There aren’t many pitchers at the Double-A level having a better first half to the season than T.J. McFarland.
The left-handed sinkerballer improved to 8-1 in the Aeros’ 3-2 win over Richmond in front of a Sunday crowd of 3,041 at Canal Park.
Entering the game, he already had the most wins in the Eastern League and had the third-best ERA (1.86). He allowed one run in seven innings and struck out six Sunday, dropping that ERA to 1.79.
“[McFarland] didn’t have as good a breaking ball today as he has in the past, but pitched really well with his fastball and change-up,” Aeros manager Chris Tremie said. “Strong seven innings ... another quality outing.”
He has allowed one run in his past 21 innings pitched and was named Cleveland Indians Minor League Player of the Week for May 7-13. And he’s putting in a strong bid for Player of the Month — only four runs have crossed the plate on his watch in the month of May.
He had to work for the win against Richmond, though. McFarland was in a couple of bad situations but found different ways to get out of them.
He ran into a jam in the second inning when Richmond put runners on the corners with one out. McFarland, not known as a strikeout pitcher, as is the case with most sinkerballers, bucked the trend and struck out back-to-back hitters to escape the inning.
The next inning, Mc- Farland again had two runners on with one out. This time, as a good sinkerballer tends to do, he induced a ground-ball double play to end the inning.
Fast forward to the seventh inning, and it’s the same situation: two runners on, one out. And again, it’s the same result: a ground-ball double-play that ends with McFarland fist-pumping as he leaves the mound.
Meanwhile, the Aeros’ bats have caught fire.
In their three-game series with Richmond, the Aeros totaled 45 hits and 34 runs.
Tremie believes good hitting can be contagious.
“You go through streaks like that when you have so many good at-bats,” he said. “This game can be contagious. They had a great series up and down the lineup.”
First baseman Chun Chen and third baseman Kyle Bellows each had the best weekend of their seasons. Chen went 8-12 with six RBI, and Bellows finished the weekend 6-12 with two home runs and six RBI.
Bellows struggled to begin last season but rallied to have a good second half once he was able to relax. He’s going through something similar this season.
“Just staying out of my own way and just playing the game and having fun,” Bellows said. “It’s really nice when you get off to a good start, but when you get off to a bad one, it’s hard to get it all together.”
Adam Abraham, Thomas Neal and Davis Stoneburner all drove in runs Sunday.
The Aeros will go on the road for a four-game set with the Trenton Thunder. On Thursday, the Aeros are slated to face pitcher Adam Miller, formerly one of the top prospects in the Indians organization.
Ryan Lewis can be reached at email@example.com. Read the high school blog at www.ohio.com/preps. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/RyanLewisABJ and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/sports.abj.