Tyler Waldron came out of his first four starts for the Curve with a 1-1 record and a 5.09 earned run average. Tuesday, night, however, the 23-year-old shined on the mound for the Curve.
Akron's Brett Brach shined a little brighter.
The starting pitchers hooked up in a pitchers' duel in the first seven innings before an announced crowd of 3,387 at Peoples Natural Gas Field, and Brach came out on top in a 3-1 squeaker over the Curve as they come down the 2012 homestretch.
Mirror photo by Patrick Wakmsunski
Oscar Tejeda winces after fouling a ball off his foot in the second inning Tuesday.
Brach, using a three-quarter pitching motion, gave up only two hits and no runs while striking out four and walking three in seven innings, while Waldron scattered six hits and gave up one run while striking out two and walking three.
"I battled," said Waldron, who was 7-8 at Class A Bradenton before getting promoted. "I got to watch this team in the last two games, went over the gameplan and stuck to my gameplan the whole game. I changed it up a little bit depending on what type of hitter I was facing. All in all, I battled, went deep and gave my team a chance to win.
"[Brach] did a good job. He recognized that he had our hitters offbalance, and he stayed with stuff that was working. It didn't really look like he changed his gameplan at all."
"I thought Brach did an outstanding job," Curve manager P.J. Forbes said. "He threw pitches for strikes all night, and we seemed to be in-between at all times. You have to tip your cap to their pitching. It's been that way all season."
Whenever the Eastern League Western-leading Aeros (79-57) would get a runner in scoring position, Waldron found the pitch that would get an out.
"It was a night that I could get all three pitches in the zone whenever I wanted to," Waldron said. "I was able to keep their guys on their front foot, and when I saw them on their front foot, I'd throw a fastball and get them."
The Aeros scored their first run when Jesus Aguilar smoked a leadoff double to deep center field, moved to third on a Matt Lawson sacrifice bunt and scored on Adam Abraham's single to left-center field.
Akron wasn't afraid to bunt, laying two down in the first two innings, and cleanup hitter Chun Chen tried to beat out a bunt leading off the sixth, but Curve catcher Ramon Cabrera field the ball out in front of the plate and made a strong throw to first for the out.
The Curve (66-70), meanwhile, had their problems on the bases.
Cabera and and Oscar Tejada were picked off by Brach (4-7) in the first and second inning, respectively, and Adalberto Santos was thrown out by catcher Michel Hernandez trying to steal second base in the fifth.
"The disappointing thing on the pickoffs is when you almost get picked off the first time and then get picked off the second time, you have to recognize the first time," Forbes said. " 'Okay, I've got to shorten up.' With the caught stealing, we didn't read the slide step. For me, those are mental mistakes. When you don't have a lot of baserunners, I think it's more magnified."
Waldron was lifted after retiring the Aeros 1-2-3 in the seventh. It was his longest stint with the Curve, which was encouraging.
"I just think any time you go out as a starter, go deep and give yourself a chance to win, it always builds confidence," he said. "I've got one more start. I kick myself in the butt every inning I go out. I know it's getting down to the wire."
"I think the gameplan for him was to put the ball on the ground," Forbes said. "There were 12 groundball outs, and you can't ask for anything more. They strung two [hits] together, and that's all they needed."
The Aeros scored two runs in the ninth as relievers Nathan Baker and Vic Black experienced control problems. Baker walked Lawson and Ryan Rohlinger, and Black hit Hernandez with his first pitch, loading the bases. Jordan Henry then poked a single to center field to score two runs. The runs were big because the Curve scored a run in the bottom of the ninth on a wild pitch.
"We put all three baserunners on," Forbes said, "and we've talked all year about relievers who can't give free bases. It usually comes back to bite you, and it did tonight."
No players involved
There was an automobile accident around the time the game ended near the ballpark, but Curve officials said no players were involved. Police cars and ambulances reported to the scene.
Key player: Akron starting pitcher Brett Brach gave up only two hits and held the Curve scoreless in seven innings.
Key play: Akron's Jordan Henry knocked in two runs with a bases-loaded single in the top of the ninth.
Key stat: The Curve were picked off twice in the first two innings by Brett Brach, and Adalberto Santos was caught stealing in the fifth.
How they scored
Top 2nd: Aguilar doubled, scored on Abraham's single.
Top 9th: Lawson and Rohlinger walked, both scored on Henry's single.
Bottom 9th: Drew Maggi walked and scored on a Preston Guilmet wild pitch.