Riding a two-game winning streak into Wednesday's home contest with the Connecticut Tigers, the IronBirds came close to tying the contest, and possibly taking their third straight victory, but left two men on with the winning run at the plate in the bottom of the ninth in a 4-2 defeat.
Matt Hobgood (0-6), Baltimore's first-round pick two years ago, had his longest start of the season, going five full innings, but took the loss after he allowed three earned runs on six hits.
The loss, which put the Ironbirds at 2-4 since last Thursday, dropped Aberdeen to 22-42 on the year, and as of Wednesday the IronBirds were at the bottom of the McNamara Division in the New York-Penn League, nine games behind third-place Hudson Valley.
Hobgood, the fifth overall pick of the 2009 amateur draft, started the game by retiring the Tigers' leadoff man, then promptly surrendered a home run to Connecticut shortstop Eugenio Suarez. The next Tiger batter managed a single off of Hobgood, but the Aberdeen starter got out of the inning with a 4-6-3 double-play.
"For the first inning or two, I was throwing a lot of first-pitch strikes," Hobgood said. "Even with the home run, that pitch wasn't left up [in the strike zone]. I threw a first-pitch fastball [to Suarez], he took it. I threw him another one, because it was early in the count, and early in the game, and I like to throw as many fastballs as I can, attack the hitter. He went down and got a good pitch. You just kinda tip your hat on that, I guess."
In the second, Hobgood had a slightly easier time, striking out the first hitter, and retiring the second on a grounder to short before allowing a double. After giving up a walk, the IronBird hurler ended the frame with a groundout back to the mound.
It was in the third that the visitors did most of their damage, starting off with a single, which was followed by Tyler Collins' RBI triple to dead center. With the inning's third hitter up, Hobgood uncorked a wild pitch that allowed Collins to score from third, putting Connecticut up 3-0.
"I got a little frustrated in the second inning," Hobgood said. "I threw a 3-2 pitch that I thought should have been called a strike three. I wound up throwing another 15 pitches that inning, so instead of throwing 23 pitches through two innings, I had 37 pitches. My arm feels good though. They said I was topping out at 92 mph, and was basically 88-91 mph, which is where I've been all year."
Aberdeen nearly tied the game up in the bottom of the eighth with a two-run, two-out rally. Martin Serrata got things moving with a single to left, and Mychal Givens followed with a walk. That brought Joe Velleggia to the mound, and the Aberdeen cleanup swatted an RBI double to left. Representing the tying run, Velleggia was left stranded in scoring position when Wynston Sawyer grounded out to second.
"I started off taking a curveball right down the middle, then had a check swing on a pitch down in the dirt, so I was down 0-2 real quick," Velleggia said after the game. "I was in trouble pretty quick, so just had to shorten up, make sure I could at least foul it off if I didn't get a good pitch, but I got the count 2-2, then fouled a couple pitches off. He threw a slider that hung a little bit, and I was lucky to get enough barrel on it to hit it down the left field line."
Aberdeen's first scoring opportunity came in the seventh, which Velleggia started off by belting the first pitch he saw up the first base line and into the corner in right for a double. Sawyer followed with a strikeout, but next up was Connor Narron, who fisted a 1-2 breaking ball into short left, allowing Velleggia to move over to third base. With runners on the corners and one out, Austin Goolsby went down swinging, and Dudley Leonora hit an inning-ending groundout to short.
The Tigers padded their lead by a run in the top of the final frame, scoring once on reliever Alex Schmarzo.
Aberdeen had a chance to snatch the game away in the bottom of the ninth, but could not seal the deal, leaving two men on base. Narron led off with a base on balls, but Goolsby went down swinging for the inning's first out. Leonora hit into a fielder's choice on which Narron was retired at second base, and Austin Knight kept things alive, slapping a 2-2 pitch down the third base line to put runners at the corners. Representing the winning run, Glynn Davis struck out looking on a full-count pitch that just nicked the inside corner.
