Sunday's Aeros score was tied 2-2 entering the late innings, but the afternoon's action was far from the typical pitchers dual the score might have indicated.
The Aeros scored the game winner in the eighth inning against Richmond reliever Daniel Otero when Matt McBride lead off the inning with a single to left field and scored on Chun Chen's double for the 3-2 victory in front of a franchise high 9,328 fans at Canal Park.
But considering the action included 13 walks, six stolen bases, a wild pitch and two passed balls, it's amazing the combined score was even under double digits.
Even Akron closer Cory Burns couldn't manage a traditional three-up, three-down save, turning the ninth inning into a tight-rope walk after quickly recording the first out by getting the dangerous Sharlon Schoop to pop out.
After retiring Schoop, Burns issued two walks and allowed a single to load the bases. But he came back to strike out Charlie Culberson and get Nick Noonan to fly out to end the final threat of the day and escape with his 13th save.
"Usually the first out of the ninth inning is the most important," Burns said. "It tends to set the tone for the whole inning. But I had a little trouble commanding the ball today and just had to battle."
Burns might as well have been speaking for both starting pitchers. Aeros starter Austin Adams entered the game with the 10th best ERA in the Eastern League at 2.81 and was fifth among all league starters in strikeouts to nine innings with 9.94. He'd been cruising through the month of May, owning a 3-2 record with a 2.13 ERA in having limited opponents to six earned runs and striking out 28.
But in Adams' final start of the month, he also battled with his command. The first inning gave the first indication it might be a long day for Adams. Flying Squirrels lead off man Justin Christian singled to start the game and promptly stole second base. Adams issued walks to the next two batters to load the bases - with no outs. But Adams bore down and tip-toed out of the jam by striking out the fourth and fifth hitters before coaxing Johnny Monell to hit into an inning-ending ground out.
In the second inning, Adams allowed a lead-off single to Schoop, who went 2-for-3 with a double and two runs scored. But once again, Adams helped himself with a double-play ball hit by Jose Flores. When Adams issued a walk to the ninth batter with two outs, Chen threw him out trying to steal second to end the inning.
"I though (Adams) threw the ball well for the most part," Aeros manager Chris Tremie said. "He battled in situations and kept damage to a minimum. It could have really blown up on him."
But it didn't. Although Adams did not earn a decision despite limiting Richmond to an unearned run on four hits in five-plus innings. But he also issued five of the Aeros eight walks.
In between Adams trying to settle in, the Aeros made life miserable for Richmond starter and right-hander Justin Fitzgerald. Running on practically everything from the get go, the host manufactured a pair of first-inning runs to take the early lead.
Aeros leadoff man Jordan Henry walked to start the bottom of the inning, then continued to take a good lead at first base to let Fitzgerald know he was looking to steal second. Fitzgerald kept throwing back to the base to try to hold Henry but eventually threw the ball away, allowing Henry to advance to third on the error. Henry then trotted home on Tim Fedroff's single. Fedroff kept Fitrzgerald on his toes as well, stealing second and third base before scoring on Beau Mills' sacrifice fly.
Although Fitzgerald worked his way out of a bases-loaded jam in the second inning, the aggressive Aeros had already stole four of their five bases against him. He also took a no decision, despite limiting the Aeros to two runs (one earned) on three hits while striking out five but walking four.
"The guys were doing a good job running the bases early," Tremie said. "At first, (Fitzgerald) was a little slow to the plate. But as the game went on, he made a nice adjustment and speed up his time to the plate."
Richmond got on the board in the fifth inning against Adams, with the speedster Schoop doubling to start the inning and coming home on a passed ball. Two innings later, the pesky Shoop walked to start the seventh against Aeros reliever Bryan Price, took second on a passed ball by Chun and tied the score on DH Sklyer Stromsmoe's RBI single.