Akron holds on for 4-3 victory over Altoona
The Akron Aeros defeated the Altoona Curve, 4-3, in a nail-biting save by right-handed closer Rob Bryson.
Bryson came to the mound in the bottom of the eighth after the decision was made to pull right-handed pitcher Loek van Mil from the game for precautionary measures to check out a possible lat injury. He went into the ninth inning with a two run lead, but found himself quickly in a jam.
“I definitely put myself in a tough situation and made it a lot harder than it had to be,” said Bryson. “With a two run lead going into the inning I was pretty comfortable. “But then I got myself into a jam walking the first guy, then a run scoring triple.
Bryson walked Curve center fielder Robbie Grossman and then hung one over the plate for shortstop Brock Holt to smash a triple to center field to bring the score to 4-3. The right-hander buckled down and struck out the next three batters stranding the tying run on third.
Rafael Perez, veteran left-handed reliever for the Indians, started the outing from the mound. Perez suffered a left lat injury and had been on the disabled list since April 27. He came to the Aeros on a five game rehab program to gear him back up for the majors.
“It was a very good first step for him back on the field,” said Aeros Manager Chris Tremie. “He worked fast. He threw a quick eight pitches and he threw strikes. He looked good in his first outing coming back.”
The Curve drew first blood in the top of the fourth inning. Altoona right fielder Quincy Latimore tapped a line drive double up the middle to Akron center fielder Tyler Holt for a 2-0 lead.
Right fielder Thomas Neal got the bottom half of the inning going with his nineteenth double of the season. Shortstop Juan Diaz had a long battle at the plate. After tossing his bat toward the dugout, assuming he had been walked on a 3-1 count, he was forced to return to the plate and duke it out. After fouling off several pitches, Diaz came to hit a homerun, his eighth of the season, over the center field fence to tie the game up. Catcher Roberto Perez grounded into a double play to short, but was able to get third baseman Ryan Rohlinger across the plate to take a 3-2 lead.
Both teams went scoreless after the fourth until the Aeros brought back the momentum in the bottom of the eighth. Holt made his way to first on a walk, and while second baseman Matt Lawson was batting, made a dash to second for a steal. Lawson was hit hard with the next pitch and also made his way to first. With some extra hustle, Neal was able to make it to first on a fielding error by third baseman Stefan Welch while Holt scored to make it 4-2.
The Curve made their last efforts in the ninth but were shut down by Bryson’s stellar performance.
“It was a great job of leaving that runner on third,” said Tremie. “What a fantastic way to close the game out.”