Tony Sipp ... ready to provide relief?
The Akron Aeros will be seeking a little revenge Tuesday night when they open the best-of-five Eastern League Championship Series against Trenton. A year ago, the Thunder topped the favored Aeros in four games for the title. Akron is in the finals for the fourth year in a row and fifth time in the last six years. The Aeros won it all in 2003 and 2005 and lost in the finals the last two years.
The series opens at Akron's Canal Park and concludes in Trenton. The games tomorrow and Wednesday start at 7:05 p.m., while all three games scheduled in Trenton will start at 6:05 p.m.
A year ago, Trenton won in four games for its first league title. The New York Yankees' farm team is 12-17 all-time in the playoffs, dating to 1995. The Aeros are 24-19 all-time in the playoffs, dating to 1997.
Akron eliminated the Bowie BaySox in four games in the first round to earn its fourth consecutive Southern Division pennants. The Aeros have been in the playoffs six of the last seven seasons.
Trenton had not made the playoffs since 1999 before winning it all last year. The Thunder swept the Portland Sea Dogs in three games to claim the Northern Division title.
The Aeros most likely will not have the services of slugger Travis Hafner, who helped them beat Bowie in the first round. The DH is likely to be activated Tuesday by the Cleveland Indians. He has been sidelined since May with a sore/weak right shoulder and was with the Aeros on a rehab assignment. In two games against Bowie, he hit a grand slam and three-run homer.
Another player coming back from injury who could make a difference in the series is left-hander Tony Sipp. The reliever had Tommy John surgery 14 months ago, pitched well in brief stints for the Gulf Coast League Indians and Class A Kinston (0.75 ERA and 14 strikeouts in 12 innings combined) before joining Akron.
With the Aeros, the hard-throwing Sipp had mixed results. When he was good, he was sensational. But he also had a couple of very poor outings and went 0-3 with a 3.74 ERA and one save in 16 appearances for Akron. But he also had 32 strikeouts in 21 2-3 innings.
In his final 10 outings of the regular season, Sipp struck out 25 and walked only three in 15 innings, giving up seven hits and one run (0.60 ERA).
In the first round of the playoffs, Sipp had one bad outing and one good one. In Game 1 against Bowie, he allowed one run and two hits in two-thirds of an inning, though both outs were strikeouts. In Game 4, he worked one scoreless inning.
Here's the schedule and pitching matchups for the series:
Game 1 (Tuesday) at Canal Park
TRE RHP Eric Hacker (7-4, 2.76 ERA; 1-0, 1.59 ERA in playoffs) vs. AKR RHP Kevin Dixon (9-11, 4.41 ERA; first playoff start)
Game 2 (Wednesday) at Canal Park
TRE RHP Christian Garcia (0-0, 3.38 ERA; first playoff start) vs. AKR RHP J.D. Martin (11-3, 2.49 ERA; 0-1, 5.40 ERA in playoffs)
Game 3 (Friday) at Trenton
AKR LHP Ryan Edell (7-8, 3.80 ERA; 1-0, 1.23 ERA in playoffs) vs. TRE RHP George Kontos (6-11, 3.68 ERA; first playoff start)
Game 4 (Saturday) at Trenton, if necessary
AKR RHP Frank Herrmann (11-6, 4.10 ERA; 1-0, 1.29 ERA) vs. TRE RHP Jeff Marquez (1-1, 2.93 ERA; 0-0, 5.40 ERA in playoffs)
Game 5 (Sunday) at Trenton, if necessry
AKR Pitcher TBA vs. TRE RHP Jason Jones (13-7, 3.33 ERA; 0-0, 6.00 ERA in playoffs)
Trenton Thunder (86-54) vs. Akron Aeros (80-62)
Head-to-Head during 2008 regular season:
Trenton vs. Akron
4-3 W-L 3-4
.233 BA .211
25 Runs 23
1 HR 4
2 SB 12
2.79 ERA 3.79
64 K 53
30 BB 15
Trenton won four of the seven meetings, including three of five played in New Jersey in early August.
Thunder starters had a 3.48 ERA against Akron, but take away Mike Gardner's poor outing in the final series matchup a month ago, when he gave up seven runs in only 2 2-3 innings, and Trenton's rotation had a 1.76 ERA against the Aeros.
Akron starters had a 2.41 ERA against Trenton this season, though Ryan Edell really struggled against the Thunder. He gave up nine runs in 11 innings over two starts. Take that away, and the rest of the Aeros' rotation had a sparkling 0.60 ERA against the Thunder.
Right-fielder Edwar Gonzalez led the Thunder offensively against Akron, hitting .389 (7-for-18) for the with a homer and five RBI. Third baseman Chris Malec and catcher P.J. Pilittere combined to hit .302 (13-for-43) with seven RBI. Conversely, center-fielder Austin Jackson hit .154 (4-for-26) with 12 strikeouts.
Two Trenton pitchers who had success against the Aeros are now at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Chase Wright worked seven scoreless innings in his only outing against Akron. Zach Kroenke had one save in 4 2/3 scoreless innings over three games.
The Aeros will be without left-hander Scott Lewis, who was called up to Buffalo late in the season and promoted to the Cleveland Indians on Monday. Lewis worked 7 2-3 scoreless innings in his only start against Trenton. Frank Herrmann pitched 7 1/3 shutout innings in his start against the Thunder.
Right-fielder Ryan Goleski struggled most of the season, but had a lightning-quick bat against the Thunder, hitting .462 (6-for-13) with two homers and three RBI. Infielder Brandon Pinckney hit .333 (6-for-18) with a homer and six RBI -- though Akron's middle of the order struggled against the Thunder. Third baseman Wes Hodges and first baseman/outfielder Stephen Head combined to hit .170 (8-for-47) with four RBI against Trenton.
The Aeros did not have slugger Matt LaPorta in early games against Trenton. He was acquired July 7 from the Milwaukee organization in the trade that sent CC Sabathia to the Brewers.
LaPorta was with the U.S. Olympic Team in China when the Aeros played in Trenton in August. He was hit in the head with a pitch during the Olympics, but has not showed any ill effects in his return to the Aeros, hitting 9-for-21. That includes going 6-for-13 with three homers and five RBI in the first-round win over Bowie.