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Bowie Baysox vs. Akron Aeros -- Game 4 preview

No one was able to hit four home runs in last night's game, but there were still plenty of fireworks in Game 3 of the Eastern League playoffs between the Bowie Baysox and Akron Aeros.

The first base umpire ejected Baysox starting pitcher David Hernandez in the top of the third inning -- while his team was hitting -- for arguing about the strike zone from the dugout.

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The biggest moment of last night's game, however, came moments earlier when Cleveland Indians slugger Travis Hafner, who is on a rehab assignment with the Aeros, hit a grand slam in the second inning against Hernandez. The home run gave Akron a 6-0 lead over the Baysox and wound up being the deciding margin in the game after Baysox right fielder Nolan Reimold picked up two RBIs in the eighth inning of the 6-2 loss.

I've had a few e-mails about Hafner's presence in the game and I'm not exactly sure that it's fair for Hafner to be playing in -- and influencing in a major way -- a playoff series that might be the best opportunity for a lot of the Bowie players to win a championship on the professional level. It's apparently within the rules of the league, however, so it's not really an issue as far as I'm concerned.

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It does seem like a tough way for the Baysox to lose, but no one would be talking about it if Hernandez had not given up the grand slam. The 23-year-old starting pitcher is going to need to learn how to get hitters like Hafner out if he plans on playing in the major leagues someday.

The Aeros could wrap up a berth in the Eastern League championship with a victory in the 6:05 p.m. game. The two teams will head back to Bowie on Sunday for the deciding game if the Baysox win tonight.

Here are the tentative pitching matchups for the rest of the playoff series between Bowie and Akron:

Game 4 -- Tonight, 6:05 p.m., at Akron

Bowie: Chris Tillman (11-4, 3.18 ERA)

Akron: Frank Herrmann (11-6, 4.10 ERA)

Game 5 -- Tomorrow, 5:05 p.m., at Bowie (if necessary)

Bowie: Zach Clark (4-2, 3.60 ERA)

Akron: Kevin Dixon (9-11, 4.41 ERA)

Tonight's notes

* In seven starts against Akron this season, Tillman was 0-2 with a 3.86 ERA. He had 27 strikeouts and 17 walks in 30 1/3 innings against the Aeros. The 20-year-old starting pitcher has won his past four starts, allowing only two earned runs in 23 innings during that span. He had 30 strikeouts and eight walks in the four games.

* Herrmann was 1-1 with a 3.68 ERA in four games against the Baysox in 2008. He struck out 20 hitters and only allowed one walk in 22 innings during those four games. Herrmann picked up the victory in his last start against the Erie SeaWolves on Aug. 30 although he gave up four earned runs and seven hits in six innings.

* Hafner was 7-for-22 (.318) with three doubles, no home runs and four RBIs in seven games for the Triple-A Buffalo Bisons before their season ended. He has been out of the major leagues since May because of a right shoulder strain. Hafner is expected to play again tonight, but he's unlikely to travel to Bowie for tomorrow's game if the Baysox win.

* Baysox shortstop Blake Davis was only 2-for-11 in the first three games of the playoff series. He hit .282 with six RBIs and eight runs scored in 21 games against Akron during the regular season. Davis hit .367 with 14 RBIs and 15 runs scored in 27 games during the final month of the season.

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