Three Akron pitchers combined on a three-hit shutout Tuesday night, as the Aeros claimed a 3-0 victory over the Trenton Thunder in the opening game of the Eastern League Finals at Canal Park.
With the win, the Aeros (82-59, 4-2) grab a one game to none lead in the best-of-five series. Akron is looking for the franchise's fourth championship.
Aeros starter Paolo Espino (1-1) threw seven shutout innings Tuesday to earn his first win of the post-season. Although he walked four batters and hit another, he allowed only two hits on the night.
Trenton (3-2) produced its biggest threat of the night in the top of the fourth inning when they loaded the bases with one out via two walks and a hit batsman. Espino rebounded to strike out Tyler Austin, and then induced a pop-up from Kevin Mahoney to strand all three runners. He didn't falter after that and ended his outing by retiring the final six batters he faced.
The Aeros broke through in the bottom of the fourth with two runs against Trenton starter Brett Marshall (0-2). After leadoff singles by Tyler Holt and Chun Chen, Marshall threw a pair of wild pitches, the second of which scored Holt for the game's first run. With Chen at third, Matt Lawson lifted a sacrifice fly to right, with Chen narrowly beating Zoilo Almonte's throw to the plate.
The Aeros made it 3-0, in the sixth when Holt tripled to right, and scored on a double by Chen.
Espino, who won seven games during the regular season, gave way to righthander Shawn Armstrong, who threw a perfect eighth. Closer and EL saves leader Preston Guilmet came on and worked around a one-out single in the ninth to nail down his third save of the playoffs.
Holt and Chen had two hits apiece for the Aeros. Holt also walked in the eighth to reach base three times on the night. He is hitting .350 in the playoffs, tops on the Aeros.
Trenton was shut out only four times during the regular season.
The Aeros and Thunder will play game two of the series at Canal Park on Wednesday evening at 7:05. LHP Shaeffer Hall (0-0, 0.00) will start for Trenton against Akron RHP Danny Salazar (0-0, 3.38).