Wady Almonte has struggled lately at the plate, but he belted a two-run homer last night to lead the Bowie Baysox over the Akron Aeros, 2-1, in a Class AA Eastern League game before 3,979 at Prince George's Stadium.

Almonte had homered only once in his previous 35 games and gone 6 for 42 in his last 14 games, cooling off after an early-season hot streak.

However, he gave Bowie a 2-0 lead in the fourth by blasting a pitch from Jamie Brown (5-5) far over the left field fence. The Baysox (44-32) finished with only three hits -- none after the fourth for the second straight night -- but stayed percentage points ahead of Erie (45-33) and in first place of the Southern Division. The loss dropped Akron (42-36) three games behind.

Severna Park resident Mark Budzinski helped the Aeros cut the Baysox lead to 2-1 in the seventh, when he doubled with one out and then scored on two Bowie errors. Bowie third baseman Richie Paz threw away Nick Ortiz's grounder, and first baseman Tom Hage had trouble picking up the ball, allowing Budzinski to score.

After a 1-hour 48-minute rain delay, Bowie starter Carlos Medina (3-5) threw five scoreless innings to earn his third straight win. The left-hander, despite battling control problems, yielded only two hits.

Ron Blazier then threw three scoreless innings, and Ryan Kohlmeier pitched the ninth for his 16th save. Akron finished with three hits and stranded nine.

Center fielder Luis Matos and catcher Jayson Werth -- Baltimore's No. 1 pick in the 1997 draft -- made their Baysox debuts after being called up from Class A Frederick. They replaced Tim DeCinces and Eugene Kingsale, both of whom were promoted to Class AAA Rochester.