Altoona, PA - With one of the youngest lineups in Double-A baseball, the Aeros have had their ups and downs this season. One thing is for certain, though, you can never count the youngsters out.
Trailing 5-4, with one out in the ninth, and facing one of the toughest closers in the league, Akron's Giovanny Urshela cracked a two-run home run that led to a 6-5 victory over the Altoona Curve Saturday night at People Natural Gas Field.
Urshela's homer, his eighth of the year, came on the first pitch he saw from Altoona closer Luis Sanz (2-5), who had been successful in all 13 of his previous save chances. The homer drove in Tyler Holt, who had singled to lead off the inning. Urshela finished with two hits on the night, and now has 34 RBI.
With a 6-5 lead, the Aeros employed Trey Haley to close the game in the bottom of the ninth. He promptly gave up a lead-off hit to Adalberto Santos, who stole second. Haley walked the next hitter, Gregory Polanco, with ball four being thrown intentionally. That's when the Aeros caught a much-needed break.
The next hitter, Alex Dickerson, hit a slow grounder to second baseman Jose Ramirez, who quickly fired a throw to Francisco Lindor at second base for a force on Polanco. As Polanco slid into Lindor, however, he was called for runner's interference by umpire Jason Visconti. Because of the interference call, Dickerson was called out as well, resulting in a double play. Santos was sent back to second base.
After another walk to by Haley, Jarek Cunningham grounded to Lindor, who flipped to second for a game-ending force, and a collective, "Whew!" from the Aeros dugout. It was Haley's sixth save, and made a winner of Jose Flores (7-2) who had thrown a scoreless eighth.
The win snapped Akron's five-game losing streak. It was the first win on the current road trip, and pulled the Aeros back into a tie with Altoona for 4th place in the EL West. With Harrisburg's loss at home to Binghamton, the Aeros are 6 ½ games out of first with 28 games to play. Second-place Erie, the current wild card holder, was still playing at New Britain at press time.
The Aeros (54-59) held a 4-1 lead until the seventh, when the Curve rallied against starter Paolo Espino and reliever Jeff Johnson. A one-out, solo homer by Oscar Tejeda spelled the end of the night for Espino, who worked 6 1/3 innings, and allowed two runs, one earned, on five hits. Johnson came on and retired Alen Hanson for the second out, but then walked Santos. Polanco laced an RBI-ground-rule double to make it 4-3, and Dickerson launched a tape-measure homer to right to give the Curve a 5-4 lead. It was Dickerson's 15th home run of the season, and his sixth against the Aeros.
Espino has been stuck with eight no-decisions this season. It was the fifth time he has handed off a lead to the bullpen, only to walk away empty-handed.
The Aeros had built a 4-0 lead against Altoona lefty Nate Baker with a solo home run and a sacrifice fly by Jesus Aguilar in the second and fourth innings, respectively. In the fifth, Chris Wallace drove in a run with a groundout and Ramirez added an RBI single to make it 4-0. Aguilar has now tied his career-high with 82 RBI.
Prior to Saturday's comeback, the Aeros were 4-52 when trailing after eight innings.
The Aeros will conclude the series and road trip with game three against the Curve (53-58) on Sunday night at 6:00. RHP Toru Murata (4-5, 3.84) is scheduled to start for Akron, while the Curve will counter with RHP Nick Kingham (3-3, 2.96). The game will be broadcast live on Fox Sports 1350 AM, and online at www.sportsradio1350.com. For more information, please call the Aeros at 330-253-5151. Follow the team on Twitter @akronaeros or on Facebook at facebook.com/theakronaeros.