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When the Aeros pitching staff held hot-hitting Bowie to one run through eight innings during Saturday afternoon’s game, it appeared the host had finally contained the Eastern League’s hottest hitting team.
The visiting Baysox, which entered the afternoon boasting a .308 combined batting average, had pummeled Akron’s pitching staff for 13 runs in each of the last two games, both Aeros loses.
So one run allowed through eight? Wow, what a turaround.
That is until a disaterous ninth inning when relievers Kyle Landis and Bryce Stowell combined to allow the Baysox to rally for eight runs and put an exclamation point on the third game of four-game series that wraps up today at 2:05 p.m. at Canal Park.
It wasn’t just bad pitching that included five hits and two wild pitches that led to the flood gates being opened. It was bad pitching combined with sudden lackluster defense that resulted in a passed ball and two errors that allowed the carnage to continue.
One bad inning here and there is going to happen. But when game in and game out the young Aeros conitnue to shows signs of vulnerability to the big inning, then that’s a problem.
“These players have the talent to be here in Double-A,” first-year Aeros manager Edwin Rodriguez said. “But they still have to develop the mental toughness and the ability to concentrate in tough situtaions.”
That’s because right now, when the team’s pitchers begin to struggle, the defense follows suit. Case in point: the ninth inning.
With the Aeros clinging to a 1-0 lead, Landis promptly gave up singles to the first two batters he faced. An error by third baseman Giovanny Urshela loaded the bases.
Baysox catcher Brian Ward followed with a hard chopper towards third, but with Urshela playing in with the bases loaded, the base hit bounced past him and resulted in two runs. Bowie quickly piled on, with a Landis wild pitch allowing a third run to score before the flood gates really opened. Landis, an Eastern League mid-season All-Star last year, eventually left the game with an appearant injury and Bowie leading 5-1.
Stowell was given all the time he needed to warm up on the mound after he came in for Landis, but the right-hander couldn’t stop the bleeding. Another RBI hit, a wild pitch, a passed ball and error on shortstop Ronny Rodriguez occurred as the Baysox batted around.
Before the Aeros imploded, starting pitcher and ace Danny Salazar cruised through five innings. The right-hander did not give up the first Bowie hit until after he’d retired the first 11 batters (including seven via strikeout) on Aaron Baker’s double in the fourth inning.
Salazar went on to limit the Baysox to two meaningless hits while striking out nine. Despite his effectiveness, he’s limited to 85 pitches or five innings as he continues to recover from Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery two years ago.
“For at least the first two months of the season,” Salazar said of his restrictions. “Then, they should let me go a little longer after that.”
Trey Haley followed Salazar, making his season debut after joining the team Friday. The right-hander kept the Baysox out of the scoring column as well, each of his two innings aided by double-play balls.
But then came Landis, who cruised through the eighth inning before hitting the wall hard in the ninth inning. After five runs had scored, pitching coach Greg Hibbard made a prolonged visit to the mound and Landis was lifted without anyone even warming up in the bullpen.
After the game, word in the clubhouse was that Landis had been removed for “precautionary reasons.” But when asked if a potential injury had led to Landis’ struggles, Rodriguez, quickly shook his head side to side.
“No, that came on the second trip to the mound,” the veteran skipper said. “I don’t think it had anything to do with it. “I think it was his side, but he’s going to be alright. When he went out, he was fine.”
Earlier in the game, Bowie starter Jake Pettit tiptoed in and out of trouble in his five innings of work. Still, the lefty stranded the bases loaded twice – in the first and fifth innings.
The Aeros lone run came in the second after shortstop Rodriguez singled to start the inning, and then cruised home on Urshela's double. It was the only run Pettit gave up, despite allowing five hits and five walks and striking out just two.