— There really isn’t too much to talk about here. If you saw the fourth inning, you saw where the game was lost by the Thunder and won by Akron.
In the top half, Aeros starter Paolo Espino ran into his first jam of the night. The crafty righty lead off the frame with a walk to David Adams, but then induced a fielder’s choice groundout off the bat of Zoilo Almonte to get one out. Two batters later, and the bases would be loaded. Addison Maruszak was hit by a pitch after a lengthy at-bat, and J.R. Murphy walked to set the table for Tyler Austin. It’s not a bad set-up given that Austin was hitting seventh in the lineup and could provide that kind of scare for the Aeros…but that’s all it ended up being, just a scare.
Austin struck out, and Kevin Mahoney popped up to the third baseman to end the threat.
Fast forward to the bottom half of the fourth, and Akron would get really the only runs they needed all night. Tyler Holt and Chun Chen hit back-to-back leadoff singles off Marshall, who then fired off a wild pitch to advance each runner a base. He recovered to strike out Jesus Aguilar, but the game turned on the next at-bat. Matt Lawson was at the plate when Marshall uncorked another wild pitch, allowing Holt to score and putting Akron on top, 1-0.
With Lawson still at the plate, he hit a fly ball just deep enough to right field to score Chen — Almonte actually ended up taking a few steps back in right field on the ball before getting an accurate throw off — to double the deficit.
Holt did some damage again in the sixth, when his fly ball to deep right field that should have been caught by Almonte actually turned into a triple after the right fielder turned a few different times and ultimately couldn’t make the catch. Chen followed that with a double — he was nabbed at third trying to stretch it — and that more or less put this one out of reach.
Nothing more to see here, folks. Akron’s got a 1-0 series lead going into tomorrow’s Game 2.
Now, quotes from Tony Franklin, Marshall, Holt and Espino (thanks to one of the Akron folks for the latter)
“As it turns out, (the fourth inning) was pretty big. But, we still had an opportunity to win the game. But as it turned out, it was a pretty big inning.”
“I never asked (Zoilo about the sixth inning misplay), he just got turned around. I saw what happened, he started one way, turned another way and turned the other way. Once you do that, you turn three times, you’re pretty much in trouble and you lose sight of the ball. It was a catchable ball, no question about it. It’s a play he’ll tell you he should make. I’m telling you he should make it.”
“(Espino) executed his offspeed pitches, that’s for sure. He mixed pitchd very well, on the corners. He didn’t give us many pitches to hit tonight. Even when he fell behind tonight, he executed his offspeed pitches pretty good. He gave us some fits tonight, that’s for sure.”
“Like I told them in the last series, we lost the first game and then again tonight, but it’s only one game. We’ve got a chance to come back tomorrow and win a game. If we do that, we’re in pretty good shape.”
“(The fourth inning) was big. Without that fourth inning, if I keep those runners on, it’s a 0-0 ballgame. My bad, I missed some changeups in the dirt and they were tough for Murph to block. It’s a tough inning.”
“I felt great. I felt like it was the beginning of the season. I know my innings are up there, and I’m starting to get used to it and get in the groove. I’m feeling great.”
“I think doing that last game also, we know we still have a lot of confidence. We’ll be fine. We just have to do the same thing we did against Reading.”
“(On if it’s tough to know this possibly is the way his own season ends) Yes and no. I know I threw as good of a game as I could. Like I said, the fourth inning was my fault. I keep those two wild pitches in my back pocket, and those two runs probably don’t score. I’m not mad, just have to get it together.”
(On the importance of taking care of business at home, since they won three straight at home to win their opening series after getting down 0-2) “I think it’s in the back of our heads, that’s a good point. We obviously know from experience that the road is tough to play on, especially against these guys. They have good pitching, they play D well and they can swing it. We just have to do that a little bit better.”
“Today, at the beginning of the game, I was having a little trouble with my command. But later in the game, I felt that my command was coming back and my offspeed pitches were working well. The run support the team was giving me, that was a relief for me. You feel more comfortable when you’re on the mound.”
“(In the fourth, it was) bases loaded and I think (pitching coach) Tony (Arnold) came out and talked for a little bit, he calmed me down. I think I was in a rush, I tried to go too quick. I just took a deep breath, try to control myself and it worked. I got out of it, everything went well.”
Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com