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.