Offense struggles as Mets top Aeros 2-1
Lack of Offense Spoils Strong Outing From Salazar
AKRON, OH -- Danny Salazar admitted at media day on Tuesday that he had a few butterflies about getting the Opening Day start, though he laughed off any concerns.
"It's my first time throwing Opening Day, so I guess it's going to be good and fun. I'm going to be a little bit nervous [laughing], but I'll be fine."
Salazar did not seem nervous, but the rest of his team showed some jitters and came out of the gate slow, as the Akron Aeros dropped their season opener at Canal Park 2-1 to the Binghamton Mets.
The highly-touted Salazar went five innings, striking out five, walking two, and allowing two hits. His innings were capped at five for the day, but the right-hander felt that he commanded all his pitches well, even the slider he had struggled with recently.
Salazar admitted that the combination of July 2010 Tommy John surgery and the early-April cold affected his ability to warm up between innings. Not that anyone could tell.
The right-hander held the Mets hitless into the fifth inning, but the wheels began to fall off with one out. A walk and two singles loaded the bases before a groundout from Mets shortstop Wilfredo Tovar drove in the first run of the game.
The grounder was a tailor-made double play ball and hit directly at second baseman Jose Ramirez, but he bobbled it and was only able to get the out at first base. That miscue allowed the first run of the game and gave the Mets a 1-0 lead.
Manager Edwin Rodriguez was happy with the pitching staff, even if a win eluded the team.
"The pitching was good," Rodriguez said. "The tempo was good. The first pitch, first strike was good, so they were attacking the hitters. It was lack of offense that was the game."
Everything was on a grand scale for new owner Ken Babby's first Opening Day in Akron. The massive new HD scoreboard. Driving the starting lineup around the field on Corvettes. Len Barker throwing out the first pitch. Paratroopers flying onto the field. Fireworks before the game during The Star-Spangled Banner and after the game.
Babby's flashiness could not help the offense, however, as the Aeros' bats were helpless against Mets starter Rafael Montero. Montero, one of the Mets' top prospects and the team's minor league pitcher of the year in 2012, overpowered Akron hitters all night.
Following right fielder Carlos Moncrief's single in the first inning, Montero retired 15 straight Aeros batters. The right-hander finished the night with eight strikeouts, two hits, no walks, and one run in 5.2 innings.
"Montero did a hell of a job," Rodriguez said. "He was not only commanding his fastball, his secondary pitches were very good. He was throwing that breaking ball -- I think it was a slider -- on a 3-2 count for strikes.
"It doesn't matter where you're pitching; if you throw that for a strike, chances are you're going to be successful."
Montero so thoroughly dominated Akron that he had to leave the game before the Aeros could find a way to score. Left-hander Adam Kolarek relieved Montero in the sixth inning and promptly surrendered an RBI single to Ramirez, who slapped the hit right back up the middle to give the Aeros their only run.
Ramirez ended the game going 2-for-4, the only Aero to reach base twice. Akron struggled collectively the whole game, finishing 5-for-32 with 10 strikeouts and only one walk. Rodriguez was able to find a bright spot offensively, however, in Ramirez's showing.
"He's been swing very well even during Spring Training," Rodriguez said. "I think that's what we're going to see from him this year."
His bat was not on, but first baseman Jesus Aguilar stood out on defense when he nearly went over the rail into the Mets' dugout in the fifth inning. Aguilar caught a popup from left fielder Cory Vaughn in foul territory, but then had to be caught himself by Ramirez and catcher Roberto Perez to keep from tumbling head-over-heels.
Aguilar also knocked down a hard groundball in the seventh inning to start a 3-6-3 double play and earned praise from his manager.
"He's a very good defender," Rodriguez said. "He's a big-sized player, but ... he moves around very well and he made about 2-3 very good plays."
Right-hander Cole Cook relieved Salazar and struggled to keep the game close. Cook gave up a home run to the second batter he faced, Mets third baseman Josh Rodriguez, a shot that travelled over 400 feet to center field and kept the Mets ahead for good.
Cook finished the night after two innings, walking one, striking out one, and only allowing one run and one hit on the home run. Shawn Armstrong and Jose Flores pitched after Cook, throwing scoreless innings in the eighth and ninth respectively.
Attendance: 6,273... Time of Game: 2:35... First pitch was at 6:49... Game time temperature: 53 degrees... The Aeros were 14-10 in season openers heading into Thursday night.
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