Hector Rondon ... he's 2-0.
Carlos Santana hit a grand slam in the bottom of the first inning and Akron went on to defeat visiting Altoona 4-1 on the first Education Day of the season Wednesday morning at Canal Park. Four pitchers, led by starter Hector Rondon, combined on the six-hit triumph in the Class AA Eastern League game. The Aeros finished their opening homestand of the year at 5-1, doing it with fine pitching.
Rondon (2-0, 1.59 ERA) allowed one run and four hits over 5 2-3 innings, walking one and striking out five.
Carlton Smith made his Akron debut out of the bullpen with 1 1-3 innings of perfect relief. Erik Stiller survived a scare in the eighth, allowing a single and hitting a batter to bring the potential tying run to the plate with one out before two fly balls ended the threat.
Closer Vinnie Pestano surrendered a leadoff double in the ninth before recording three quick outs for his third save in three chances.
Josh Rodriguez led off the Aeros' first with a walk against Altoona left-hander Tony Watson. Carlos Rivero then blooped a single into shallow center field. Beau Mills surprised everyone with a perfect bunt down the third-base line that came to a rest on the chalk to load the bases.
Santana then hammered a 2-1 fastball deep over the fence in left-center for a 4-0 lead.
Santana (.263) went 1-for-3 with a walk and four RBI. He has driven in eight of his 10 runs and hit both of his homers in Rondon’s two starts. Mills (.240) went 3-for-4 and third baseman Niuman Romero (.412) was 2-for-4.
The Aeros now hit the road to begin a weeklong trip to Bowie and Harrisburg. Game one of the four-game series with the Baysox is set for 7:05 p.m. Thursday, with Akron’s Frank Herrmann (1-0, 1.50 ERA) taking on Bowie southpaw Troy Patton (1-0, 0.00 ERA), who beat the Aeros last Friday.
In addition to Rondon and Herrmann, Akron's other three starters have been impressive: Josh Tomlin (1-1, 1.80 ERA), Chuck Lofgren (0-0, 2.25 ERA), and Steve Wright (1-0, 3.60 ERA).
It isn't too surprising that after six games, the Columbus Clippers have five key hitters batting over .300. The Triple-A team has only a 2-4 record, but a .294 batting average. Kinston has compiled a 3-3 record and Lake County is 1-5 in Class A ball.
First baseman Michael Aubrey leads Columbus with a .550 average (11-for-20) while left fielder Matt LaPorta is at .500 (8-for-16).
Aubrey also has two doubles, a triple, homer and seven RBI without a strikeout for a .565 on-base percentage, .900 slugging percentage and 1.465 OPS.
LaPorta has scored a team-high six runs with three doubles, a triple, homer and three RBI for a .556 on-base mark, 1.000 slugging percentage and 1.556 OPS.
Second baseman Luis Valbuena is hitting .348 (8-for-23) with five runs, a double, triple, homer, three RBI, four walks and two stolen bases.
Center fielder Michael Brantley and third baseman are both 8-for-24 (.333).
The Clippers have compiled a 6.17 ERA, however. The starting rotation has particularly struggled. Jack Cassel (0-1, 16.20), Aaron Laffey (0-1, 13.50), Kirk Saarloos (0-1, 7.50) and David Huff (1-0, 7.20 ERA) have been hit hard, while Jeremy Sowers worked five scoreless innings to win his only start.
At Kinston, Matt Brown is batting .474 (9-for-19) with four runs and four RBI. Matt McBride is at .348 (8-for-23) with five doubles and six RBI.
Lonnie Chisenhall (.250), Tim Fedroff (.176) and Cord Phelps (.059), all of whom skipped over Lake County in their second season as pros, are working to adjust to High-A pitching.
Lefty Kelvin De La Cruz has been very impressive, going 2-0 with a 1.50 ERA and 19 strikeouts and only two walks over 12 innings. Right-hander Zach Putnam is 1-0 with a 1.80 ERA.
Kinston is batting .237 overall and has a team ERA of 3.86.
Reliever Kyle Landis (1-0, 1.93 ERA) has Lake County's only win and that came after he blew his only save opportunity.
Center fielder Adam White (.353, 6-for-17) leads the offense. The Captains are batting .269 overall. Their ERA is 5.24.
Catcher Adam Abraham (.350, 7-for-20), third baseman Jeremie Tice (.318, 7-for-22), first baseman Nate Recknagel (.313, 5-for-16) and left fielder Ryan Blair (.333, 5-for-15) are doing well.