The Aeros could not figure out how to solve Richmond starting pitcher Edwin Escobar on Sunday and had to settle for a split of their four-game series at Canal Park as a result.
Escobar, a 21-year-old left-hander, was making his fourth start since being promoted from San Jose, the San Francisco Giants’ high Class A team. He made quite an impression leading Richmond to a 2-0 victory before 4,396 fans.
Throwing strikes and working at a rapid pace, Escobar (2-2) gave up just three hits, striking out nine and walking only two in 7⅓ innings.
He didn’t allow a runner past first base until designated hitter Chris Wallace led off the eighth with a double high off the center-field wall. With reliever Cody Hall retiring the final two batters of the inning, Wallace never advanced beyond second.
Akron’s Paolo Espino also turned in a fine effort in his seven innings on the mound, but was overshadowed by his counterpart.
“Escobar did a great job,” said Aeros manager Edwin Rodriguez. “First time we faced him. He’s 92-94 [miles per hour]. I think he has a cutter, command of his secondary pitches. He keeps the runners close at first. He’s the whole package.”
He even cooled off shortstop Francisco Lindor, the Cleveland Indians’ top prospect, who went 0-for-3 with a strikeout against Escobar. Lindor also struck out against Hall to end the eighth.
Lindor was hitting .381 through his first 12 games since being promoted from Carolina.
Escobar wasted little time between pitches, which also worked to his advantage, according to Rodriguez.
“That’s his style,” he said. “When you work fast — get the ball, get the sign and pitch — that not only has an affect on the hitters, it has an affect on the defense. Also has an affect on the umpire. Any close call, he’s going to give it to you.”
Going on the road
Akron (53-55) has a travel day before starting a six-game road trip Tuesday. The Aeros, fourth in the Eastern League’s Western Division and 5› games behind first-place Harrisburg, play three games at New Britain followed by three at Altoona.
It was an encouraging performance for Espino (2-5) as he bounced back from two rough outings. The 5-foot-10, 206-pound right-hander gave up a run on three hits in the first, including right fielder Brett Krill’s RBI single.
Krill led off the seventh with a double and scored on catcher Tyler LaTorre’s single through the left side that put the Flying Squirrels (50-58) up 2-0.
In between, Espino retired 13 in a row from the second through the seventh. He gave up six hits, striking out five and not allowing a walk. He said mixing his off-speed pitches with his fastball made the difference.
“I know I was having rough starts,” said Espino. “I was trying not to think much about it. In my bullpen sessions, I’m trying to focus on my mechanics. I’ve been having some issues with it this year. I felt good today. That’s a good thing. After those first three innings, I knew I was going to do OK.”
Espino added that he is trying to avoid opening up too early in his stride.
“As soon as I open early with my leg, everything goes open,” he said. “I’m working on staying closer with my elbow more straight to the plate.”
Familiar face in Akron
Espino, 26, is in his seventh pro season. He owns the Aeros’ franchise record for wins with a 24-13 record and is the all-time strikeout leader with 347. He was promoted to Class AAA Columbus in late May and went 1-4 in 12 games (three starts) but rejoined the Aeros on July 9.
“It’s always hard when you get sent down,” said Espino. “I’ve done it before. I’ve been up and down. Every time they send me down here, the only thing I think is I probably have to do a better job. But I think I’m doing OK. Here, I’ve just got to keep doing what I was doing since 2010, so hopefully it keeps going well for me now.”
Rodriguez said pitching more inside and hitting his spots were the keys for Espino on Sunday.
“He’s a guy who should help us and we’re counting on him,” said Rodriguez. “It was good to see him pitch seven strong innings.”