On NASCAR Night at Ripken Stadium, Aberdeen looked more like midget cars compared to Staten Island’s stock cars as the Yankees never looked back in a 4-2 victory over the IronBirds. The IronBirds attempted another late inning comeback, scoring runs in the sixth and seventh, but it was not enough as the Yankees took the rubber game of the series.
Staten Island got on the board first in the top of the third, putting five consecutive batters on base behind four hits and a walk off IronBirds starting pitcher Justin Anderson. After catcher Jeff Farnham struck out to begin the inning, centerfielder Eduardo Sosa doubled into the right field corner before scoring on leftfielder Shane Brown’s single to left field. After Brown advanced to third on designated hitter Isaiah Brown’s single to third, first baseman Kyle Roller’s single scored Shane Brown. After walking rightfielder Kelvin De Leon, Anderson escaped the jam by inducing a 4-6-3 double play off the bat of third baseman Kevin Mahoney.
The Yankees (6-6) added two more in the top of the sixth off Anderson. Roller led off the inning with a single before De Leon singled. Anderson was then replaced for lefthander Ashur Tolliver out of the bullpen. Tolliver promptly gave up consecutive singles to Mahoney and shortstop Jose Mojica that scored Roller and De Leon. But a nice play at third by Gaylord and a ground out allowed Tolliver and the IronBirds (5-8) to escape the jam.
“I felt like I was making good pitches inside, but I was just leaving them up and they were able to find some holes and bleed them through,” Anderson said.
“He labored a little bit, but he kept us in the game,” manager Gary Kendall said.
Anderson’s (1-1, 3.63) struggles were uncharacteristic, as he pitched a season-low five innings, and allowed season highs in hits and runs, and tied a season high in walks.
“This one is not the way I wanted it to turn out to be,” he added. “I’m going to make improvements, I’m going to learn from it, I’m going to get better for it.”
“He did a good job of keeping the game in check when I felt like everything they hit was falling,” Kendall said.
Aberdeen’s bullpen, besides Tolliver allowing the two runs he inherited from Anderson to score, held Staten Island scoreless. Tolliver pitched two innings, allowing two hits, one walk, and struck out one batter. Bruno Sanchez came on in the eighth and ninth. Despite putting runners on second and third with no outs, he struck out the last three batters of the inning to escape without incident.
O’Brien (2-0, 0.98) continued his great season for the Yankees, holding the IronBirds to five hits over 5.1 innings while striking out five and walking none. He left after walking Moore in the sixth with one out, and relieverMatthew Jernsted gave up consecutive hits with two outs to Gaylord and Nowak, with rightfielder Jeremy Nowak’s single driving in designated hitter Zach Moore and making the score 4-1.
“[O’Brien] pitched well,” Kendall said. “He had a sneaky fastball, breaking ball was OK. Nothing overpowering, but something in this league, it’s normal. As hitters, we’re going to have to make adjustments and we’re going to have to make more contact.”
For the game, Nowak was 3-for-3 with three singles, a walk, and an RBI. His batting average was raised to .206 from .129. “My biggest problem before was trying to do too much so letting the game come to me and letting the pitch get to me is huge,” he said.
“It feels great,” Nowak continued. “I was just being more patient at the plate, waiting for a good pitch to hit.”
The best chance the IronBirds had to generate offense directly off of O’Brien was in the fourth inning. First baseman Michael Flacco singled to center with one out and Nowak followed up with a two out single. Catcher Joe Oliveira was not able to do anything, fouling out to first base to end the inning.
Centerfielder Trent Mummey continued to be a catalyst for the IronBirds offense, doubling off of Jernsted in the top of the seventh and sending shortstop Michael Rooney to third base. Rooney then scored on a leftfielder Kipp Schutz sacrifice fly to right field after second baseman Omar Casamayor struck out to put the score at 4-2 going into the final innings. Nathan Forer gave up two hits in a scoreless eighth and Preston Claiborne came in and pitched the ninth for his first save of the year.
In injury news, first baseman/outfielder Tyler Kolodny, who has not seen action since June 26 against Brooklyn due to a wrist injury attempted to come back as designated hitter. However, he was removed in the bottom of the first during his first at-bat because of continued pain in the wrist.
“Tyler Kolodny has a high tolerance for pain,” Kendall said. “He wanted to be in there in the worst way.”
Aberdeen leaves the confines of Ripken Stadium for a three-game road trip to Hudson Valley from July 1 through July 3. The IronBirds took two of three from the Renegades to start the season. Scott Copeland (0-1, 5.14), Justin Moore (1-0, 1.64), and Tyler Sexton (0-1, 6.10) are slated to pitch for the IronBirds. The team returns July 4 to begin a three-game set with the Lowell Spinners. As of June 30, Tim Adleman (0-0. 2.08) and Blake Mechaw (0-0, 11.57) are the projected starters.