Brennan Smith, the Tigers starter, stymied the IronBirds through the first seven frames, allowing just five hits.
"He stayed mostly with fastballs to me, so I was fortunate," Velleggia, who had the IronBirds only extra-base hit off Smith, said. "He was mixing it up pretty well to the other guys, going with sliders and change ups. He kept us off-balance all game."
Playing at home on Tuesday, the IronBirds held off a late surge from Connecticut to earn their second straight victory, 3-2.
With the game still scoreless in the fourth, Serrata led off the home half of the inning with a single to left, which Velleggia followed with a base hit. Sawyer came up next and ripped a single to right that scored Serrata from second, putting Aberdeen up 1-0.
Connecticut answered with a game-tying, solo homer in the sixth, but Aberdeen answered with a pair of runs on the home half of the frame. Davis led off, reaching on an infield error, moved over to second on a wild pitch, and made it to third on Givens' single up the middle. Later in the frame, with two men down, both Davis and Givens scored when the Connecticut hurler's pickoff attempt sailed into the stands, giving the hosts a 3-1 advantage, which they would need.
The Tigers tried hard to tie it up in the eighth, but were stopped one run short. Aberdeen reliever Luis Lebron walked the first two batters, then allowed a single to load the bases with no outs. Enrico Jimenez came out of the bullpen to put out the fire, and got the first out of the inning on an RBI groundout to second. After walking the bases full, Jimenez got just what he was looking for, coaxing an inning-ending 4-6-3 double play out of the seventh Tiger batter.
Getting the win for Aberdeen was reliever Devin Jones (2-3), who came on in the fifth and tossed three innings, striking out two, walking one, and holding the Tigers to one run on one.
Ryan Berry went four innings in the start, and had one of his strongest performances of the season, striking out five, issuing no walks and limited Connecticut's lineup to one hit over four innings.
Jimenez earned his second save of the season, pitching a perfect ninth after helping his team get out of the eighth-inning jam.
'Birds end five-game skid
With a 7-3 win over the host-team Connecticut Tigers on Monday, the Aberdeen IronBirds were able to end a losing skid which had reached five games.
The streak was Aberdeen's third longest string of losses this season, as the IronBirds dropped eight straight games between June 28 and July 5, and were defeated nine straight times after opening the campaign with a victory on June 17.
With the game knotted 3-3 in the seventh, the IronBirds put up a pair of runs. Austin Knight kicked off the rally by reaching base with two outs on an infield error, Velleggia followed with a walk, and Sawyer drove Knight home with a single to left. Adam Davis came up next and hit a ground ball single that allowed Velleggia to sprint home, making the score 5-3.
In Aberdeen's half of the eighth, Ryan Zrenda led off with a walk, moved over to second on a wild pitch, and went to third on Serrata's bunt single. Knight eventually knocked Zrenda across with an RBI base hit to center.
Aberdeen got its final run in the ninth, as Glynn Davis hit an RBI single that plated Adam Davis, who led off with a single, then made it to second on Leonora's bunt base hit.
The guests jumped out to a lead in the opening frame, with Velleggia drawing a bases-loaded walk that pushed Glynn Davis home.
After Connecticut tied things up with a run in the third, Aberdeen evened things on Zrenda's one-out triple that knocked home Leonora, who had reached with a one-out single. Before the Tigers could get out of the frame, Zrenda scored on Serrata's single to left.
Connecticut was able to tie things yet again with one run in the sixth.
Getting the win, and being charged with a blown save, was Aberdeen reliever Matt Taylor, who worked through three innings, allowing one earned run on three hits, striking out two and walking one.
Tyler Wilson started the game and went five frames, striking out three, allowing no walks, and holding the Tigers to a pair of runs on four hits. Jimenez closed out the game for Aberdeen with one inning of perfect relief, striking out one of the three hitters he faced.
Fifth straight defeat
After tying things up 1-1 in the seventh frame of Sunday's road game with Connecticut, the IronBirds surrendered four tallies in the home half of the inning en route to a 5-1 loss, which was Aberdeen's fifth straight defeat.
