Good thing that Lindor got away and Lawson made the play."
"The first thing was security," Rodriguez said of what went through his mind. "I was concerned about the bat hitting him, or even worse. But he handled the bat very well."
After Escobar, the Flying Squirrels brought in right-hander Cody Hall, who retired all five batters he faced. Similarly, the Aeros brought in right-handers Jeff Johnson and Trey Haley, who only allowed one baserunner combined (a Johnson hit by pitch) while pitching the eighth and ninth innings respectively.
The Aeros will be off Monday as they travel to New Britain for a three-game series with the Rock Cats. Akron will start right-hander Toru Murata (4-5, 3.90 ERA, 4.18 FIP) while New Britain will counter with right-hander Virgil Vasquez (3-3, 3.14 ERA, 3.43 FIP). Game time is 7:05 p.m.
Attendance: 4,396... Time of Game: 2:22... First pitch was at 2:09... Game time temperature: 65 degrees...Right fielder Carlos Moncrief went 0-for-3, leaving him at 115 hits. That mark leaves him tied for first in the Eastern League with New Britain's Josmil Pinto, who plays later tonight... Lindor went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts, raising his strikeout total to three in his first 13 games... Rodriguez said that the plan right now is for injured second baseman Jose Ramirez to come off the disabled list Wednesday and start at designated hitter.
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