Four-run fourth lets Thunder power past Aeros 5-3
Big inning, bad baserunning squander standout performance from Hunter
AKRON, OH -- The Akron Aeros (34-36) squared the ball up well Wednesday night, totaling 13 hits, but the team failed to score enough runs to overcome the Trenton Thunder (35-35), falling 5-3 at Canal Park.
The game featured plenty of offense with Akron and Trenton combining for 25 hits, though both teams failed to actually get many runners across the plate.
The problem, according to Aeros manager Edwin Rodriguez, was his team's baserunning.
"You need to learn how to run the bases," Rodriguez said. "Eighty percent of the game you're going to win or lose in close games on the basepaths and we haven't been able to do that well lately."
The worst mistake the Aeros made on the basepaths came in the eighth inning as the team attempted to rally from a 5-3 deficit. With first baseman Jesus Aguilar on second base and right fielder Carlos Moncrief on first with no one out, third baseman Giovanny Urshela lined a ball to the left side.
Aguilar broke as if the line drive was going to fall in, but Trenton shortstop Carmen Angelini snared it easily, doubling off Aguilar and short-circuiting the rally.
"Baserunning," Rodriguez said. "It comes down to baserunning."
The baserunning was not an issue early as designated hitter Cedric Hunter singled-handily jumpstarted the offense. Hunter launched a solo home run to right field in the first inning and poked a two-run double down the right field line in the third, driving in all three runs for the Aeros on the night.
The home run extended Hunter's hitting streak to five games and the outfielder is 10-for-21 during that span. Hunter owns a .327/.383/.727 line in his 14 games in Akron this year, and Rodriguez is happy to see him doing well after the shoulder injury he suffered in late-May.
"It's good to see him swinging that way," Rodriguez said. "Especially after he came back from the injury. We all know that he can play defense and he can run. The concern with him is to get his timing back and it seems that he's got his timing back."
Aeros starter Brett Brach ended the night with a rough line -- seven hits, one walk, three strikeouts, and four runs in 5.1 innings -- though he limited the damage to just the fourth inning. Things could have been worse for Brach (4-3, 4.76 ERA, 3.83 FIP), as the right-hander just did not have his A-game Wednesday.
"He didn't have his stuff today," Rodriguez said. "Greg Hibbard, the pitching coach, found that [out] in the bullpen. But then again, he battled and he kept us in the game. He knew he didn't have his stuff, but we just were not able to score runs for him."
"I didn't make the pitches when I had to in the fourth inning," Brach said. "I battled through the whole outing. I just lost my mental what to throw, I guess."
Brach's biggest mistake came during an two-out 0-2 count to second baseman Jose Pirela. Brach missed his spot on the pitch, grooving one in the zone for Pirela to knock off the scoreboard in left field. The three-run home run gave the Thunder a lead they never relinquished.
"My approach all season when I have guys 0-2 is to attack," Brach said. "Not to get cute and try to waste a pitch. I went at him with one of my best pitches, a changeup, and [he] put a really good swing on it."
"It was a bad pitch," Rodriguez said. "0-2 count, three-run home run? That's a bad pitch. But then again, he was able to keep us in the game."
Akron's bullpen combined for 3.2 innings of one-run ball, though most of it was not pretty. Rodriguez explained that the recent travel and days offs are throwing his relievers out of whack.
"We were doing fine when we were playing every day," Rodriguez said. "Now with the bus ride -- long bus ride -- day off, some of those guys haven't been on the mound for four, maybe five days. So that's what we're going to see. Hopefully tomorrow we'll be back on track."
The Aeros will look to avoid a sweep tomorrow night, sending right-hander Jordan Cooper (3-2, 3.61 ERA, 4.12 FIP) to the mound. The Thunder will counter with left-hander Nik Turley (5-5, 4.90 ERA, 4.47 FIP), who is the #14 prospect in the Yankees system according to Baseball America. First pitch is at 7:05 p.m.
Attendance: 2,667... Time of Game: 3:00... First pitch was at 7:07... Game time temperature: 73 degrees... In addition to Hunter, shortstop Ronny Rodriguez and second baseman Jose Ramirez paced the offense with three hits apiece. Urshela chipped in two more of his own.
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