On a hot Aberdeen evening, the IronBirds put the heat on the Lowell Spinners early and never looked back in a 6-2 victory on Tuesday night at Ripken Stadium. While on Tuesday night, the IronBirds used a franchise-record 19 hits to secure a victory, the team took advantage of three errors by Lowell to take the win.
Lowell’s defense was shaky early in the first inning, as Aberdeen rightfielder Austin Knight advanced to third base on leftfielder Kipp Schutz’s single to right that was bobbled by the Spinners’ Bryce Brentz. Knight then scored when catcher Sean Killeen could not handle Lowell starter Keith Couch’s pitch to third baseman Adam Gaylord. Gaylord then smashed a hard grounder down the third base line that David Renfroe could not handle. But designated hitter Michael Flacco grounded into a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning with the IronBirds ahead 1-0.
Lowell tried to get one back with one out in the top of the second, loading the bases on a walk, a double, and a hit batter, but IronBirds starter Justin Anderson got shortstop Joantoni Garcia to strike out and centerfielder Felix Sanchez to lineout to shortstop Michael Rooney to end the threat.
The Spinners’ porous defense continued to haunt Couch in the bottom of the fourth when Aberdeen tacked on two more runs to the lead. First baseman David Anderson drew a one out walk off Couch and catcher Joe Oliveira recorded his second single of the game to put runners on first and second. Then Rooney continued his great hitting of late, singling to right field to load the bases. Second baseman Auburn Donaldson grounded to Garcia who flipped the ball to second baseman James Kang to get Rooney out at second. But Kang’s relay throw on the attempted inning-ending double play got away from first baseman Miles Head, allowing both Anderson and Oliveira to score and put Aberdeen ahead 3-0. Centerfielder Trent Mummey continued the inning when Kang’s throw to Couch, who was covering first base, got away from the pitcher. However, the IronBirds could not add any additional runs as Knight grounded out to first to end the inning.
“We were fortunate we capitalized on some of their mistakes, which happens in a game,” manager Gary Kendall said.
Anderson hit his second home run of the season in the bottom of the sixth, an opposite-field line drive to give Aberdeen a 4-0 lead. Anderson, seeing his first action since being activated from the Temporarily Inactive List on July 4, was 1-for-2 with a home run, RBI, walk, and two runs scored. He had not played since June 29 against Staten Island.
“Anderson’s home run was a shot in the arm,” Kendall said.
Baltimore Orioles reliever Mike Gonzalez entered the game for Aberdeen for another rehab appearance in the top of the sixth with the 3-0 lead. Gonzalez, who was 0-1 with a 7.71 ERA in his first two appearances in Aberdeen, showed improvement, striking out designated hitter Kolbrin Vitek and getting Brentz and leftfielder Brandon Jacobs to ground out to shortstop.
“Every time I’m going out there it feels a lot better,” Gonzalez said. “My breaking pitch is more crisp, fastball feels like it’s got a little more to it. Everything’s on the up-up.” Gonzalez is hoping to return to the team after the All-Star break.
Gonzalez replaced lefthanded starter Justin Anderson (2-1, 2.82) who continued his stellar pitching for Aberdeen. Anderson pitched five shutout innings, allowing three hits and two walks while striking out four Spinners.
“I’m just trying to work at the knees,” Anderson said. “As you go up, that’s when balls start leaving the yard so I try to make sure I stay at the knees as much as possible.”
“He’s a competitor out there,” Kendall said. “He stays focused even when things go a little haywire. He gets grounded again and his to make a good pitch and does.”
Anderson did not have his best outing, working numerous Lowell batters to 3-1 counts, but he worked through the problems to get the win.
“It’s not like he was wild, he just missed,” Kendall said.
“I try to battle,” he said. “I make sure that if this guy gets on, he’s going to get a hit. I just try to be aggressive with my fastball. Luckily they’re fouling them off and fouling them back so that way I get to 3-2. I just stay with my fastball and stay aggressive.”
“It didn’t really come easy to him. He had to work for those clean innings that he got,” Kendall said. “A couple innings didn’t look so good but he made pitches when he had to and got some big outs.”
Lowell was able to get on the board against reliever Ashur Tolliver behind a double by Head that scored Kang and a passed ball by Oliveira that scored Jacobs to cut Aberdeen’s lead in half, 4-2.
But Aberdeen answered back in the bottom of the eighth, scoring two runs on a Flacco triple that scored Gaylord and an Oliveira suicide squeeze to score Flacco from third to put the score at its 6-2 final. For the game, Flacco was 1-for-4 with a triple, RBI, and run scored. Oliveira had one of his best games of the year, going 2-for-3 with an RBI and a run scored.
Will Startup came on and pitched the ninth for Aberdeen.
Anderson complimented Gonzalez, Tolliver, Startup, and the bullpen saying, “They’re getting ahead, throwing to strikes, and pitching to contact which is always good coming out of the bullpen because we need guys to get guys out right away.”
“Our bullpen did a good job,” Kendall said. “We came at the hitters. It was great to see Gonzalez. He really looked good. His breaking ball was sharp. It was a nice clean inning for him.”
For Lowell, Couch (0-2, 2.60) only went four innings, allowing three runs (only one earned) on six hits and a walk while striking out three. The defense behind Couch was responsible for three errors, two of which were the fault of Kang, who was playing in his first game with Lowell after being called up from the Gulf Coast League.
The game was delayed for 14 minutes in the top of the fifth inning when the light bank above home plate did not turn on.
Aberdeen has won four of five games and is currently 9-10. Lowell dropped two of three and is currently 5-13.
Aberdeen has its first day off of the season Wednesday before heading to Williamsport from July 8-10 for a three-game series with the Crosscutters. The IronBirds are expected to send Scott Copeland (0-1, 4.15), Justin Moore (2-0, 1.06), and Tyler Sexton (0-1, 9.00) to the mound against Williamsport’s Mario Hollands (0-1, 9.00), Julio Rodriguez (1-2, 3.27), and Kevin Angelle (2-0, 0.37). The IronBirds return to Aberdeen on Sunday, July 11 against Auburn. First pitch is at 5:35 p.m. and Tim Adleman (0-1, 2.51) is expected to start against Daniel Webb (0-2, 5.89).