Down 1-0 after the hosts scored their initial run in the opening frame, Aberdeen got its only tally in the seventh. Adam Davis led off with a single, Leonora followed with a walk, Kyle Hoppy took a pitch off his body to load the bags, and Glynn Davis lofted a sacrifice fly that allowed Adam Davis to tag up from third.
The bottom part of the seventh saw Connecticut score four times, but only one of those runs was charged to reliever Matt Drummond, as the IronBird infield committed three errors during the frame.
Drummond (0-3) was charged with the loss, allowing one earned run on two hits, striking out two and walking one over 1-1/3 innings. Angel Cespedes started the game for Aberdeen and lasted five innings in which he limited the host team to one unearned run on three hits, struck out two and walked none. Zach Petersime tossed the final 1-2/3 innings, surrendering two hits and holding the Tigers scoreless.
Adam Davis, the lone IronBird with multiple hits, went 2-for-3 with a pair of singles.
Aberdeen battled back to within a run of the host-team Tigers on Saturday night, but wound up coming up just short in a 4-3 loss.
Down 4-0 after allowing one run in the second and three more in the third, the IronBirds cut the home team's lead on two during the seventh frame. Adam Davis started with a double to left, and he was knocked home immediately by Zrenda's two-bagger to right. Leonora came up next and hit a single to right that allowed Zrenda to motor home from second.
Needing two more runs to knot things 4-4, Aberdeen started the ninth off on the right foot, as Adam Davis hit a leadoff double into the right field gap. Davis moved over to third, then scored his team's third run on Serrata's base up the middle. With two outs the tying run at first, Glynn Davis grounded out to short, ending the contest.
Jose Mota (1-2) started for Aberdeen and was charged with the loss, going 2-1/3 innings in which he struck out four, did not allow a walk, and surrendered three earned runs on seven hits.
Zach Fowler came on in the third inning and tossed 3-2/3 hitless frames, striking out one and walking one along the way. Closing things out for Aberdeen was Travis Strong, who allowed one hit and one walk over two innings of work.
'Birds winged in twin bill
Following a rainout on Thursday, the IronBirds met with the Auburn Doubledays twice the following evening, and were beaten in both ends of the double header, 8-3 and 4-1.
As is customary in the New York-Penn League, both games of the twin bill were shortened to seven innings.
The second game saw the IronBirds lose by five runs, after failing to score in the first five innings.
Down 6-0 in the sixth, Aberdeen's offense got its first spark when Velleggia led off with a single, and Sawyer followed with a double to left. Narron came to the plate next and bashed a single up the middle that pushed both of his teammates across.
Auburn added two more runs in the home half of the sixth to go up 8-2.
In the final frame, Knight earned a leadoff walk, then scored Aberdeen's final tally when Velleggia smashed a double into right field.
Auburn scored once in the first inning, added three more in the second, and padded its lead by two more in the fifth.
Aberdeen starter Trent Howard (3-2) was saddled with the loss after tossing four innings in which he allowed four earned runs on six hits, struck out four and walked three. Alex Schmarzo tossed one inning of relief, allowing two earned runs on two hits, while Taylor also had a one-inning relief stint, surrendering three hits and a pair of earned runs.
The double header's opening match-up saw the IronBirds go silent for the first five innings as well, eventually losing 4-1.
Aberdeen's only run came in the sixth, which was started off by Serrata's base on balls. Givens and Sawyer followed with walks of their own to load the bases, and one out later Knight hit a grounder to short that allowed Serrata to scurry home from third.
The Doubledays scored twice in the first inning, and added their last two runs in the fifth.
Hobgood (0-5) took his fifth straight loss of the season, going four innings, issuing seven walks, striking out one and surrendering four earned runs on four hits in the start. Berry tossed the final two innings for Aberdeen, striking out one, walking two and holding the hosts to one hit.