J.D. Martin ... four hitless innings of relief.
The Akron Aeros' attempt at repeating as Class AA Eastern League champions fell short Sunday. Seeking to complete an improbable three-game road sweep to retain the title, the Aeros lost at Portland, 8-5, in the decisive Game 5. After dominating the league during the regular season, two home losses to start the final round proved to be too much for even the favored Aeros to overcome.
Akron made three errors, but two of them came long after the Sea Dogs bolted to an 8-1 lead off surprise starter Bear Bay.
Ace Adam Miller, who went 15-6 with a 2.75 ERA during the regular season and started the first two games of both rounds of the playoffs, was expected to be asked to finish the deal. But manager Tim Bogar, after consulting with Cleveland Indians management, rested Miller.
The reasoning was that Miller had pitched 171 1/3 innings this year 101 more than he worked a year ago, when he missed part of the season with a strained right elbow.
"This isn't about the Eastern League playoffs," Bogar said. "We have to do what's best for the individual. This is about doing what's best for Adam and his career."
The way Portland starter Devern Hansack pitched, it might not have made any difference.
The right-hander struck out eight over eight innings, allowing three runs and seven hits in the longest outing of his career. Minutes after celebrating the championship with teammates, he got his own personal reward when he was told he had been called to the major leagues by the Boston Red Sox.
Bay, who was 7-8 with a 4.33 ERA during the regular season for Akron, wasn't sharp enough for Akron, however. The right-hander gave up eight runs (six earned), eight hits and three walks over three innings, striking out three.
"Bear was good the first inning, but then he started to get some balls up in the zone," Bogar told reporters. "Once that happened, he got behind in the count too much."
Bay yielded four runs in both the second and third innings.
J.D. Martin, continuing to rehab from last year's Tommy John surgery, pitched four sensational innings, allowing only one walk and striking out six.
Nick Pesco, activated after Game 3 when Travis Foley was sidelined with a sore arm, fanned one over one hitless inning.
Shortstop Ivan Ochoa, who hit .294 in the playoffs, went 3-for-4 with two runs, an RBI and two stolen bases to lead Akron's offense. Shaun Larkin hit a solo homer and he and Pat Osborn each had two hits. Trevor Crowe had two RBI, but was hitless in five times up as the first five batters in Akron's batting order (Crowe, Brandon Pinckney, Ryan Goleski, Brian Barton and Brad Snyder) went a combined 2-for-21 with seven strikeouts.
CLASS AA EASTERN LEAGUE PLAYOFFS
Akron Aeros (87-55, 3-2) vs. Portland Sea Dogs (72-67, 3-1)
Game 1, Tuesday: Portland 4, at Akron 3
Game 2, Wednesday: Portland 13, at Akron 8
Game 3, Friday: Akron 6, at Portland 4
Game 4, Saturday: Akron 6, at Portland 5
Game 5, Sunday: at Portland 8, Akron 5 (Sea Dogs win series, 3-2)
Akron won the Southern Division of the Eastern League by 10 1/2 games over second-place Altoona, then eliminated the Curve in five games in the first round of the playoffs. Portland eliminated Trenton in four games in the Northern Division series. The Aeros are seeking their third championship in four years. Akron took three of four from Portland to win it all last year and swept New Haven to win the title in 2003.
This season, Akron went 5-1 against the Sea Dogs, sweeping a three-game set at home in early August as Nick Pesco, Travis Foley and Aaron Laffey got the wins by scores of 3-0, 9-4 and 6-2. A week later in Portland, the Aeros took two of three, losing 9-7, then winning, 5-1 and 1-0 in 10 innings. In that final game, Sean Smith started for Akron and allowed only two hits while fanning eight over eight innings. Tony Sipp struck out three over two perfect innings for the win. The run scored when Pat Osborn got a two-out walk, advanced on a wild pitch, and scored on a single by Jared Sandberg -- only Akron's third hit of the game.
The Sea Dogs hit .194 and Portland pitchers posted a 4.85 ERA in the six games against Akron. Devern Hansack got the lone win, but had a 7.94 ERA in two starts against the Aeros. Akron hit .247, but averaged over five runs a game against the Sea Dogs as Sandberg hit .417 with eight RBI. Aeros pitchers had a 2.50 ERA against Portland. Laffey went 2-0 with a 1.29 ERA over 14 innings.
Southern Division Final, Best of Five
Akron Aeros (87-55) vs. Altoona Curve (75-64)
Game 1, Sept. 6: at Akron 12, Altoona 10
Game 2, Sept. 7: at Akron 12, Altoona 0
Game 3, Sept. 8: at Altoona 4, Akron 1
Game 4, Sept. 9: at Altoona 3, Akron 1
Game 5, Sept. 10: at Akron 5, Altoona 2
Northern Division Final
Trenton Thunder (80-62) vs. Portland Sea Dogs (72-67)
Game 1, Sept. 6: at Trenton 3, Portland 1
Game 2, Sept. 7: Portland 10 at Trenton 3
Game 3, Sept. 8: at Portland 5, Trenton 4
Game 4, Sept. 9: at Portland 4, Trenton 3, 10 innings