The Aeros haven’t been to the playoffs since 2009, when they captured their third Eastern League Championship by defeating Connecticut three games to one.
They haven’t come close to making the postseason the past two years with a majority of the parent-club Indians’ top prospects still in the lower levels of the minor-league system.
The names on the Aeros’ roster this season might not jump out and grab the attention of the average fan, but the Aeros entered Wednesday’s game on a seven-game winning streak.
The Aeros (16-6) also had the best record in the 12-team league and a 3½-game lead over the Harrisburg Senators in the Western Division.
Pitching has led the way. The Aeros’ ERA of 2.28 is tops in the league and they also lead the league in fewest walks (67), home runs (six), hits (147) and earned runs (50).
“As a group, they’ve exceeded expectations of what we thought to start the season,” Aeros manager Chris Tremie said. “I’m not surprised because they’re very talented, but they’ve been very good right out of the gate.”
In addition to the solid beginning by starting pitchers T.J. McFarland (4-1, 2.22 ERA), Steven Wright (2-1, 1.45 ERA) and Giovanni Soto (2-0, 4.05 ERA), the Aeros bullpen has been strong.
“Our bullpen [pitchers] have made it very easy on [pitching coach] Tony [Arnold] and I because they’ve all thrown well,” Tremie said. “We’re comfortable with just about any one of them in any situation right now, from the fourth, fifth inning to the seventh, eighth and ninth innings.”
The Aeros have played solid defense behind the pitchers, ranking second in the league in fielding percentage (.984).
About the only piece of the puzzle that hasn’t come together so far for the Aeros is the offense. The team is seventh in the league with a .254 batting average.
There are exceptions to the rule.
Left fielder Jared Goedert leads the Eastern League with a .400 batting average and has two home runs, seven RBI and eight runs scored. With a single in his first at-bat Wednesday, Goedert continued his streak of reaching base safely in each of the 21 games in which he has played.
Also doing well at the plate is first baseman Chun Chen, who is hitting .329, good for ninth in the league.
Tuesday night he entered the game as a pinch hitter in the seventh inning and went 3-for-3, with the game-winning hit in the 10th inning.
“Chen did such a great job coming in,” Tremie said. “The first pitch he saw in his first at-bat, he doubles to right-center field. Then he went in and caught and did well behind the plate. He had the base hit up the middle [to tie the game] and then in a big situation, had the base hit to right field for a game- winner. You can’t ask for more out of a player than that.”
Chen is also doing well in his transition from catching to first base. He has yet to make an error.
“He’s adapted very well in a short period of time,” Tremie said. “His hands are pretty good over there and while his footwork is a work in progress, he’s done a nice job overall in a somewhat unfamiliar situation.”
Stephanie Storm can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Aeros blog at www.ohio.com/aeros. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/SStormABJ and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/sports.abj.